Whisenhunt hired as Cardinals' new head coach

Updated: January 15, 2007, 2:38 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Ken Whisenhunt
Whisenhunt

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, one of the hottest candidates during the current NFL hiring cycle, has signed a four-year contract to become the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Whisenhunt will be introduced as the successor to Dennis Green at a Tuesday news conference. Financial details of the contract -- which includes a team option for a fifth year -- were not yet available. Based on what the Cardinals have paid coaches in the past, Whisenhunt probably will earn an annual salary in the $2.5 million range.

"I'm really excited," Whisenhunt said by phone Sunday evening. "I really think it's a great opportunity. It's a team with a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. The more I studied the situation, the better it looked, and the more I wanted that job. I can't wait to get started."

ESPN Radio: Hines Ward
Hines Ward
Ward
Appearing on ESPN Radio, Steelers receiver Hines Ward reacted to former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt's new opportunity with the Cardinals.
Listen.

Whisenhunt, 44, met for a second time with Arizona officials on Friday, as the Cardinals continued their follow-up round of interviews aimed at finding a new coach. The Cardinals interviewed eight candidates in the initial round, then brought back Houston Texans assistant head coach Mike Sherman and Whisenhunt for second interviews.

"In the end, we felt that Ken was the best fit for this organization," said Rod Graves, Cardinals vice president for football operations, "and we felt that because of the leadership that he portrayed. He presented a well-organized and thorough plan moving forward. We liked it.''

The second interview went well and the two sides opened negotiations on Saturday. There had been reports the Cardinals first offered the position to Sherman, but team officials denied that.

"It became apparent to us, particularly when we got into the second phase of our interview process, that Ken began to separate himself from the other candidates," Graves said.

Whisenhunt also interviewed for openings with the Steelers, the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins.

Clayton's take
 John Clayton
The amazing part of the Cardinals' hiring of Ken Whisenhunt as their offensive coordinator is that the Bidwills weren't Bidwill-like in the way they did business.

Read more of John Clayton's Quick Hits. Insider

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 certainly seems a good fit for a Cardinals team that is loaded with young offensive talent.

Arizona was seeking a coach to work with quarterback Matt Leinart, and Whisenhunt's development of Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh impressed the Cardinals' brass. Arizona also has solid young players on defense and Whisenhunt might retain current coordinator Clancy Pendergast to lead that unit.

"Great, good to have a coach," defensive end Bertrand Berry said, according to the Arizona Republic. "That's about all I can say. I don't know much about him. I'm sure I'll find out in the next little bit of time."

A fearless playcaller, 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.

The Cardinals have had one winning season -- and one playoff appearance -- since 1984. They have one playoff victory since winning the NFL championship in 1947.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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