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10 takeaways from Kliff Kingsbury, Joe Whitt Jr.'s press conferences

Washington Commanders new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, speaks during an NFL football news conference at Commanders Park in Ashburn, Va., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Washington Commanders new offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, speaks during an NFL football news conference at Commanders Park in Ashburn, Va., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt Jr. wrapped up their introductory press conferences earlier today. Here are 10 takeaways from what they said to the media.

1. Kingsbury's road map for developing young quarterbacks.

Kingsbury has several traits as an offensive-minded coach, but his reputation for developing and building relationships with young quarterbacks is perhaps his most notable quality. He's had a hand in helping some of the best young signal-callers in football, whether it's Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray or Caleb Williams. Obviously, having talented players certainly helps, but the process of making sure those quarterbacks are on the right path goes deeper than that.

"I just try to figure out what makes them tick," Kingsbury said. "Everybody's different, everybody learns differently, everybody processes differently, likes different plays, sees the game differently. I really try to get to the bottom of who they are as a person, who they are as a player and build it around them."

2. Whitt is ready to be a defensive coordinator.

The question of whether he's ready to be a defensive coordinator is a funny one to Whitt. He's been an NFL coach for almost two decades. He's seen several young, impressive coaches get opportunities over the years. He's led some of the better secondaries over the last few years. So, yeah, he "been ready," and he's excited for the opportunity to lead a defense and do so in Washington.

"I've been waiting for this for a long time. The staff that we put together is an outstanding staff. We have a lot of coaches that come from different trees, and we did that by design because we want to have ideas outside of what necessarily I've done in my past. So, we're ready for it."

3. The evolution of the Air Raid offense.

As the name implies, the Air Raid offense relies heavily on a strong passing attack. When Kingsbury was at Texas Tech, he had Case Keenum and Mahomes, both of whom set school records, so he leaned into their skill sets as passers. Getting yards through the air is going to be important, no matter who is under center for Washington in 2024, but Kingsbury isn't trying to shoehorn a philosophy if it doesn't match his personnel, which he will continue to evaluate over the next few weeks. Instead, Kingsbury made it clear that he wants his offense in Washington to be balanced.

"We want to be able to run the football and [run] play-action passes," Kingsbury said. "Really, do whatever it takes to win. But the Air Raid deal, I'm honored to be a part of that, because it was Mike Leach, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, but I wouldn't categorize anything we do under that name."

4. Whitt has a clear vision for the Commanders' defense.

Whitt made it a point to emphasize that Washington is going to have a defense that is unique. The Commanders are not going to be a complete copy of what he and Quinn built in Dallas. He's not going to go into the full details of what that means, partly because he is still in the process of evaluating the roster, but he did say that Washington is going to have a "run and hit defense."

"The way that we live is not for everybody, okay? Because we're gonna run and put our bodies on people in a violent manner. And so, we're gonna get that play style right first, right? And then the structure of what we do doesn't really matter. You know, 3-4, 4-3. Everybody really plays the same coverages to some point. The structure doesn't matter to me."

5. A wealth of experience on the offensive side of the ball.

Putting together a quality staff is always a challenge, but it's one that Kingsbury was excited about for his side of the ball. It's a mixture of former players -- Kingsbury called assistant quarterbacks coach David Blough one of the smartest signal-callers he's been around -- and coaches with stellar reputations around the league -- Kingsbury is excited to have someone with Anthony Lynn's acumen on the staff. It was a collaborative effort between Kingsbury, head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Adam Peters, and that mindset is going to continue as the team installs the offense.

"We're all going to dive into it and figure out what we do best personnel wise and grow it from there."

6. Whitt's father has had a massive influence on him.

Whitt's father, Joe Whitt Sr., was a coach at Auburn University for 25 years, helping the Tigers reach 17 bowl games and five SEC Championships. So, Whitt Jr. has had a ready-made source of knowledge and guidance for his entire life.

When asked what he has learned from his father, Whitt Jr. said "everything."

"The first thing that I learned about from my dad was this is a people's business and to treat people fairly. That's the connections. My dad was a hard coach, man. He's a hard man to play for, but his players played a certain style. They ran and hit, they were fundamentally sound and that's what I got from him."

7. The key attributes to a successful NFL offense.

Everything is a learning opportunity for Kingsbury, and his three years with the Cardinals gave him a better perspective on "the nature of that game and the personnel groups, the matchups and things like that." When asked about what he thinks makes a successful NFL offense, the first thing Kingsbury spoke about was being adaptable to his personnel.

"Do what you do best, and don't ask them to do things they can't do," Kingsbury said. "We have a staff that's all in agreement on that and takes pride in that. So, we're gonna build this thing together and be collaborative as we put it together and just make sure we're putting our guys in the best situation possible."

8. Whitt wants to do whatever he can to help his players learn.

Whitt wants his players to know that "the standard is the standard," and they will never have to question what that standard is. If they don't to play that way, that's fine; they'll just be playing somewhere else.

At the same time, Whitt wants to be a teacher and help his players succeed. If the players are struggling with the concepts, "that's our fault."

"They don't pay us all this money just to go in there and put it up on the board. And if certain guys can't get it, no, it's your job to make sure they can get it. And if a coach sits there and says he can't learn, he probably can't coach. So, we'll get these guys to understand what we want 'em to do and do it in a very good manner."

9. Kingsbury is willing to evolve.

Although Quinn is certainly going to offer his input on the offense, Kingsbury is running the show on that side of the ball. He is tasked with taking a unit that finished in the bottom half of most metrics into one that is at least more competitive, which is he wanted to build an experienced staff. He's willing to acknowledge that while he is in charge, he isn't going to have all the answers, so he's going to ask as many questions as possible to learn as much as he can.

"If there's a better way to do it, we're going to do it that way," Kingsbury said. "I'm big on evolving each and every year doing breakdowns of the top college offenses [and] pro offenses. What are they doing? How can we make that fit? I think that's what it's about."

10. Whitt has a strong relationship with Dan Quinn.

Whitt and Quinn have worked together for years. They first met in Atlanta in 2020, and Quinn has brought Whitt with him ever since. Obviously, Whitt recognizes that Quinn is an excellent coach who knows how to put together winning defenses. But if you take that away, Whitt also believes that Quinn is "the best human being that I've probably been around in football."

"When I get to Atlanta and I have to move my family down, he writes handwritten notes to my kids. I never had a head coach do that," Whitt said. "My son was struggling in football with a blitzing scheme and he takes time out of his day to put a video of Micah Parsons rushing on the tackle from practice to help my son rush on the tackle in his practice. That's what type of dude this is. So, I'm all in with him a hundred percent.

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