Joe Gibbs considers Ken Whisenhunt a great candidate

Joe Gibbs considers Ken Whisenhunt a great candidate
January 8, 2014, 1:00 pm
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San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on the sidelines during first quarter of the AFC wild card playoff football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

(Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

When former Redskins coach and patriarch Joe Gibbs talks, Washington owner Dan Snyder usually listens. Gibbs recently heaped praise on potential head coach candidate Ken Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, and it will be interesting if Snyder makes note of Gibbs comments.

Speaking with the Detroit News, Gibbs called Whisenhunt a smart player and great coaching candidate. Whisenhunt played under Gibbs in 1989 and 1990, and the coach fondly remembers his former H-back.

“Ken is very smart and he’s a people person. As a player, he was one of those guys that worked extremely hard and made the most out of his talent and ability,” Gibbs said.

Whisenhunt already has experience as a head coach, leading the Arizona Cardinals for six seasons. From 2007 to 2012, Whisenhunt and the Cardinals went 45-51, and his tenure included a Super Bowl appearance in 2009, where his team lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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“The advantage you have with Ken is he’s got experience; he’s been to Super Bowls,” Gibbs said. “And I want to emphasize this — you’ve got somebody here that solves one-third of the problem. When you go to hire a coach in the NFL, you want to hire somebody who solves either the offense, defense or special-teams problem. With Ken, you have someone who solves the offensive part of things."

While all three facets of the game were problems for the Redskins in 2014, working well with quarterback Robert Griffin III is likely a big criteria for the Redskins new coach. Whisenhunt is a known offensive mind, and has been an integral part of the Chargers run to the divisional round of the playoffs this season and the rejuvenation of quarterback Philip Rivers.

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Many believe Whisenhunt to be the front runner for the Detroit Lions job, and with quarterback Matt Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, the Lions job is probably more appealing for an offensive coach. But Skins owner Snyder has made surprise hires in the past, and few should doubt his ability to persuade the right candidate despite what may be a bad reputation.

Gibbs alluded to the possibility of Whisenhunt landing in Detroit, and even the former Skins coach said how strong the Lions job looked, calling it a great opportunity. Coaching in Detroit would unite Whisenhunt with another Gibbs player in general manager Martin Mayhew, and most believe Whisenhunt will bring Redskins Hall of Fame offensive lineman Russ Grimm to his staff like he did in Arizona.

His ties to the Redskins are strong, especially with Grimm as an assistant, but the Lions job may prove to attractive to pass up for Whisenhunt. Until the Chargers playoff run ends, Whisenhunt’s landing spot will remain unknown.