LAS VEGAS — Alex Whittingham’s first six seasons as an NFL assistant coach have worked out pretty well.
That might be an understatement.
Whittingham, the former Utah linebacker and son of longtime Utes coach Kyle Whittingham, has won a pair of Super Bowl rings with Kansas City and will be pursuing a third on Sunday (4:30 p.m. MST, CBS) when the Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in the 2024 Super Bowl.
“I had no idea, could not even have dreamed that it would be this good of a ride that we’ve had. The timing just was perfect.” — Kansas City Chiefs defensive quality control coach Alex Whittingham
“I had no idea, could not even have dreamed that it would be this good of a ride that we’ve had. The timing just was perfect,” Alex Whittingham said of joining a franchise that will be playing in its fourth Super Bowl in the past five years.
Whittingham has been with the Chiefs since 2018, starting as a defensive assistant for a year before becoming a defensive quality control coach — “which is a lot of the same work but a different title,” he said — where he’s worked the past five years in Kansas City.
“No, it’s been, gosh, I mean you said it, like the timing of getting here and being on this run that we’ve been on,” Whittingham told the Deseret News on Wednesday.
“This is my sixth year, so I’m still kind of getting my feet under me trying to figure out this whole coaching thing and being able to learn and grow as a coach while at the same time going to Super Bowls and having all the success, not a lot of coaches get that at the start of their career. I’m extremely thankful for that and I recognize how fortunate I am.”
Whittingham may be outnumbered by the number of BYU ties associated with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he’s fine with that — they’re all on the same team now.
“It’s fun because once you get to this level, it’s like we’re all part of the (Chiefs) Kingdom,” said the sixth-year Kansas City assistant.
Whittingham played against Bushman during their college days.
“I remember him being a pain in the butt when we were in college and playing against him, but now we’re on the same team and I work with him on the offensive scout team and he’s been great,” Whittingham said. “He’s awesome. I love Matt and Porter and all those BYU guys. They turn out to be pretty all right once you get to know them.”
The former Utah walk-on is excited to see BYU and Utah back in the same conference when the Utes join the Big 12 later this year, though he also says, “I loved those games” when thinking about playing the likes of USC, UCLA and Stanford in the Pac-12.
“There were a lot of good times with that and I’ll miss it, unfortunate that the conference went the way it did,” he said. “But you know, the future’s bright, and there’ll be good games ahead for everyone involved.”
One thing Whittingham wishes is that the first BYU-Utah game in Big 12 play would be on the final weekend of the regular season, not where it’s slotted at on Nov. 9.
“They kind of messed that up. I don’t know why. That’s a game that needs to be during rivalry weekend, in my opinion,” he said.
Overall, though, Whittingham is in favor of Utah and BYU belonging to the same league again for the first time since 2010, when they were together in the Mountain West Conference.
“That is fun that Utah and BYU get to be together again and in the same conference. There are so many good games growing up that they had that are just fond memories of mine — most of them fond memories, some I try to block out,” Whittingham said.
“I think that’s good for college football that they get to have that and we may have to work together some (bets), me and Coach Reid. He may be wearing a Utah jersey to one of those conferences. We’ll think of something, I’m sure.”
In Kansas City, Whittingham continues to learn under one of the best coaches ever at the NFL level — if the Chiefs win Sunday, Reid, who’s in his 25th season as an NFL head coach, will become just the fifth head coach ever to win three Super Bowls.
“I think that is one of the reasons why he’s been so good for so long, because this business is so up and down with wins and losses and firings and everything that goes with it. He’s been able to stay steady and be consistent for so long,” Whittingham said of Reid.
“And I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been so successful and just as a leader, that’s something that you try to replicate, everything from the way he runs meetings to the way he operates with players.”
One other coach he can lean on for knowledge is his father, whose storied career at Utah is still going strong.
“When I get to talk to him, it’s mostly about the family and how things are going. When I first started out my first couple of years, when it was all this information, it was a little overwhelming,” Whittingham said of his father.
“I leaned on him a lot and I still do. I still come to him with questions because his wealth of knowledge is invaluable. … I could throw any question at him and he’ll have something valuable for me. And that’s been so helpful for me just as a learning coach to be able to have someone like that to lean on that is in my family.”
With the Super Bowl so close to home, Whittingham — who prepped at Brighton High — said family will be there.
How to watch
Kansas City Chiefs
vs. San Francisco 49ers
Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas)
Sunday, 4:30 p.m. MST
“My folks will be coming down, my in-laws, they’ll be able to go to the game and I’m hoping that aunts, uncles, cousins will be able to just come hang out and enjoy it because it is close and that has made this a bit of a special trip to be so close to home and to be here,” Whittingham said.
“Last year in Arizona it was still, that was close, too, and we had some guys come down and that made it even more meaningful to be able to share that with them.”
And maybe, just maybe, the Chiefs can tune into some of that Utes magic at Allegiant Stadium. That’s where Utah won back-to-back Pac-12 titles in 2021 and 2022.
“I didn’t think about that, but you’re absolutely right — to have the success that Utah has had in that stadium and hopefully we continue that tradition,” Whittingham said. “You know, the old man has set the standard and hopefully we can live up to it.”