Washington Redskins: Ken Whisenhunt

Ken Whisenhunt high on Andre Roberts

March, 25, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ken Whisenhunt didn't hesitate to give his scouting report on Andre Roberts, his former receiver in Arizona. It wasn't a good one.

"A slow guy that can't catch," said Whisenhunt.

Yes, Whisenhunt, now Tennessee's head coach, then broke into a smile after his joke and lavished praise on the Washington Redskins' newest receiver.

Washington signed Roberts on the opening day of free agency and plans to use him in a variety of ways. The Redskins want him to play in the slot; they will use him on the outside. Whisenhunt said Roberts is capable of such a role.

He would know; Roberts' best season with Arizona came in Whisenhunt's final year with the Cardinals. In 2012, Roberts caught 64 passes for 759 yards and five touchdowns.

"He's a very tough competitor," Whisenhunt said. "I thought he was a good leader and good player for us. I have a lot of respect for what he's done. One of the things I liked best about Andre was his flexibility. He could play the slot and play outside. He could win outside. He made himself into a tough football player."

Whisenhunt said early in Roberts' career, he was affected too much by injuries even though Roberts has played at least 15 games in each of his four seasons.

"There were things he had to fight through and he did that and that's made him a better player," Whisenhunt said. "Now he's become a great pro. He works hard, he understands what he has to do to be out there every day.

"The thing that really impresses me, I always have respect for guys who block and I've seen him block linebackers, block those big safeties. He does a great job in the slot. He understands those routes. He can think quickly on his feet."

The blocking will be key. With Washington still running an outside zone, the receivers will need to be good run blockers. Pierre Garcon is considered a good run blocker.

Whisenhunt said the Cardinals drafted Roberts with the intention of playing him in the slot. They also used him at returner on both kickoffs and punts his rookie season, but sparingly thereafter.

"He can do anything you want him to do," Whisenhunt said. "Based on my time around him, I have confidence he could do it. He's had some good mentors in [Larry] Fitzgerald and some guys who work hard. You have to give him credit. He's worked hard to be successful in this league."

Gruden interviews; Franklin won't

January, 8, 2014
The Washington Redskins interviewed their sixth candidate Wednesday when they spoke to Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. But it's uncertain when the next potential coach will be interviewed. Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin was set to interview with the Redskins, according to John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation, but that's no longer the case, wrote ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Franklin is considered a leading candidate to take over the vacant Penn State job, but he also had interest in the NFL and already had interviewed with the Houston Texans.

As for Gruden, he's still scheduled to interview with the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday and will meet with the Detroit Lions later in the week. It's possible his interview with the Lions won't take place until the weekend after a grueling week of meeting with three other teams (he was in Tennessee on Tuesday). The Redskins also are interested in San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

Gruden is considered a leading contender for the Redskins job, in part because of the connections he has in Washington on the coaching staff and front office.

Updated Redskins coaching scorecard

January, 8, 2014
The Washington Redskins have been busy when it comes to talking to prospective head coaches, or trying to line up interviews. Here’s where things stand:

Already interviewed:
  • Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
  • Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
  • Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
  • Dallas special-teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
  • New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
  • Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Requested permission to interview:
  • Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
  • San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.
  • San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
  • San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
UPDATE: Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin will not interview with the Redskins Thursday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Joe Gibbs sold on Ken Whisenhunt

January, 8, 2014
Joe Gibbs wouldn't hesitate to hire one coach -- and it's one he knows well.

The former Washington Redskins coach told the Detroit News that he's sold on Ken Whisenhunt, who played for Gibbs from 1989-90 (along with Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew).

Gibbs, of course, was talking about Whisenhunt in relation to the Lions job. But the Redskins have interest in the San Diego offensive coordinator as well. Whisenhunt took Arizona to the Super Bowl as a head coach. He should be an intriguing coach for the Redskins as well, just because of his work with quarterbacks in the past. But Whisenhunt's familiarity with Mayhew could make Detroit a good landing spot for him. The Lions would like to keep their defensive staff intact and if they hire Whisenhunt, he'd likely trust Mayhew that is indeed the right decision.

"Ken is very smart and he's a people person. As a player, he was one of those guys that worked extremely hard and made the most out of his talent and ability," Gibbs said.

What the Hall of Fame coach liked is that Whisenhunt played H-back for him, a position that required him to be smarter than most players.

