Washington Post (paywall)
A day after announcing Dan Quinn as their next coach, the Washington Commanders quickly found the top two members of his staff. Former Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury agreed to a three-year contract to be the offensive coordinator and Dallas Cowboys secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. agreed to be the defensive coordinator, multiple people with knowledge of the hires said Sunday night.
Washington turned to Quinn largely because of his leadership, experience and success on the defensive side, but Kingsbury could have an even greater impact on the team’s trajectory. Washington is coming off a 4-13 season and has not posted a winning record since 2016. It has churned through 14 starting quarterbacks over the past decade and sorely needs an infusion of creativity and player development on offense. Kingsbury has a record of both.
The Commanders have five picks in the first three rounds of the draft. They also are projected to have the most salary cap space in the NFL, giving them plenty of room to add talent.
Whitt, 45, follows Quinn for the second time to take over a Commanders defense that struggled in nearly every facet last season. A former walk-on wide receiver at Auburn, Whitt began coaching in 2000 and joined the pro ranks as assistant defensive backs coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. After 11 seasons as a defensive assistant for the Green Bay Packers, with whom he won Super Bowl XLV, and a year with the Cleveland Browns, Whitt returned to Atlanta as the secondary coach and passing game coordinator under Quinn. He kept that title when he joined Quinn with Dallas in 2021.
Pro Football Rumors
This hiring comes as a bit of a surprise as Whitt was considered a heavy favorite to replace Quinn as the new defensive coordinator in Dallas. According to Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News, Whitt was scheduled to interview with the Cowboys for their coordinator vacancy Monday. Instead, Whitt will take his first coordinator job with the team’s division rival, following his old boss to DC.
The Cowboys reportedly have interviews in the next two days lined up for defensive line coach Aden Durde, former Commanders head coach Ron Rivera, and former Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, per David Moore of the Dallas Morning News. The team’s insistence on bringing in candidates with head coaching experience to replace Quinn may have been a factor in Whitt’s willingness to move on from the position without going through with his interview.
Whitt has been coaching in the NFL since 2007, after seven years coaching at the college level with The Citadel, Auburn, and Louisville. Starting as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Falcons, Whitt joined the Packers staff in 2008. Over 11 years in Green Bay, Whitt would move through the ranks from defensive quality control coach to cornerbacks coach to defensive passing game coordinator.
Perhaps Whitt felt like he was being forced to choose between two divorced parents having to decide between staying with McCarthy, who served as Whitt’s head coach for all 11 years that he was in Green Bay, or following Quinn, who brought him along from Atlanta. Regardless, it’s Quinn who will reward Whitt with his first career defensive coordinator gig in Washington.
Whitt, 45, has coached in the NFL since 2007 but has never been a coordinator. He coached one season in Atlanta (2020) with Quinn and joined him again in Dallas in 2021 as the Cowboys’ secondary coach and pass game coordinator. Whitt has served as a pass game coordinator since 2018 for three different teams.
During his three seasons in that role with Dallas, and with Quinn as coordinator, the Cowboys ranked eighth in passing yards allowed, third in completion percentage and third in quarterback rating.
Kingsbury, 44, coached the Cardinals for four years until he was fired after the 2022 season. He competed in the same division as Washington’s new general manager, Adam Peters, who had worked with the San Francisco 49ers until being hired by the Commanders last month.
Eric Bieniemy, who has one year left on his contract, served as the Commanders’ offensive coordinator this past season.
Kingsbury worked with Williams at USC in the 2023 campaign.
The reported hire of Kingsbury will undoubtedly fuel speculation to Williams’ future as the 22-year-old quarterback prepares for the 2024 NFL Draft.
Kingsbury and Williams worked together at USC this past season, and an NFL team would likely want that combination for their respective team for a chance at success.
The Commanders check some boxes because they don’t have a franchise quarterback and also need a new offensive mind with Eric Bieniemy out.
Washington owns the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, so it’ll be interesting to see how Williams’ situation plays out since the Bears own the No. 1 pick. Chicago has been rumored with a potential Justin Fields departure in order to start fresh with Williams, but Washington landing Kingsbury could mean it seeks to trade up.
With Williams being touted as the best prospect in the draft, Chicago would likely have to trade back if it sticks with Fields and collect additional assets from a team who is all in on the QB, such as Washington.
Let the rumors begin...and continue.
Burgundy & Gold Report
6’4” 210 lbs | QB | LSU
Draft Proj 1st Rd
ASU (29 games) 451/723 6,025 yds for 32 TDs & 13 ints
*(Rushing) 296 att for 1,288 yds for 13 TDs
Career LSU (26 games) 502/715 6,725 yds for 57 TDs & 7 ints
*(Rushing) 321 att for 2,019 yds with 21 TDs
2023 (12 games) 236/327 3,812 yds for 40 TDs & 4 ints
*(Rushing) 135 att for 1,134 yds for 10 TDs
The 2021 season would be a career season for Daniels as a runner (13 games), in which he rushed for 710 yards 6 touchdowns. He threw for 2,381 yards for 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Daniels elected to transfer to LSU for the 2022 season and became the starting signal caller immediately (starting 14 games).
