Watt's nine QB hits contributed to Whisenhunt's firing

The reason the Tennessee Titans canned Ken Whisenhunt this week after just 23 games seemed obvious: to protect their young quarterback, Marcus Mariota.

Whisenhunt has a terrible track record with young signal-callers. Yet, the main motivation for the dismissal was literally the lack of offensive line protection for the quarterback.

NFL Media's Albert Breer wrote in his notebook this week that it became an "open secret" in the Titans' building that Whisenhunt was on shaky ground due to concerns about his ability to keep quarterbacks healthy.

"Some of it is the offensive line, but some of it's not," one team source told Breer. "What we worried about, we just never protected them."

Jake Locker's season was ended by a shoulder injury in 2014; Zach Mettenberger also finished last season on IR. Mariota missed two games with an MCL sprain, which came after he played through an ankle injury.

While not all bad injury luck falls on the coaching staff, the Titans' brass watched protection schemes crumble under Whisenhunt, likely fueling nightmares about Mariota suffering a career-altering injury.

Per Breer, the "straws that broke the camel's back" were two recent decisions to single-block dominant pass-rushers. First the Titans allowed Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake to register four sacks while being single-blocked. Then the Titans inexplicably did the same with Houston's J.J. Watt, allowing the best pass rusher in the NFL to go one-on-one with rookie right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi. Watt gobbled up 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits on a statuesque Mettenberger.

Asked after the game why he thought the Titans singled him, Watt replied, "I don't know, but they did. I told them they shouldn't have."

Had Whisenhunt taken Watt's advice, perhaps he'd still have an NFL job. After watching their quarterbacks get blasted, the Titans couldn't sit by and risk seeing their most valuable asset be put at unnecessary risk play after play. Now it's up to Mike Mularkey not to make those same blocking-scheme mistakes. 

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