Ken Whisenhunt, the former Cardinals head coach who took Arizona to its only Super Bowl appearance but won just 18 games in his final three seasons, interviewed for the Eagles head coaching vacancy on Monday morning, the team announced.
The team also met with Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden on Monday as the search to replace head coach Andy Reid enters its third week (see story).
The Cardinals fired Whisenhunt along with general manager Rod Graves on Dec. 31 after Arizona went 5-11 for the second time in three seasons and after his sixth season overall. It came just three seasons removed from Arizonas first appearance in the Super Bowl, a 27-23 loss to Pittsburgh at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Whisenhunt, 50, is the fourth former NFL head coach to interview for the Eagles opening, joining Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan (a former 49ers head coach), former Bears head coach Lovie Smith and former Ravens head coach Brian Billick.
Counting Gruden, the Eagles have spoken with 11 different candidates. Whisenhunt is higher on the teams wish list than Billick, according to one source close to the situation.
Whisenhunt, who branched out from Bill Cowhers coaching tree in Pittsburgh, produced mixed results during his time in the desert. He inherited a laughingstock franchise team that hadnt finished with a winning record in eight straight seasons, hadnt won double-digit games since 1976 and had made the postseason just once since migrating from St. Louis to Phoenix in 1988.
He went 8-8 in his first season and improved to 9-7 in his second year, winning a first-round home playoff game against Atlanta and then upsetting Carolina on the road to land in the NFC Championship game, where he coached the Cardinals past the Eagles, 32-25, to advance Arizona into the Super Bowl against the Steelers.
Whisenhunt, who was Duce Staleys offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh from 2004-2006, lost 27-23 in the Super Bowl against his old team but in 2010 coached Arizona to its first 10-win season since 1976 under Don Coryell.
His inability to find an adequate replacement for All-Pro quarterback Kurt Warner, who retired after the 09 season, sent the franchise back into a downward spiral and ultimately cost him his job.
The Cards finished with the NFCs second-worst record (5-11) in 2010 with Derek Anderson as quarterback, prompting the franchise to deal Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Kevin Kolb after the lockout.
Injuries to Kolb and others over the past two years led Whisenhunt to start five different quarterbacks over that span, including four in 2011.
Whisenhunt, who played tight end for three different NFL teams, first broke into NFL coaching in 1997 as a tight ends coach on Ted Marchibrodas staff in Baltimore. He coached special teams for the Browns in 1999 and tight ends for the Jets in 2000 before moving onto Pittsburgh, where he coached tight ends for three seasons under Cowher before being promoted to offensive coordinator.
His three seasons as Steelers offensive coordinator were the first three seasons of Ben Roethlisbergers career. Pittsburgh finished with three top-15 offenses and made the postseason two of those three years and won the Super Bowl in 2005, a 21-10 win over Seattle.
E-mail Geoff Mosher at email@example.com