The Tigers signal caller finished the season with 2,913 yards passing for 17 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions, in addition to rushing for 885 yards leading to 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Daniels had his best statistical output as a dual threat signal caller in ‘22, which led to him being awarded the Charles McClendon MVP Award and was also a Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist.
The LSU signal caller put together an even better season in 2023. Daniels is one of only two players in SEC history to pass for 3,500 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, since former Texas A&M signal caller Johnny Manziel.
The sky is the limit for the LSU signal caller, but the right team and system will be key. Although Daniels displayed his ability as a runner, he’s no Lamar Jackson and won’t be able to do a lot of what he did as a scrambler on the next level.
The team that selects Daniels needs to feature a balanced offensive attack, which shouldn’t be predicated on the Heisman winner throwing the ball 35-40 times a game in his first season.
Daniels was surrounded by some extremely talented pass catchers at LSU, which helped him minimize turnovers with a career mark of 57 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions.
Teams are fully aware of how athletic Daniels is and how much of a running threat he can be. In saying that, GMs will be looking to see some refinement from Daniels as a passer and how he’ll look in a professional setting during the NFL Combine.
Many believe Maye will be the second quarterback off the board in April’s NFL Draft, but Daniels isn’t a prospect to overlook.
The Athletic (paywall)
The Commanders were never in sole control of their destiny despite the competence, vision and sanity emanating from the ownership group led by managing partner Josh Harris. They inhabit a world where other masters-of-the-universe types have agendas. The Commanders already conquered competitors in the general manager market by landing Peters. Like it or not, those other organizations would have their day.
Washington’s search committee endured a wild January that saw the Commanders pivot from both Ben Johnson, who decided to remain in Detroit, and Mike Macdonald, who was hired as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Quinn remained a leading consideration throughout the deliberate process. The acclaim from the likes of the Cowboys’ All-Pro Micah Parsons and countless others suggests whether Quinn was the first, second or third choice, he might be the right one.
When pundits and internet rumors flooded the zone for weeks with claims that Johnson, 37, was the overwhelming favorite, if not a “lock” hire in Washington — a downside of Harris running a largely leak-free search — minimal pushback occurred. The gleefully ignorant voices were unaware or chose not to care that the consummation assumptions came from an echo chamber of gossip rather than factual information.
When newbie power brokers like Johnson and Macdonald attempt to control their newfound leverage, wild twists and turns may follow whether experienced advisers try steering them toward calm waters. Attempts to anticipate those next moves can make interested suitors appear lost.
That’s how it was perceived in some corners when Johnson told Washington and Seattle that he pushed the breaks on leaving the Motor City. The rub is that Johnson, who pulled himself out of 2022 opportunities despite his burgeoning hot coach status, and his agent shared their exit plans by texting team officials while the Commanders’ group was on a flight from the Washington, D.C., area to meet in Michigan.
Whatever the theory, league sources, whether they cared about Washington’s plight or not, shared one unified sentiment: The Commanders got screwed.
“Outrageous. Simply outrageous,” said a league source familiar with the situation. “That’s not how you conduct business. It is how you ruin your reputation.”
Former Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel was never in serious consideration, either, despite a tidal wave of support around the league for Washington to meet with him. An executive league source in the NFC shared with The Athletic his theory: “The Commanders passed on Vrabel because of (Titans GM) Ran Carthon. He fired (Vrabel). Adam Peters was not going to hire the coach that his friend just fired. That’s how this works sometimes.”
“It’s going to be a rapid but thorough process,” Harris said shortly after releasing Rivera. “Again, we’re not in full control of the timeframe because what we’re ultimately trying to do is end up with the best people, and the best people generally have alternatives.”
After months of prep work, the Commanders’ new decision-makers made sure they also had viable alternatives with the game on the line.
The hiring of Quinn and Peters gained support from Jonathan Allen, one of Washington’s defensive leaders and a player “frustrated” with the team’s direction entering the offseason.
“I haven’t met a player — and I’ve probably talked to hundreds of players who played for (Quinn) — that does not love him,” the two-time Pro Bowl selection said at a local radio event on Friday. “The thing that makes him a great coach is how he galvanizes a team and gets guys to play hard. That’s half the battle with winning.”
4. His defenses know how to create turnovers.
Aside from having solid players and being one of the best at keeping offenses out of the end zone, there’s a reason why Quinn’s defenses are so successful: they do a good job of forcing turnovers and creating opportunities for his team.
