According to Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com, assistant coach Mike Mularkey will serve as the interim head coach.
"I was caught off guard by what happened this morning with Ken Whisenhunt, but I want to help dig us out of this hole," said Mularkey, per SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk stated that a change was necessary in order for the franchise to make strides moving forward, per Wyatt:
After thoughtful consideration, the decision has been made to relieve Ken Whisenhunt of his head coaching duties. 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.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the decision to fire Whisenhunt came directly from ownership and had nothing to do with the level of talent on the team.
"My family and I are grateful for our time in Nashville and my opportunity to work for the Titans," Whisenhunt said in a statement, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today. "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."
Whisenhunt, 53, went 3-20 during his tenure. This was his second stint as an NFL head coach, as he previously spent six seasons in Arizona.
Albert Breer of NFL.com broke down what went wrong for Whisenhunt in Nashville:
While his run with the Cardinals ran hot early, with two playoff appearances and a Super Bowl run, his time in Tennessee was doomed from the start. Hamstrung by a bare talent cupboard, the Titans went 2-14 in his first season, as Whisenhunt failed to develop the roster's young quarterbacks. Tennessee rolled the dice on Oregon's Marcus Mariota with the second pick in April's draft, but a combination of injuries and schematic issues has left Mariota looking less than 100 percent.
A dynamic runner in Oregon's wide-open system in college, Mariota has accounted for only 72 rushing yards as a rookie. Whisenhunt seemed satisfied to keep Mariota confined to the pocket.
Mariota said the news was hard to take after building a strong relationship with Whisenhunt, per Glennon. Terry McCormick of Titans Insider noted Mariota said he spoke with Whisenhunt and wished him the best.
"Coach Mularkey set the tone this morning and laid out what is expected of us, Mariota explained, via the Titans. "Moving forward, we're excited."
Mularkey highlighted in his press conference why that approach could be problematic. "You play around a player's talents," he said in regard to the Titans offensive line. "You build your scheme around them instead of trying to make them fit your scheme."
Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard told Josina Anderson of ESPN he was "very surprised" at the firing, adding he felt Whisenhunt "had a good relationship with the players, and he kept all of us working hard to try and turn things around here."
As for Mularkey, tight end Delanie Walker praised his position coach after news broke of his promotion to interim head coach.
“Coach Mularkey played the game, and he played at tight end, and he played at a high level, so he understands the way we feel and some of the things we see out there," Walker said, per John Glennon of the Tennessean. "He’s not the type of coach where he screams and yells at you. He gives us great technique and shows us how to do it the best way, and he tells us to go out and do it the best we can. I think that’s the type of coach that anyone can play well with, when you don’t have him screaming at you and he gives you the opportunity to play.”
“He’s a great teacher. He makes us understand the game and then basically lets us play the way we play.”
Whisenhunt's struggles to develop young quarterbacks have proved to be his undoing in each of his NFL stops. Matt Leinart never reached his potential after starring at USC, and the Cardinals fell off a cliff once Kurt Warner retired, after which Whisenhunt shuffled through a series of bad options. Derek Anderson and Kevin Kolb led the team in passing after Warner's retirement, with the likes of John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Max Hall filling in.
The Titans spent most of 2014 desperately trying and failing to turn Zach Mettenberger and Charlie Whitehurst into NFL starters. Mettenberger fit a familiar mold for Whisenhunt: a big, stoic quarterback with a big arm who was drafted late. Skelton, Lindley and Hall were similarly styled options in Arizona. Whisenhunt's obsession with those types of players seemed to fall by the wayside when the Titans drafted Mariota, only for the team to not fully harness his talents.
When Whisenhunt has had a veteran quarterback who can run his system (Warner, Philip Rivers when Whisenhunt was the Chargers' offensive coordinator), he's had success. With the Titans likely at least another year away from competing, it's probably best to move on.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.