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Tennessee Titans fire head coach Ken Whisenhunt

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Ken Whisenhunt is no longer the head coach of the Titans.

In a stunning and largely unexpected move Tuesday morning, the team announced that their second-year head coach, who has spent just 23 games in Nashville, would not return. He had roughly 2 1/2 years remaining on his deal.

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"After thoughtful consideration, the decision has been made to relieve Ken Whisenhunt of his head coaching duties," Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement. "We have expected more progress on the field, and I felt it was time to move in a different direction. I would like to thank Ken for his efforts with our team, as he worked very hard to try to move us forward."

Mike Mularkey will be the interim head coach.

This is the worst-case scenario for a franchise that just selected a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick. Marcus Mariota spent the offseason learning Whisenhunt's system and, in spurts, has looked like a promising Rookie of the Year candidate who could make that offense work.

Now, he'll be at the whim of a coaching search, a new staff and a new set of ideas in Tennessee.

Whisenhunt was 3-20 in less than two seasons in Nashville and 4-31 over his last 35 games as a head coach. Despite taking the Cardinals to the Super Bowl back in 2009, he couldn't find success without the aid of future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

Sunday's 20-6 loss to the Texans appeared to be the tipping point. Strunk, along with Kenneth Adams IV, a minority owner, were on hand to witness another listless performance. The news release sent out by the organization made note of this, and as NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport noted, it was an ownership decision to fire Whisenhunt.

Mariota was not a part of that loss, but the move made on Tuesday is a fairly aggressive one to ensure that he won't be a part of many others to come.

Whisenhunt seemed to have a good idea that his days in Nashville were numbered. His unusually morose news conference on Monday set the stage for Tuesday's events.

"I'm operating from a position here where I don't have much I can say," Whisenhunt said, via The Tennessean. "Our win-loss total is not good, so no matter what I say, it's not going to be good enough. All I can do is tell you we're going to work hard to swing it hard the other way.

"We're in here working. We're trying. We feel like we've done some things that have been good, but they're obviously not good enough."

He added: "There's not a lot I can say. Anything I can say you're certainly going to not say something good about. I certainly feel (the fans') pain. We want to win just as bad as everybody else. We haven't done as well as we would have liked or expected, but we're humans, too. It does affect us. It's not a lot of fun."

The Titans will attract some interest once the job officially opens this offseason. The team has a quarterback with potential and a budding offensive line, which is much more than Gus Bradley could have said when he took over the Jacksonville Jaguars, for example.

In the meantime, Mularkey, who was blocked by the Titans from interviewing for various offensive coordinator gigs last offseason, gets to try and improve his head coaching resume. In three seasons under the headset, he's 16-32. Mularkey last ran the Jaguars back in 2012. The team finished 2-14.

Mularkey does have plenty of clout as an offensive coordinator, so it will be interesting to see where and how his fingerprints begin to pop up. He can take comfort in knowing that he has nothing to lose.

Whisenhunt issued a statement Tuesday following his termination:

"My family and I are grateful for our time in Nashville and my opportunity to work for the Titans. I am sorry we weren't able to get it done in our time here. Our players and staff were great to work with and I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work. I also want to thank the fans for their support and I wish the organization success moving forward."

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