Whisenhunt will be a busy man this week, because per Schefter he’s also scheduled to interview with the Tennessee Titans on Friday and the Cleveland Browns on Saturday for those team’s head-coaching vacancies.
The Chargers are not scheduled to leave for Denver until Saturday, so the interviews with Detroit and Tennessee likely will take place in San Diego. Whisenhunt has chosen not to talk specifically about his head-coaching candidacy in order to not create a distraction for the Chargers during their playoff run.
But while they would like Whisenhunt to stick around, players such as quarterback Philip Rivers fully expect their offensive coordinator to be elsewhere next season.
“You would love to keep the same staff for a long time,” Rivers said on Dec. 26. “But it doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Obviously, it’s a little premature to talk about, but I would have been shocked had he not gotten a couple opportunities.”
San Diego coach Mike McCoy did not confirm or deny whether the franchise had given other teams permission to interview Whisenhunt this week. But McCoy did give Whisenhunt his blessing to seek other opportunities.
“His No. 1 goal right now is to find a way to win this game,” McCoy said this week. “I’ll say this though, whatever does come up, he deserves it. He’s done an outstanding job here. And he’s been a huge help to me. I owe him a lot for what he’s done this first year with me.”
As coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Whisenhunt led that fledgling franchise to a Super Bowl and two playoff appearances in six seasons, finishing with a 45-51 record. Whisenhunt also served as offensive coordinator for Pittsburgh during the Steelers’ Super Bowl season in 2005.
Whisenhunt could be a good fit for the Lions, who seek an offensive-minded coach to help take talented quarterback Matthew Stafford to the next level. Whisenhunt already has helped elevate the level of play with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Kurt Warner in Arizona and now Rivers in San Diego.
Whisenhunt also was a teammate of Lions general manager Martin Mayhew during his playing days for the Washington Redskins.
If Whisenhunt does leave for a head-coaching job, two names to consider as his replacement for offensive coordinator in San Diego are Chargers quarterback coach Frank Reich and former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.
Reich has developed a nice rapport with Rivers in his first year with San Diego, and would provide a seamless transition because of his knowledge of the offense. McCoy played for Kubiak in his first NFL training camp with Denver in 1995. Kubiak served as the team’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach.
Kubiak interviewed for the head-coaching job in Detroit this week, and Miami reportedly is interested in talking with him about the team’s vacant offensive coordinator position.