Big 12: Ken Whisenhunt
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
As the Super Bowl approaches on Sunday, it's interesting to remember who almost became the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals the last time the job came open.
The two finalists in 2007 when the job last opened were Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Sherman. Whisenhunt was the hot offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers with no previous NFL head coaching experience. Sherman was the offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans after an earlier head coaching stint with Green Bay, where he led the Packers to four playoff berths in six seasons before he was fired after his only losing season in 2005.
Both were called back for second interviews.
Whisenhunt got the job and faced a massive rebuilding project with the Cardinals, which had one winning season and one playoff appearance in the previous 22 seasons.
Sherman got his chance to become a head coach again 10 months later when he was hired at Texas A&M. It was a place he was familiar with after ably serving as an assistant coach under R.C. Slocum for seven seasons in two coaching stints.
At the time, it could be argued that Sherman looked to have the easier job. The Aggies had been to 17 bowl games in the previous 23 years. Players like Stephen McGee, Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson were coming back.
Compared with the Cardinals, the Aggies' job appeared to be a piece of cake.
Fast forward to January 2009. Whisenhunt has the Cardinals in the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Arizona appears to be the class of the NFC West for the next several seasons with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald poised to become one of the game's transcendent players.
And Sherman's job now has never looked tougher. The Aggies were 4-8 last season, with an unprecedented 0-5 record against South Division foes.
Texas and Oklahoma look to be capable of contending for BCS berths for the immediate future. Texas Tech is coming off the most celebrated season in school history, with the recruiting bump to match. Oklahoma State is a fashionable pick to crack the top 10 in many preseason polls. Baylor has more excitement than in recent memory with coach Art Briles' offense orchestrated by Robert Griffin.
Sherman has lured A&M's most impressive recruiting class in several years this season. But his rebuilding task appears formidable -- to say the least.
Most coaches don't look backwards very often.
But I'm wondering if Sherman is thinking this week about how close he got to the Cardinals' job?