Monday, January 06, 2014

Ken Whisenhunt, Detroit Lions and what hasn't (and should be) contemplated, the defense

Virtually all focus on the Lions' coaching search has centered on what the new coach and his staff can do for quarterback Matthew Stafford and the offense.
As big an issue will be the defense. San Diego Chargers' offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is the obvious choice for the Lions' position for a number of reasons. Whisenhunt:
- Developed a young Ben Roethlisberger as offensive coordinator with the Steelers into a Super Bowl championship QB.
- Helped rehabilitate the careers of Kurt Warner as head coach with Arizona, and Phillip Rivers at SD.
- Reached a Super Bowl as head coach with an organization, the Cardinals, who had never been there before.
Can you imagine Russ Grimm, one of the greatest offensive line coaches of all time, working with the Lions' considerable young talent on the offensive line? It's likely if Whisenhunt becomes the Lions' head coach.
Yeah, but what about the defense?
Whisenhunt has been strongly associated with 3-4 teams in the past, and went through three defensive coordinators in six years as Arizona's head coach.
The 3-4 is a big part of coming from the Steelers' tree.
Khalil Mack: Best NFL prospect  many haven't heard of
Whisenhunt fired his first defensive coordinator with the Cardinals a week after reaching the Super Bowl, Clancy Pendergast. He inherited him from Dennis Green's staff, reportedly at the urging of the front office that hired him. Bill Davis then took over, and the Cardinals did go 10-6 and win a playoff game the next season, but gave up 45 points in the victory over Green Bay and 45 in the ensuing loss at New Orleans. The next season, the Cardinals ranked 30th in points allowed.
Davis was eventually replaced by Ray Horton, who was on Cleveland's staff last season as D-coordinator (first year head coach Rob Chudzinski was fired) and, reportedly is interviewing for some NFL head coaching jobs. He would likely be the leading candidate to be the Lions' D-coordinator under Whisenhunt. He is a 3-4 guy.
Do the Lions have the personnel to run a 3-4? LThe nucleus is there. Ndamukong Suh would be a terror as a defensive end in the 3-4. It's the position he is ideally suited to play given his size-strength-quickness equation. Ziggy Ansah is athletic enough to pull his hand from the ground and play linebacker, and be a tremendous edge rusher. Ansah has excellent range as a tackler, which was wasted to a degree in Jim Schwartz's Wide 9. DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch would be very good inside in a 3-4, Nick Fairley would be the nose.
It would also mean the Lions would have to consider drafting a linebacker in the first round, and there are a couple premier players at the position. Anthony Barr from UCLA and Buffalo's Khalil Mack.
Barr is getting more buzz on draft boards, and he is an excellent prospect, but Mack is a superior talent, one of the best linebacker prospects of this decade, whose only flaw is playing in relative obscurity in the MAC.
Our live chat today on the Lions' coaching search, MSU sports taking off, The Winter Classic and my Baseball Hall of Fame ballot:


Anonymous Mark U. said...

Can someone explain why Ken Whisenhunt gets credit for Phillip Rivers turn around? Could it possibly be due to their head coach Mike McCoy who was an offensive coordinator with the Broncos and could be credited with the successes of the Broncos' QBs? If the Chargers hired a Defensive Head Coach, I would definitely give praise to Whisenhunt, but their head guy is an offensive coach. Also, why is everyone treating Rivers' turn around like he is Kurt Warner (w/the Rams)? I don't see Rivers as one of the top QBs in the league.

12:30 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure there is credit to be shared for Rivers' season, but Rivers himself speaks highly of Whisenhunt in particular:

“He’s been awesome,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It’s his offense. I mean, he’s installed it from Day 1, he’s called every play this year. I think his demeanor, his command in front of the room is very — he’s very demanding, he’s got a great presence."

That was in a recent freep article:

11:04 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its all about the QB play in the NFL just think if Lions had Tom Brady or Peyton Manning we would have been unstopable How many passes is that bim stafford going to get

2:57 PM 

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