Much to my surprise and delight the Cardinals have hired UMass Passing Game Coordinator, Spencer Whipple, to Kliff Kingsbury’s coaching staff.
Here in Massachusetts, Spencer’s dad, Mark Whipple, will always be remembered as the offensive mastermind who led UMass to the NCAA Division-1AA national championship in 1998.
That championship propelled Whipple, 61, to a coaching career that has included QB coaching gigs with the Steelers, Eagles and Browns, an appointment as assistant head coach and OC at the University of Miami, a return engagement at UMass as head coach in 2014 and currently the job of OC at the University of Pittsburgh.
But now there’s a father and son reverse odyssey going on---because Spencer Whipple returns to the state where his dad starred as the QB of Camelback High School to the tune of winning the 1975 Arizona Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award---which then helped him become the starting QB at Brown University.
While Spencer Whipple is back in Arizona, his dad now finds himself at the University of Pittsburgh, where Spencer’s college football career began when he walked on and made the team in 2007.
The father and son were reunited in Miami in 2010 and 2011, as Spencer, then a transfer student, became one of the Hurricane’s backup QBs and the starting holder on kicks. Like his dad at Camelback High School who was decorated as a top scholar/athlete, Spencer won Miami’s Mariutto Family Scholar-Athlete Award.
During Mark Whipple’s second stint as the head coach at UMass, with Spencer helping him coach their wide open passing attack, they developed three standout, record-breaking receivers: WR Tajae Sharpe (Tennessee Titans), TE Adam Breneman (John Mackey Award Semi-Finalist) and WR Andy Isabella (who just played in the Senior Bowl, catching 7 passes for 74 yards, 1 TD and rushing the ball one carry for 14 yards).
However, perhaps the most magnificent star player Mark Whipple coached at UMass was former Cardinals’ RB Marcel Shipp, who rushed for a school-record 2,542 yards and 18 TDs as 1stTeam All-American (1-AA) in leading UMass to the 1998 NCAA Division 1-AA Championship, in a stunning 55-43 upset of Georgia Southern.
Shipp was an undrafted college free agent who played seven years for the Cardinals. His highlights include a 17/92/2 TD breakout performance in a win over the Giants (2002) and a 135 yard, 1 TD explosion versus the Raiders. However, playing behind Emmett Smith and a incurring a number of leg and ankle injuries stifled his progress and the longevity of his career.
Those of us who watched Marcel Shipp know what a tough cookie he was.
On a personal note, I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Whipple when he was an offensive assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles. Back in 2008, three of my good friends asked me to join them at Gillette Stadium to watch the Eagles play the Pats in a pre-season game.
One of those friends, Brian Mulrooney has been a long-time friend and golfing buddy of Whipple’s.
We arrived at the game two hours early in the hope of being able to say hello to Coach Whipple. While drinking some light refreshments up in the main lounge, our friend Dave Cavalier, spotted Whipple walking by himself on the far end of the field.
Before we knew it, Dave was shouting down from a mile away---HEY WHIP, IT’S ME DAVE AND BRIAN AND STEVE AND WALTER!
Whipple heard Dave and waved, so Dave shouted STAY RIGHT THERE, WE’RE COMING DOWN!
The next thing I knew we were running over to the service elevator, where Dave pulled off a mini miracle, announcing himself to the elevator man as Congressman David Cavalier from Harrisburg Pennsylvania and he flashed the operator his Congressional Golf Club membership card (Dave has been a long-time member there), which does look very presidential at first glance.
“We need to meet Eagles’ coach Mark Whipple down on the field, can you take us there immediately?” Dave asked.
Moments later we were bolting out of the elevator and hustling over to Coach Whip, where Whip proceeded to bust everyone’s chops for a good ten minutes. The wisecracks were so hysterical that Whip had our great friend Steve Singelais, a one-time 6’7” forward in the Euro basketball leagues during the 1970s, doing a moonwalk toward the clubhouse.
You know what they about Mensa types---they are smart as a Whip.
I can tell you that from all these years following Mark Whipple’s career that he runs his own version of the Air Raid---and has been running it for decades. His teams have an uncanny way of lighting up the scoreboard.
I was always hoping that Ken Whisenhunt or Bruce Arians would hire Whip, seeing as Whip was the QB coach in Pittsburgh for a few years when Whiz was the OC and BA was the WR coach (2004-2006).
But now the Cardinals have Spencer Whipple as their offensive Quality Control coach---which means he will be doing the advanced scouting on the teams the Cardinals will be playing 2-3 weeks ahead. In practice he will helping to run the scout teams and will be working with the QBs.
Many of the top young coaches in the NFL today have started out as Quality Control coaches---like Sean McVay and Brian Flores. It’s great training in all three phases.
The Cardinals just hired one of the brightest young coaching prodigies in Spencer Whipple.