TWENTYMAN: Lions free to pursue Ken Whisenhunt if they choose

Posted Jan 12, 2014

Now that Whisenhunt's Chargers have been eliminated by the Denver Broncos, the Lions are free to pursue him

Ken WhisenhuntAP Images

San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said all the right things on Thursday when asked about upcoming interviews with Detroit, Tennessee and Cleveland for their head coaching vacancies.

"I understand the process and I appreciate the interest, but I just want to make sure everyone understands we are focused on the game Sunday," he told the San Diego media.

Of course that’s what Whisenhunt had to say with the Chargers getting ready to play the top-seeded Denver Broncos in the playoffs. It’s what you’d hope he’d say if he was your offensive coordinator as well.

Circumstances have changed, however, with Whisenhunt and the Chargers eliminated from the playoffs after a 24-17 loss in Denver.

The Chargers were down 17-0 at halftime, but made some nice second-half adjustments and pulled within a touchdown late.

Lions brass flew to San Diego Thursday to speak with Whisenhunt about their head coaching vacancy. They were the first team to do so. He also met with Tennessee on Friday and Cleveland Saturday.

The Lions were allowed to interview Whisenhunt last week, per NFL rules, but couldn’t extend an offer or hire him until the Chargers’ season was over. That’s now a reality, so the Lions could move quickly on him this week if they’ve in fact identified him as their leading candidate.

Whisenhunt, however, is reported to have accepted Tennessee's offer to become their new head coach.

Whisenhunt seemed to fit the profile the Lions are looking for in their next coach. He has head coaching experience, is an offensive mind and has done a good job everywhere he’s been of maximizing the performance of the quarterback positions. Quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Phillip Rivers have all credited Whisenhunt with helping their game during his time working with them.

The Lions also interviewed Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak and former Houston Texas head coach Gary Kubiak. Their focus is now likely to shift to one of those candidates.