"The H-back in our system had to do a lot of thinking on the move," Gibbs said. "Very honestly, Ken was very bright when it came to football. He understood everything we were trying to do and he understood what the defenses were trying to do.

"You get that with Ken. And the added thing you get with him, he was a leader. He was somebody the players respected and I think that's very important."

Here's what else Gibbs liked about Whisenhunt:

"The advantage you have with Ken is he's got experience; he's been to Super Bowls. And I want to emphasize this -- you've got somebody here that solves one-third of the problem. When you go to hire a coach in the NFL, you want to hire somebody who solves either the offense, defense or special-teams problem. With Ken, you have someone who solves the offensive part of things."

"The most important thing for a coach in a new situation is to be able to hire good people. That was one of the most important things for me. I made sure I surrounded myself with great assistant coaches. Ken has that experience; he's done that. He's hired a lot of people and he knows a lot of people."

Jay Gruden to interview on Wednesday

January, 7, 2014
The Washington Redskins will interview Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Wednesday, as first reported by ESPN's Ed Werder Tuesday morning. Gruden will become the sixth person to interview for the position.

They remain interested in interviewing Vanderbilt's James Franklin, though according to CBS Sports, he's emerged as the front runner for the vacant Penn State position. There is no date set yet for the Redskins to interview Franklin and obviously his interest in the Nittany Lions position will dictate if that even happens.

The Redskins also have interest in interviewing San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman, San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Redskins coaching search scorecard

January, 6, 2014
The Washington Redskins have been busy when it comes to talking to prospective head coaches, or trying to line up interviews. One week into their official search, here’s where things stand:

Already interviewed:
  • Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
  • Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
  • Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell.
  • Dallas special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
  • UPDATED: New York Giant defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Requested permission to interview:
  • Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
  • Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
  • San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt (per CBS Sports).
  • San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
  • Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin.
  • San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

Redskins interview Jim Caldwell

January, 5, 2014
The Washington Redskins interviewed former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell for their head coaching vacancy Sunday, as expected.

Caldwell is the fourth person Washington has spoken with about their head coaching vacancy and more will be talked to this week. But he's the first former head coach that they've formally interviewed. They've also talked to Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Dallas special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. They are scheduled to interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell Monday, according to John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation.

The Redskins have expressed interest in Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin, who did interview with the Houston Texans. But the Redskins were still trying to line up an interview as of early Sunday night.

Also, they can now talk to assistant coaches from the Cincinnati Bengals: offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, both of whom were said to be on the Redskins' list. If interested, they can also talk to San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt next week, even though the Chargers remain alive in the playoffs.

Caldwell served as Tampa Bay's quarterbacks coach in 2001 and was in the same role with Indianapolis from 2002-08 -- while also serving as an assistant head coach. He became the Colts' head coach in 2009, went 14-2 and lost in the Super Bowl to New Orleans. But he was fired after a 2-14 season -- with quarterback Peyton Manning sidelined -- in 2011. He took over as the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator late last season and stayed in that capacity in 2013.

Caldwell met with owner Dan Snyder, general manager Bruce Allen, director of pro personnel Morocco Brown and director of player personnel Scott Campbell. In Detroit, Caldwell met with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. But he did not meet with Washington’s Robert Griffi III, who is on vacation.

Caldwell does not have any other interviews lined up and told Wooten, whose group focuses on minority coaches in the hiring process, that he was most interested in these two positions.

Caldwell prepared for his Redskins interview by breaking down all of Griffin’s plays. He also went over all the scouting reports Baltimore’s pro staff had on the Redskins. He did the same thing before his interview in Detroit.
The Washington Redskins' coaching search has made the turn toward college. They have requested an interview with Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

A Vanderbilt spokesman said the school is not commenting on the interest in Franklin.

(Update: The Redskins will interview Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell on Sunday morning, according to John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation. And they will interview New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell this week.)

Franklin has been a hot name this offseason after turning around the once-dormant SEC program. The Commodores were 2-10 the year before he arrived and are 23-15 in his first three seasons. They’ve played in three consecutive bowl games; they had never played in consecutive bowls before Franklin.

He interviewed for the Houston Texans job and his name has been mentioned for the Penn State opening as well. In 2009, Franklin was named Maryland's head coach in waiting. But when Ralph Friedgen was fired after the 2010 season, Franklin went to Vanderbilt.

Franklin has spent the bulk of his career in college, though he coached Green Bay’s wide receivers in 2005 – and was on the same staff as Darrell Bevell, who interviewed with the Redskins earlier this week. Bevell is now Seattle’s offensive coordinator.

