By Ashley Dunkak
FORD FIELD (CBS DETROIT) – Not every day does an NFL team president begin a head coach’s introductory press conference by talking about another candidate for the job.
Rumors had been swirling that the Lions wanted then-San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, and reports were that Whisenhunt spurned the Lions for the Tennessee Titans in part because they offered more money.
Rather than denying the depth of their interest in Whisenhunt at new Lions coach Jim Caldwell’s press conference Wednesday, the Lions put the matter on the table immediately, even as Caldwell waited at the side of the stage.
“We had a profile laid out,” president Tom Lewand said in his opening remarks. “Two men fit that profile and were real finalists for us. One of those, Ken Whisenhunt, is somebody that we wanted to have additional conversations with and had offered to bring him to Detroit to have additional conversations and a chance to meet the Ford family. He had a great opportunity in Tennessee and they got a fine man and fine football coach.
“The other finalist is sitting to my left and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to introduce to you and Lions’ fans all over the place, the next head coach of the Detroit Lions, because he fits our profile to a T,” Lewand added.
While mentioning any coach other than the new coach in an introductory press conference qualifies as unusual, Lewand told reporters later that approach was the only way to go.
“We had to be honest,” Lewand said. “The narrative was out there, and we honestly had two Plan A’s. They were two really good coaches. And I have a lot of respect for Ken. I enjoyed the time we spent with him. I think Tennessee found a fine coach, and I think he’ll do well down there, so there’s no reason to – I didn’t want to try and whitewash or pretend that didn’t take place. There’s one thing about a time to disclose information, and there’s another about the information you disclose. There’s no reason not to be honest about it.”
Also, Lewand said the reports about a Lions offer to Whisenhunt were incorrect.
“Our discussions never got that far that you’d be able to make that kind of comparison,” Lewand said.