ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Commanders moved quickly to fill their offensive coordinator position, hiring former Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury, multiple sources told ESPN on Sunday night.
But the Commanders weren’t finished, adding Joe Whitt Jr. as their defensive coordinator, according to sources.
They’re the first big moves by new coach Dan Quinn, who has coached defense throughout his career. Kingsbury had been close to joining the Las Vegas Raiders as their offensive coordinator until contract talks broke down on Saturday. Washington talked to Kingsbury that day, and the deal was completed Sunday.
Shortly after news broke about Kingsbury joining the staff, Whitt’s hiring was reported. From the time Quinn took the Commanders job on Thursday, Whitt was considered the top candidate to become his defensive coordinator.
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.
In Kingsbury’s first season in Arizona — when quarterback Kyler Murray was a rookie — the Cardinals’ offense ranked 16th in points and 21st in yards. But in Year 2, it jumped to 13th in points and sixth in yards.
Arizona ranked 11th in points and eighth in yards in Kingsbury’s third season before falling to 21st in points and 22nd in yards in his fourth campaign, when Murray suffered a torn ACL in Week 13.
Washington’s offense has not ranked above 16th in either category since 2016. It has ranked in the top 10 in either points or yards only five times since 2000.
But the Commanders, who own the second pick in April’s draft and will strongly consider selecting a quarterback, now have a coach experienced at working with young QBs. Kingsbury spent the past fall as USC’s quarterbacks coach and senior offensive analyst, working directly with Trojans signal-caller Caleb Williams, the projected No. 1 draft pick.
Kingsbury also drafted Murray at Arizona and, as head coach at Texas Tech, worked with Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield.
The Commanders also have Sam Howell, who has started the past 18 games for them at quarterback and will be entering his third season. Howell and Drake Maye, a possibility with the second pick, both played in a version of the Air Raid offense at North Carolina under former Tar Heels coordinator Phil Longo.
Kingsbury also interviewed with Chicago for its offensive coordinator opening, but the Bears instead hired Shane Waldron.