5 Takeaways from Tennessee Titans' Hire of Ken Whisenhunt
The Tennessee Titans found their next head honcho in former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt after he spent this past season with the San Diego Chargers. The offensive guru will be in charge of a Titans team that lost nine games in 2013, and will be counted upon to spark a change in their 22nd-ranked offense. After all, it's not like they don't have talent on the offensive side of the ball, and Whisenhunt could bring the best out of them.
In just one year with the Chargers, Whisenhunt brought their passing game to a whole new level. He helped turned their passing offense into an explosive one, taking them from the league's 21st-ranked team to it's fourth.
Although some may question how good of a fit this is, there's no doubt that he will change the culture of this team and help out their offense a good bit.
Titans Wanted to Play It Safe, Go with Experience
The Titans broke the recent trend of hiring a college coach or a young, upcoming coordinator when they signed Ken Whisenhunt, and that'll prove to be a smart decision. The general crop of coaching candidates this year wasn't too experienced as a head coach, outside of Lovie Smith and Whisenhunt himself, and that wasn't what the Titans were looking for.
They interviewed a few people, but zeroed in on Whisenhunt once they concluded he was their man. He brings leadership and experience to a pretty young overall roster that surely needs it. What's also great is that he has Super Bowl experience too, which is hard to come by when searching for a new head coach.
Whisenhunt will benefit this team in many ways, but none bigger than his contribution to the quarterback position. Jake Locker has a ton of potential, but hasn't quite put the pieces together yet. Now that Whisenhunt's in town, he could finally make that leap and lead this team.
Good Things Are Coming for Jake Locker
Jake Locker has had an up-and-down NFL career so far, but now that he has a new coach, he will get a chance to grow and mature into a quality starter in this league. Whisenhunt's work with Philip Rivers this past season bodes well for Locker's development, and that will be key to his success with the Titans. Whisenhunt's body of work with quarterbacks goes back farther than Rivers though, as he played a major role in developing Ben Roethlisberger and even input a system that an aged Kurt Warner could thrive in.
Locker's natural athletic ability makes him a dynamic player at the quarterback position, and while Whisenhunt may not be running the triple-option, expect his athleticism to be put to use.
Ken Whisenhunt wants a fresh start just as bad as the Titans do, which will likely lead to the departure of Chris Johnson. The former All-Pro has been more of a headache than anything the past couple of seasons, and has made it clear that he wants out of the organization if he's not "the guy" in Tennessee's backfield.
Whisenhunt is one of the more mild-mannered coaches in the league, but I doubt he's going to want to deal with Johnson in his ear all the time, especially when he has a more-than-capable runner in Shonn Greene. He may not have put up crazy numbers in 2013, but Greene's 3.8-yards-per-carry average was just about as good as Johnson's 3.9 mark.
Green was just generally as effective as Johnson (if not more) when he had the ball in his hands; he scored just two touchdowns less than Johnson did with 202 less carries.
Johnson's fate with the team will likely come down to Tennessee's cap space and what he counts against that as he holds a pretty hefty price tag, so his potential departure would be good for the team in more ways than one.
Whisenhunt's offensive system is clearly set up to benefit the pass more than the run, but the Titans' starting running back—whoever that may be—will get his fair share of carries.
Ray Horton Will Likely Take over Defense
The Titans have struggled on both offense and defense over the past couple of seasons, and while Whisenhunt will likely cure the offense, that still leaves the defense to be tended to. Tennessee's success defensively will hinge upon who Whisenhunt brings in to coach 'em up, and according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, it's looking like the top choice is a former colleague in Ray Horton.
The current defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns was the defensive coordinator in Arizona during Whisenhunt's final years with the team, and they also spent time together on the Pittsburgh Steelers' staff.
Horton's resumé as a defensive coordinator precedes him, and would certainly turn things around for them.
Titans Can Turn Things Around Quickly
Let's not forget that while they may not have had a winning record, the Titans did win seven games in 2013—many of which were without their starting quarterback. It wasn't a terrible season, but it was clear that Mike Munchak just wasn't the right fit. I mean, it's hard to expect a guy who had never been more than an offensive line coach to handle all the responsibilities that come with being a head coach in this league.
With Whisenhunt now at the helm, Tennessee can properly get their franchise off the ground and start moving forward. Many have referred to the Titans as a rebuilding team, and if that's the case, then they're in pretty good shape. Look at it this way: they have their franchise quarterback, a couple of solid options at running back and talent strewn all throughout the roster. Sure, there's places and positions that need to be improved, but Tennessee isn't too far from being a competitive team.
They're in a very vulnerable division right now outside of the Indianapolis Colts, and the door is open for them to start asserting themselves as playoff contenders. Whisenhunt could be the missing puzzle piece that this team needed to get on track and really push these AFC teams.