Add the Miami Dolphins to the Ken Whisenhunt Sweepstakes.
Just one day after coach Nick Saban bolted the Dolphins for an eight-year, $32 million deal with the University of Alabama following a two-year NFL tenure, team officials made contact with representatives for Whisenhunt, the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator, in an attempt to arrange an interview, ESPN.com has learned.
It was not immediately known if the Dolphins have yet sought formal permission from the Steelers to interview Whisenhunt for their vacancy. Such permission would be a formality, though, since Pittsburgh officials would have to grant the request, since the Dolphins are seeking Whisenhunt for a head coach job.
Sources said that the Dolphins want to arrange an interview, one that likely would include owner Wayne Huizenga, as quickly as possible, at a site Whisenhunt could select. That could be difficult, however, given Whisenhunt's schedule.
The coveted coordinator interviewed Thursday with Atlanta Falcons officials in a session that sources said left both sides very impressed. Whisenhunt then flew to Phoenix to meet with the Arizona Cardinals on Friday. He is expected to stay in the Phoenix area through at least early Saturday, then probably will return to his Pittsburgh home.
Whisenhunt will formally interview for the Pittsburgh head coach job, which will become vacant on Friday afternoon when Bill Cowher announces his retirement, early next week, possibly Tuesday. He and Steelers assistant head coach Russ Grimm are the two in-house candidates who will definitely be interviewed by Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, president Art Rooney II, and director of football operations Kevin Colbert.
An Atlanta native who played collegiately at Georgia Tech, and then played tight end for the Falcons for four (1985-88) of his nine NFL seasons, Whisenhunt, 44, has arguably become the hottest commodity in the coaching market. Of the five teams now with vacancies, he is on the so-called "short list" of four of the franchises. The fifth team with an opening, Oakland, interviewed Whisenhunt last year, but he removed himself from consideration.
A fearless play-caller, and adept at creating advantageous matchups, Whisenhunt has been Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator since 2004. Under his stewardship, the Steelers' offense, statistically, ranked No. 7 in the NFL in 2006. The Steelers were 16th in 2004 and 15th in 2005, when they won Super Bowl XL.
Although some perceive Whisenhunt's strengths as the creative use of formations, motion and personnel packages, he also believes in a power-based running game.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.