The names connected to Washington's opening thus far, in addition to Franklin: Bevell, Rich Bisaccia, Jim Caldwell and Sean McDermott. After the San Diego-Cincinnati game, it's likely other names will surface, with multiple possibilities in Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and assistant head coach Hue Jackson as well as San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.


Quick Takes: Coaching search

January, 3, 2014
  • I’ve been told several times that Bill Cowher is not returning to coaching. But to think that Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder hasn’t at least reached out to him is insane. Snyder has lured Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan to his organization. You don’t think he’s at attempted to get Cowher -- one of two big names still on the sidelines (Jon Gruden being the other)? Don’t forget, Snyder heard “no” from Gibbs a couple times over several years before snagging him. Of course, Snyder has hired three of the all-time winningest coaches -- and in their nine combined seasons they produced three winning records and one NFC East title in Washington. Not a great track record. Cowher is smart and would have to know the issues involved, and past obstacles, in coaching here.
  • Cowher
    The CBSThisMorning twitter feed sent this out this morning: Bill Cowher (@CowherCBS) says there is “nothing to” the rumor he’ll return to coaching, but the “door is never closed."
  • That’s why, when I hear that they haven’t talked, I laugh. Any team that doesn’t reach out to Cowher to gauge his interest is not doing its job. And no owner is more attracted to star power than Snyder. Cowher exudes the power and confidence any owner would love, especially Snyder. If he thinks that door is "never closed" of course he'd pursue him.
  • Having said that, even if that door is closed here, if I’m Snyder and Bruce Allen I’m tapping into all my resources to find the right coach. Snyder has a relationship with Cowher, so there’s just as strong a chance that if they have talked, it’s also to run names by him and pick the brain of a Super Bowl coach. Just like Allen would be doing with Gruden. They might not be interested in coming to Washington -- at all -- but they can still help in the search. It’s what I’d do as well. It’s smart. My guess is they'll pick the brain of many others about the job.
  • I also remember when Gibbs was hired, there was a spotting of Snyder’s plane in Charlotte several days earlier. A reporter, Len Pasquarelli, asked Snyder about it -- and about Gibbs -- and was pretty much told nothing was going on. He was hired a few days later. Snyder’s plane was in Denver early in the 2009 season, and again we were told it had nothing to do with a meeting between the owner and Mike Shanahan; instead the plane was there for someone else's use on business. That was the line. Later we found out differently. Point is, believe nothing and consider everything until it’s over.
  • Gruden
    And I’m not saying I think Cowher is coming. At this point I have zero evidence to the contrary, and people I respect and trust say it's not happening, so that’s what I stick with. But I’ve learned not to fully believe certain denials by the organization.
  • The Redskins face an uphill battle in some ways with their search. Yes, there are attractive parts to the job -- young offensive nucleus, cap space -- but the reality is a 15-year record of mostly losing and chaos every few years. That will scare some candidates off and make others leery. So find out from experts such as Gruden and Cowher what they need to do -- and who they need to interview.
  • And just because they interview someone, it does not mean they have a strong interest in them. It’s good to interview coaches with various backgrounds to see how they assess your team and organization. If you limited your search to just, say, offensive-minded coaches, you would not learn all you need to know. It would be quite dumb to operate that way.
  • From what I’ve been told, they have not yet reached out to Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.
  • San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, an intriguing candidate for any opening, was teammates with Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew from 1989-90 in Washington. I heard that they’ve maintained a friendship, which could help lure him to the Lions. But if the Chargers win this weekend, would the Lions wait just for him? Not sure about that. One potential drawback to the Lions job: I’ve heard they want to maintain the defensive staff. If another coach wants to hire all of his coaches, that could be an issue.
Philip Rivers and DeAngelo Hall USA Today SportsDeAngelo Hall, right, and the Redskins' secondary will try to slow down Philip Rivers, who has completed a league-best 73.9 percent of his passes.
This isn’t a compelling game when it comes to storylines. No big-name player is facing his former team. There’s no grudge match. And, in fact, San Diego and Washington have played each other only three times in the past 14 years, and not since 2010.

Still, there is a lot going on in this game. If the 2-5 Washington Redskins are intent on turning their season around, they need to win. Even in a bad division, a 2-6 record would be tough to overcome. At some point, teams just have to play well, and the Redskins must prove that can happen.

