- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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The expected front-runner for the Detroit Lions head coaching gig will be busy Sunday as San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and the Chargers face Denver in a divisional round game.
Whisenhunt interviewed with Detroit on Thursday night, the first of three interviews he had this week, and is one of the most in-demand candidates in this hiring cycle in the NFL. From all indications, he is the favorite for Detroit, and the Lions are a likely good match for him.
So when you watch the Chargers and Broncos on Sunday, here are three things to pay attention to so you might learn something about the man Detroit could possibly hire as its next head coach.
1.Preparation: It has been a busy week for Whisenhunt. He interviewed with three teams and also had to prepare for a divisional playoff game against Denver. Earlier this week, Whisenhunt told reporters that his interviews were secondary to preparation for the Broncos -- that’s what he is supposed to say -- but it’ll be interesting to see how San Diego looks against Denver. Especially early in the game, if the Chargers look sharp, that can only be another positive for Whisenhunt, as he would have displayed his ability to juggle multiple massive tasks at the same time and still have success.
2.Scheme: San Diego and Denver are familiar with each other as divisional opponents, so this will be their third matchup this season. This means they know what to expect from each other. So pay attention to, again, how San Diego starts on offense and what adjustments the Chargers make early on. The sign of a good coach is being able to make those adjustments quickly against teams that are innately familiar with you. Sunday will be a good judge of Whisenhunt’s ability in this area and what the Lions -- or whatever team hires him -- could expect as a head coach. Considering Detroit’s apparent issues with making offensive adjustments the past two seasons, this is a big thing.
3.Result: This has nothing to do with whether Whisenhunt is a good coach or not as making a sole determination on a coach -- especially a coordinator -- based off of one game. The judgement should be made on an entire body of work throughout one or more seasons to get a feel for the coach. A snap judgment after one game is foolish. So the two things above should just give you a feel for what you might be getting if Detroit hires Whisenhunt. So why care about the result? Simple. If San Diego wins, the Lions must either continue to wait for Whisenhunt if he is their choice or move on if they do not want to miss out on another candidate. If the Chargers lose, the Lions and Whisenhunt can move quickly toward making a decision if that is the way they choose to go.