12th Man Report: Lions miss out on Whisenhunt
Do you remember in high school, when you’d finally summon the courage to ask a girl to prom, and then only to find out she wasn’t interested or already had a date? You’d go home, recollect on your thoughts, and try to figure out what happened; what did somebody else have that you didn’t?
Well, that’s pretty much the case with the Lions right now. Yesterday it was announced that San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt would accept the head coaching position of the Tennessee Titans. While it wasn’t a crushing blow to the Lions’ front office — Whisenhunt had appeared to be Detroit’s top candidate, though — it begs to question why he chose Tennessee?
For the past few weeks, analysts have been adamant that the Lions’ coaching vacancy was probably the most attractive based on quality of any. The offense, led by Matt Stafford, Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson, all but needs a new coordinator who won’t change too much. The defense could use a few personnel upgrades, but as a whole, wasn’t too bad this season, either. While the Lions finished 7-9, they were just a few points or a few players away from being a playoff team. But that’s not the issue.
There are deeper concerns. Sure, there were reports that the Lions’ base 4-3 defense was a deterrence for Whisenhunt, who primarily ran a 3-4 defense when he was Arizona’s head coach. But those kinds of issues can be easily handled. That would be like the prom date who just turned you down saying it was because your shoes didn’t match.
And if it’s not the personnel and it’s not the scheme differences, then what is it?
I think it has something to do with the front office and/or the fact that the Lions have been a graveyard for coaches in the last decade. There is an incentive to come to Detroit because the team’s ready to win now. But if history repeats itself, there’s also a risk: the typical lifespan of a Lions’ head coach has been about three or four seasons for too many years to count. Coaches come in with promise and leave with a taint.
I don’t necessarily blame Whisenhunt for choosing elsewhere — even if it is the Titans, who have a lot of unanswered questions going into next season. Just like I wouldn’t blame the girl who turned me down to prom for a date with a lot less baggage. So while the Lions seem primed to sign Jim Caldwell or maybe Mike Munchak, it will likely be as a second or third choice. You know…the girl who you’re okay going to prom with but only because options are limited. Whether it’s history, personnel issues, or just a fear of the black hole that’s Detroit, something scared Ken Whisenhunt; which should be concerning to all.