For San Diego, the Chargers’ 4-3 start is a good one. However, if they want to stay in the AFC playoff race or remain a threat in the AFC West, they can’t afford to lose to a sub-.500 team.

ESPN.com Chargers reporter Eric Williams and Redskins reporter John Keim break down this week's game:

Robert Griffin III threw 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions in winning rookie of the year honors in 2012. This season, he’s thrown nine touchdowns and eight interceptions through seven games. What has changed with his decision-making?

Keim: Griffin is used to making big plays, and last year, a number of them occurred because of his legs, whether running or extending plays. But that’s not always happening, and in games where his legs aren't a weapon, he has forced some throws. Not all the interceptions are his fault, of course, but in general, that’s been a theme: forcing throws. Also, they’re not able to use as much play-action throws as last year because of game situations, and when that happens, he and the passing game are very, very ordinary. They need to move defenders around, causing chaos in drops, with their zone-read fakes and play fakes. Denver also kept seven in coverage last week, and that’s always trouble for a unit that has just one receiver who threatens a defense in Pierre Garcon (although tight end Jordan Reed does now, too).

Philip Rivers’ stock has dropped the past couple of seasons. But under a new coach, he’s playing at a high level. Why?

Williams: Coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt installed an up-tempo, no-huddle offense focused on the short passing game and getting the ball out quickly. The result has been better decision-making for Rivers. He leads the league in completion percentage this season at 73.9 percent, which is nearly 10 percent more than his career average (64.3). And his 111.1 passer rating (second in the NFL) is more than 15 points higher than his career rating of 95.6. San Diego’s offensive line also has done an excellent job of protecting Rivers. The Chargers have allowed just 11 sacks through seven games, tied for second-best in the NFL.

Washington’s defense is allowing 32.7 points a contest, second-worst in the NFL. Why is Jim Haslett’s defense struggling to keep teams out of the end zone?

Keim: The defense struggled mightily in the first four games but has mostly done its job in the past three games, when the Redskins have been hurt by special teams (two punt returns for a score; a 90-yarder to set up another one) and the offense (turnovers deep in their own territory; an interception return for a score). But this is not a top-level unit by any means. The Redskins' secondary has holes, especially at safety, and the linebackers, as a group, aren't great at coverage. But they've played the run better of late, and they’re causing turnovers. They have two good but not great pass-rushers in Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. They have a good nose tackle in Barry Cofield. So they have good parts. They played great for three quarters against Denver; alas, the game went four.

Why has the Chargers’ pass rush been more productive lately?

Williams: Defensive coordinator John Pagano has used some creative defensive fronts and exotic blitz packages to manufacture pressure. Along with that, the ability of interior defensive linemen such as Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes to push the pocket inside have created one-on-one matchups for San Diego’s inexperienced edge rushers. And guys such as Thomas Keiser and Larry English have taken advantage of their opportunities.

Speaking of opportunities, Alfred Morris has followed up an impressive rookie campaign by rushing for 565 yards and four touchdowns through seven games. He leads all running backs with a robust 5.23 yards per carry. How has Morris remained effective, even with Griffin struggling?

Keim: Good question. Morris is better than he was a year ago, thanks to even better vision and stronger legs. Both qualities were good last year, too. Defenses have keyed more on him, knowing that on zone reads, for example, Griffin would not hurt them (until recently). Also, Denver rarely used an eight-man front against Washington in an attempt to play better in coverage. The Redskins usually receive good blocking from their tight ends and receivers, which helps Morris as well. And the line’s continuity shows up in the run game. But Morris deserves a lot of credit. He’s a patient runner who knows how to set up a defense, then cut back once it overcommits. Morris has proved this year that he’s not a creation of the zone read. The key for Washington is giving him more carries; this season's high is 19. Last season he had 10 games with more than 19 carries. Of course, that stems from winning and being in control of games. The Redskins have done little of both this season.

Eric, do you believe in this team yet, or do you still see a lot of holes? If so, where?

Williams: Offensively, San Diego has what it takes to make the playoffs in the AFC. The Chargers are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. Rivers’ ability to move the ball in the passing game has been nicely complemented by the emergence of bruising runner Ryan Mathews, who had back-to-back, 100-yard rushing games. But defensively, the Chargers remain a question mark, even though they have not allowed a touchdown in 11 quarters. The Chargers’ defensive backfield has just two interceptions this season, and Jarret Johnson leads the team with just three sacks through seven games. The Chargers still lack elite playmakers on defense.