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.
The Falcons had a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher in three of Mularkey’s four seasons between 2008 and 2011.
The Titans have started four rookies on offense this season, including Mariota who missed the last two games with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Tennessee currently ranks next to last in the NFL, averaging 17.9 points per game, and in total yards per game.
Mularkey said offensive coordinator Jason Michael will call plays, a job Whisenhunt previously handled.
“We dug a hole that we have to climb out of,” Mularkey said.
This is the first in-season coaching change for the franchise since 1994, when Jeff Fisher replaced Jack Pardee. Whisenhunt went 2-14 in his debut season, the worst record since 1994 for this team and a big dropoff from 7-9 in 2013 under Munchak.
An opening 42-14 win in Tampa Bay was the only victory in 17 games, and Whisenhunt was just 1-11 at home.
His .130 winning percentage with Tennessee ranks behind only Leeman Bennett with Tampa Bay and Rich Kotite with the New York Jets (4-28, .125) for the worst NFL coaching record since 1970 and tied Jim Ringo (3-20) of Buffalo, according to STATS.
‘CRIMINAL ACT’: The UCI said it ‘strongly condemns’ Dylan Groenewegen’s ‘dangerous behavior,’ which left Jakobsen in critical condition and injured other cyclists Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was in a coma on Wednesday, in “serious” condition, after he was thrown into and over a barrier at 80kph in the conclusion to the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne. Footage showed 23-year-old Jakobsen, of the Deceuninck-Quick-Step, racing elbow-to-elbow with fellow Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma as both men frantically tussled in a tight sprint to the line in Katowice. However, Jakobsen came off worst, somersaulting over the barriers before colliding with a photographer after Groenewegen had veered suddenly to the right, squeezing his rival into the security wall. “His condition is very serious. His life is
The NBA said was re-evaluating its training program in China following allegations of abuse of young players by local staff and harassment of foreign staffers at a facility in Xinjiang. The comments come after a report by ESPN that quoted unnamed American coaches as saying that Chinese coaches hit young players. One American coach who worked at a camp in Xinjiang complained of harassment by local police, the sports network said. “The allegations in the ESPN article are disturbing,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said in an e-mail statement on Thursday. “We ended our involvement with the basketball academy in Xinjiang in June
Taiwan Steel on Sunday grabbed three points with a narrow 1-0 win against Hang Yuan FC, to move into the No. 2 spot on the Taiwan Football Premier League (TFPL) log, while Taipower FC beat NTUS 2-0 to maintain first place. Taking advantage early in the match of opposition defenders who had not yet settled down, Taiwan Steel’s attacking trio of Wu Chun-ching, Marc Fenelus from the Turks and Caicos Islands, and Benchy Astama from Haiti pushed forward with good passes. After only one minute of play, Fenelus dribbled from the right flank, feeding a short pass inside the penalty area to
LEAVING IT LATE: Rakuten added late runs last night to add to wins on Wednesday against the Brothers and the Lions on Friday that went down to the last batter The Rakuten Monkeys rallied to post three late runs for another close win, prevailing 5-3 over the Uni-President Lions yesterday as Taiwan’s second-half CPBL season got started with lower scoring output, but exciting finishes. It was Rakuten’s third win in a row. In two games this week, they seized victory in dramatic fashion with their last at-bat and have drawn level with the CTBC Brothers on top of the table after yesterday’s results, 0.5 games in front of the Fubon Guardians and 1.5 games ahead of the Lions. It was tied at 1-1 early, with Rakuten hosting the Lions at the Taoyuan Intenational