Getting takeaways has been a hallmark of Quinn’s defenses for years. During his tenure in Seattle, Quinn worked with CB Richard Sherman who led the NFL with 12 interceptions in 2013-14. The Seattle defense also led the NFL during that span with 28 total interceptions. In the two seasons that Quinn oversaw the defense, the team totaled 63 total takeaways, which lead the league.
In the three seasons he was in Dallas, a Cowboys cornerback led the league in interceptions. DaRon Bland did it most recently in 2023, grabbing nine picks and returning five for touchdowns, but prior to that, Trevon Diggs accomplished the feat in 2021 with 11 interceptions. The Cowboys also led the league in turnovers in 2021 and 2022.
Washington has also struggled with creating turnovers for years. The Commanders were ninth in takeaways in 2020, but since then they have ranked 21st, 26th and 23rd. It might be unrealistic to expect a complete turnaround in 2024, but with Quinn’s ability to put players in position to make an impact, there could be some improvement in his first season.
Interesting piece on Kingsbury's time in AZ: https://t.co/WPlhOu6Aj4— Bobby Gould (@Smith4Gm) February 4, 2024
From @danbickley a couple years ago on Kliff Kingsburry and he isn’t the only one to share these words on his offense. I chose this column because he first hand watched Kliff’s offense at work. There is some concern I have if @Commaners hiring him as OChttps://t.co/vsNgMAoMXL— Dave Earl …TheHogSty (@DaveEarl_2022) February 4, 2024
In 2017, I went to Lubbock for a profile of Kliff Kingsbury. He showed up to the facility at 4 a.m. and used a Blackberry. His staff meetings usually lasted between six and eight minutes.https://t.co/ChtSFTGzNC— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) February 5, 2024
"Would it really be a smart move to have had an NFL novice owner, rookie GM and rookie HC all at the same time?"— Christian - UKHTTC (@ChristianBurt) February 4, 2024
Here at UKHTTC, we shoot the breeze with @TonyJWheat @scottieh84 and @ChristianBurt on the new HC in Washington: Dan Quinn.
Enjoy the blog: https://t.co/us77lgByx1 pic.twitter.com/b78ooYbBiX
Podcasts & videos
Here comes Kliff Kingsbury and Joe Whitt Jr. The air raid is pass happy? Run game Numbers in Arizona don’t bear that out. Trade up for Caleb. Well: massive ties between Kingsbury and Phil Longo, who coached Howell and Drake Maye at UNC. @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/emedD803Ip— John Keim (@john_keim) February 5, 2024
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders Add Kliff Kingsbury and Joe Whitt Jr. to Dan Quinn Coaching Staff | Mock Draft
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
One of the internal candidates for Dallas’ defensive coordinator is off the board.
Joe Whitt was seen as an internal candidate to take the defensive coordinator job for the Cowboys. He oversaw the passing game defense and his résumé is burnished by the performance of players like Trevon Diggs and DaRon Bland during his tenure. Now he is gone, which may increase the chances of an external hire like Ron Rivera or Mike Zimmer, who have been reported as interviewees this week.
Whitt has had a long and successful career, and this is an overdue promotion for him. However, now between him and Quinn, our division rival has a very intimate knowledge of the Dallas offense, both from working against Prescott in practice and in having worked with head coach Mike McCarthy. We may no longer be able to assume the Cowboys are going to get easy wins against the Commanders.
NFL league links
Front Office Sports
Similar to last year, Sunday’s broadcast will feature a simulcast on Disney XD in addition to the core presentation on sister networks ESPN, ESPN+, and ABC. Broadcast access will extend far beyond regular-season and playoff norms, and quarterbacks will wear microphones. So, too, will AFC and NFC coaches Peyton and Eli Manning. Many of the individual skills competitions and top moments from the flag football competition will also be cut up extensively for social media distribution.
“This event is really built for social,” Shapiro says. “It’s seeing players’ personalities, helmets off, getting to a couple of different practices [in addition to the competitions], the great content of players coming together. So that is a big piece of this whole thing.”
Such tactics paid off last year as the initial Pro Bowl Games skills competition last year, airing on a Thursday night, drew double-digit percentage audience increases in the overall ages 18–34 group, and males within that demographic, compared to a Pro Bowl skills event held in 2022. And ESPN is looking for an even bigger boost this year.
Initial figures for this year give the network some additional hope. Thursday’s Pro Bowl Games skills competition drew an average audience of 1.14 million, up 8% and the best figure for that part of the event since 2018. More dramatically, the broadcast grew 40% year-over-year among the ages 2-17 demographic, and 34% in the ages 12-17 group.
“This is an event that allows us to build deeper relationships with NFL fans, particularly the younger ones,” Tim Reed, ESPN vice president of programming, tells FOS. “Between the format of this event and the type of access we can provide, it’s definitely not the type of production you see in an ordinary NFL week. So we certainly see this as something that provides a unique set of benefits.”