- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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This is not surprising in the slightest, not after a week has come and gone with only one candidate, Jim Caldwell, even having an interview pop up publicly.
Colleague Adam Schefter is reporting the Detroit Lions are extremely interested in San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, going as far to say that the job is Whisenhunt’s to lose.
This is logical on a lot of levels.
Whisenhunt hits every criteria the Lions have been looking for in a head coach. He has prior experience, leading the Arizona Cardinals for six seasons, including two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl appearance, losing to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII.
He is an offensive mind and experienced in molding quarterbacks, having worked with Kurt Warner in Arizona, helped develop Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and ran an offense that saw Philip Rivers have career bests in completion percentage (69.5 percent) and passer rating (105.5).
This season in San Diego, Rivers also threw more touchdown passes (32) than any time since 2008 and fewer interceptions (11) than any time since 2009.
All of these things are paramount for Detroit, which is looking for a mentor who can both push and fix franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford, who the team invested in last offseason with a three-year, $53 million extension with $41.5 million guaranteed.
Stafford is the quarterback of the foreseeable future in Detroit, and he responded this season with his worst completion percentage (58.5 percent) and most interceptions (19) since his rookie season in 2009.
Bringing in a quarterback-minded coach with that experience is a priority for Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand.
Add to this the familiarity Mayhew has with Whisenhunt as teammates in Washington in 1989 and 1990. That should lead to more comfort between the coaching staff and the front office, a give-and-take and understanding most successful franchises have.
So Whisenhunt is certainly the main coach to watch both Sunday and this coming week.
Perhaps the biggest concern with Whisenhunt would be what he did when he didn’t work with an elite quarterback in Arizona. After Warner retired following the 2009 season, Arizona dropped to 5-11 with a combination of Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Richard Bartel in 2010, improved to 8-8 with Kevin Kolb, Skelton and Bartel in 2011 and another 5-11 mark in 2012 with Skelton, Brian Hoyer and rookie Ryan Lindley.
The Cardinals' offense was last in the league in 2012, 19th in 2011 and second to last in 2010 with that crew of quarterbacks.
Another interesting nugget in Schefter’s story is that the Lions will also be looking at Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who has helped develop Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and has some head coaching experience with the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League and the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League.
While that isn’t major NFL or college experience, it does show leadership on some level -- and Gruden did win two Arena Football League titles with Orlando.