Stephen A. Smith should stop comparing Jim Caldwell to Ken Whisenhunt
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN complained on First Take this morning (and I would assume has complained via other media outlets, as well) that you can not praise the Whisenhunt hire without praising the Caldwell hire, as the coaches have such similar track records. Smith seems to believe that the perception is different because of race (Whisenhunt is white, while Caldwell is black). I am not going to address the huge issue of minorities in coaching, but I will explain why you can look at Whisenhunt as a more desirable head coach candidate than Caldwell.
Smith's main point is that Whisenhunt and Caldwell have accomplished much of the same feats during their time at high-profile coaching positions, and that is somewhat true, but only to a certain extent. Yes, both men made it to the Super Bowl as head coaches and then lost, then failed to find success after losing Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks (Kurt Warner for Whisenhunt, Peyton Manning for Caldwell). However, here is where those two situations are much different:
Caldwell took over a Colts team that was 12-4 the season before and had made the playoffs in seven straight seasons. The only reason he got an opportunity to coach the team was because Tony Dungy retired - not because the team and/or previous head coach had been struggling. Caldwell made it to the Super Bowl in his first year as head coach (2009), then went 10-6 the following season - the Colts' worst record since Dungy's first year in 2002. When Manning went down with a neck injury the following season, Caldwell's squad plummeted to 2-14.
Whisenhunt, on the other hand, took over a team that went 5-11 in 2006 and had not had a winning record since 1998. Rather than inherit a superb roster from a future Hall of Fame head coach (as Caldwell did), Whisenhunt revamped the team and turned them into a .500 ball club in his first season. The next year, he took the Cardinals - in their second playoff appearance since 1982 - to the Super Bowl. Whisenhunt's squad made the playoffs the following year, but once Warner retired in 2010, Whisenhunt did struggle to win games. However, he did not struggle nearly as badly as Caldwell did without Manning. Whisenhunt went 18-30 with a carousel of quarterbacks after Warner's retirement - a bit better than Caldwell's 2-14 mark while Manning was sidelined. It is also worth noting that when Warner went to Arizona in 2007, he had not thrown for 3,000 yards since 2001 - Whisenhunt helped revitalize Warner's career.