Thu, Nov 05, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Titans fire Whisenhunt, Mularkey interim coach

AP, NASHVILLE, Tennessee

Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt looks on during their NFL game against the Buffalo Bills in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 11.

Photo: AFP

Management has two primary goals for the Tennessee Titans: win games and protect franchise rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Ken Whisenhunt did not do a good enough job in either category, so he was let go.

Now Mike Mularkey gets his chance in a nine-game audition for the job.

The Titans became the second NFL team to fire a coach this season, relieving Whisenhunt of his duties on Tuesday morning after he went 3-20 in his tenure with the franchise. They turned the team over to Mularkey on an interim basis.

A former head coach with Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey was a finalist in Tennessee in 2011 before Mike Munchak was hired.

President Steve Underwood said controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk wants the Titans to do everything possible to protect Mariota — including keeping him out of games if necessary to heal. The franchise have not been to the playoffs since 2008, and Mariota now is the third quarterback they have drafted within the first eight picks in the last decade.

“I don’t care how good the rest of your team is, if you don’t have the right kind of quarterback, it’s hard to succeed long-term,” Underwood said. “We now have another rookie quarterback who’s very promising, and I think our future is bright... So much in our league begins and ends with the quarterback.”

Whisenhunt helped draft Mariota at No. 2 overall last spring, but Underwood said Strunk had been thinking of making a coaching change for weeks. Underwood and general manager Ruston Webster told Whisenhunt he was fired.

“When you’re not winning and you can’t win, that’s when change happens in the NFL,” Underwood said.

Whisenhunt’s latest loss came on Sunday in Houston, where the franchise was founded, and with Strunk in the stadium. That apparently was the last straw for Strunk, who was not at Tuesday’s press conference. She took over as controlling owner in March, replacing Tommy Smith who gave Whisenhunt a five-year contract in January last year.

“We have expected more progress on the field, and I felt it was time to move in a different direction,” Strunk said in a statement.

Titans cornerback Perrish Cox, who missed the last two games with an injured hamstring, on Twitter said that the move was frustrating.

“For anyone who wants to kno, no i am NOT happy with wiz gone, he was a good coach, he wznt the prob and we all know it!!,” Cox wrote.

The Titans (1-6) gave up seven sacks to the struggling Texans, leaving J.J. Watt surprised at not being double-teamed more. Mularkey said he talked with Mariota and told him they would do some things differently to keep him “upright.”

“Obviously, based on what’s happened the past couple weeks with the protections, that’s imperative,” Mularkey said.

Tennessee has allowed 28 sacks, including seven in a game twice.

Underwood said Mularkey was chosen over Dick LeBeau, another former NFL head coach, as the interim coach based on his experience as an offensive coordinator. LeBeau is in charge of a defense currently fifth in the NFL in yards allowed.

Mularkey was hired as tight ends coach by Whisenhunt and promoted to assistant head coach in charge of the run game this offseason. Mularkey is 16-32 overall as a head coach. A nine-year player in the NFL with Minnesota and Pittsburgh, Mularkey also has been an offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh, Miami and Atlanta.

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