Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt is believed to be a candidate for the Detroit Lions' head coaching job. To get a better idea of what he's all about, I sent five questions to Jess Root from Revenge of the Birds, SB Nation's Cardinals blog. You can check out his answers below.
1. Whisenhunt's success in Arizona was largely tied to having Kurt Warner as his quarterback, and his downfall was really not being able to find a suitable replacement for Warner. Was this a case of Whisenhunt not being able to develop his non-Warner quarterbacks or there simply being no real talent at the position after Warner left?
As you have seen by the success of the Cardinals in Year 1 of the Bruce Arians staff, there was a lot of core talent on the roster. However, Whisenhunt's downfall was connected to the quarterback position. The problem was two-fold. He neither found the right guy nor developed him. Was it the talent? Probably. Look at the guys who started -- Matt Leinart (done nothing), Derek Anderson (professional benchwarmer behind Cam Newton), Max Hall (not in the league), Rich Bartel (have you ever heard of him?), John Skelton (he gets lots of workouts... because he doesn't have a team), Kevin Kolb (always injured), Ryan Lindley (probably won't have a job next season) and Brian Hoyer (might have talent). GM Rod Graves and Whisenhunt hitched their wagon to Kolb and his injuries ruined things.
At the same time, while the talent hasn't been here, the guys that were here never improved. So it has to be both.
2. On a related note, how much credit does Whisenhunt deserve for Warner's resurgence from 2007-09?
Fans don't give him enough credit. It was working with Whisenhunt that he started wearing gloves. He worked very hard at ball control. Whiz gave him the opportunity to compete. What people don't remember was Warner getting booed because of his fumbles in 2006. Fans were screaming for Matt Leinart. The talent was already there, but the Rams gave up on him, the Giants gave up on him and he was very close to done in Arizona. Whiz had a lot to do with his resurgence.
3. The Lions don't really have the personnel to run a 3-4 defense, which is what Whisenhunt utilized in Arizona. What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Cardinals' defenses under Whisenhunt, and was the decision to go with a 3-4 a philosophical choice or based more on his team's personnel?
Whiz is a 3-4 guy. He ran a hybrid defense with Clancy Pendergast. Under Billy Davis, they made the transition to a 3-4 and continued with Ray Horton. Whiz, when interviewing DC candidates, also looked at mostly 3-4 guys.
The defenses weren't particularly good until Ray Horton. Pendergast, a holdover from Dennis Green, was good at individual game plans. But until Horton, the Arizona defenses were not great at anything. They did use a lot of blitzing from Adrian Wilson at the time and pressure from other DB positions.
4. One of the Lions' biggest issues under Jim Schwartz was discipline. They committed a lot of stupid penalties (pre-snap penalties, personal fouls, etc.), and they turned the ball over a lot. How were the Cardinals in the discipline department when Whisenhunt was the head coach?
Yes and no. He maintains a very even demeanor on and off the field, but his teams did have guys like Darnell Dockett. Pre-snap penalties were a problem with individuals (Levi Brown, Leonard Pope) and sometimes personal fouls (Dockett, Antrel Rolle), but he wanted a disciplined team.
5. Replacing Whisenhunt with Bruce Arians was clearly the right move for the Cardinals. Do you think Whisenhunt can be successful as a head coach again in the NFL?
I certainly believe so. He took an Arizona Cardinals franchise and changed things. They went 8-8, 9-7 and 10-6 in his first three seasons. He knows offense. He is a players' coach. His players like him. He is well-respected in the league. He is smart. He had a little too much power in Arizona in personnel, he did not address the offensive line enough and he never found the answer at quarterback after Kurt Warner. With a QB like Matt Stafford, who has the talent but hasn't always gotten it together, he would be a great choice. He is the antithesis of Jim Schwartz.