The Cardinals have resisted many efforts to turn them into a winner. But Whisenhunt, who joins the club after three years as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator, thinks the team has the tools to become a playoff contender.
He cited promising young quarterback Matt Leinart, veteran running back Edgerrin James and a strong receiving corps led by Pro Bowler Anquan Boldin as reasons the Cardinals aren't as far away as last season's 5-11 record would indicate.
"From an analytic standpoint, being a civil engineer, if you look at all those things, it would give you a chance to win," he said after being formally introduced Tuesday. "Hopefully, I don't screw it up."
The Cardinals hope the same thing. Unlike Dennis Green, who was fired after going 16-32 in three seasons, Whisenhunt doesn't have a track record as an NFL or college head coach.
But club officials were impressed by the 44-year-old coach's experience with the Steelers. Whisenhunt helped mold Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who set an NFL record by winning his first 13 career starts and, one year later, became the youngest quarterback in league history to win a Super Bowl.
But there's a difference between working for the Steelers, one of the NFL's model franchises, and building the Cardinals, who have had more home cities (three) than postseason victories (two).
Whisenhunt is aware of the organization's troubled history, but he isn't intimidated by it.
"You recognize that, but I don't think you live in the past," Whisenhunt said. "This is a dream come true for me."
Whisenhunt signed a four-year contract with a team option for a fifth. He's the team's eighth coach since the Cardinals moved to Arizona in 1988.
A graduate of Richmond Academy and Georgia Tech, Whisenhunt played nine NFL seasons with the Falcons, Redskins and Jets.
Whisenhunt plans to move quickly to assemble a staff. Seven of Green's assistants were retained pending the hiring of a new coach, and Whisenhunt expects to meet with them.
One strong candidate is Dan Henning, Whisenhunt's coach in Atlanta. Henning is available after being fired as Carolina's offensive coordinator.
Whisenhunt, who said he will call the offensive plays on Sundays, also interviewed for coaching jobs in Pittsburgh, Miami and Atlanta.