Joe Whitt To Call Commanders’ Defensive Plays; Magic Johnson Helped Sway Kliff Kingsbury

Dan Quinn will step back from the play-calling post he held in Dallas, indicating Monday his new defensive coordinatorJoe Whitt — will run the show on gamedays. This will be a move up for Whitt, who spent the past three seasons as the Cowboys’ secondary coach.

The Cowboys wanted to retain Whitt, who had a pre-Dallas history with both Quinn and Mike McCarthy. Whitt’s past with the latter is far more extensive; Whitt was on McCarthy’s Green Bay staff for 11 seasons (2008-18). He joined Quinn’s Falcons defense in 2020, but Quinn’s October 2020 ouster prevented the two from coaching together much. Quinn brought Whitt to Dallas, however, and will entrust him with the defensive play calls in Washington.

One of Whitt’s former Packers coworkers is also on the Commanders’ radar. The team is interested in hiring Jason Simmons, with’s Jeremy Fowler indicating the Commanders sent the Raiders an interview request. Las Vegas granted the request. Simmons spent the past two seasons as the Raiders’ DBs coach and pass-game coordinator, being a Josh McDaniels hire. While some McDaniels hires are in line to stay, others have already been fired or left for other positions.

Simmons, 47, spent nine years with the Packers, overlapping with Whitt from 2011-18 in Wisconsin. Both coached Green Bay’s DBs at points during that span, with their final year together featuring Whitt as the Pack’s pass-game coordinator and Simmons in the DBs coach post. Simmons served as the Panthers’ pass-game coordinator under Matt Rhule and doing the same under McDaniels and Antonio Pierce in Las Vegas. With Whitt in place as the DC, it would seem the Commanders are targeting Simmons for another pass-game coordinator role.

Shifting to the higher-profile Commanders coordinator choice, Kliff Kingsbury is indeed bound for D.C. after initially committing to the Raiders. Contract length represented a sticking point for Kingsbury and the Raiders, but’s Ian Rapoport adds Commanders limited partner Magic Johnson was in the USC assistant’s ear during the hiring process.

Johnson is believed to have informed Kingsbury the Commanders would be interested if his Raiders talks broke down. Soon after, Kingsbury had a deal in place with the Commanders. This probably will not go over well with the Raiders, who have since moved on to Luke Getsy as their offensive play-caller. But after the Commanders were unable to land their top choices as head coach, their OC position enticed Kingsbury to bail on a Vegas pledge.

Johnson aligned himself with Josh Harris when he attempted to buy the Broncos in 2022, and the NBA legend did so again during the 76ers owner’s successful push to acquire the Commanders. The Kingsbury about-face also has not prompted the Raiders to block a Simmons interview, potentially indicating the latter was not firmly in their 2024 plans.

The Commanders wanted an experienced play-caller to team with Quinn,’s Tom Pelissero adds. Kingsbury fits the bill, having run the show on offense at Texas Tech and then with the Cardinals. After a season as Caleb Williams‘ position coach, Kingsbury is likely to coach a rookie quarterback five years after mentoring No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray. Washington is unlikely — barring a Chicago trade-down — to be in position to take Williams, but a Commanders future with Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels is firmly in play. The team now has Kingsbury readying to lead this likely development effort.

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