Aug. 24, 2013; Glendale, AZ, USA: San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt against the Arizona Cardinals during a preseason game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans fans hear Ken Whisenhunt is coming to Nashville, and remember his Super Bowl run after the 2008 season. I’d say “pump the brakes” if you’re already expecting a parade through Nashville next February.
After a lengthy stay in Pittsburgh as tight ends coach and offensive coordinator, he earned his first shot at a head coaching job. During six seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, he was 45-51 during the regular season, with only two winning seasons.
Whisenhunt is known for his offensive prowess and ability to nurture quarterbacks; however, it’s important to note that his most successful seasons came with great talent at the position.
Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner, & Philip Rivers are all cited as beneficiaries of Whisenhunt’s work. However, all three quarterbacks have exhibited stellar play without him as well. If a large portion of their success is a direct result of Whisenhunt’s coaching, why did Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Kevin Kolb, Max Hall, Brian Hoyer, & Ryan Lindley fail so miserably?
So which came first: the chicken or the egg?
What Whisenhunt brings to the Titans organization is head coaching experience at the highest level, and a refreshing change in philosophy.
It’s a bit overzealous to think he’ll completely turn around Jake Locker “just because.” The No. 8 overall pick from the 2011 draft is more Rivers than he is Hall, but he won’t win Super Bowls solely because of the man standing on the sideline.
What about the defense? Whisenhunt ran the 3-4 during his stint in Arizona. One has to wonder whether or not he will install it in Nashville. In that case, the next logical question would be whether or not the Titans have the appropriate personnel to play in the 3-4 to begin with.
Jurrell Casey, the Titans defensive cornerstone, is a natural fit at defensive tackle in the 4-3 scheme. What are you risking in tampering with that? Besides, this linebacking corps is one of the biggest question marks heading into the offseason. The Titans don’t have three undisputed starters at the position, much less four. Lest we forget, you need a big, space-eating nose tackle to clog up the middle of the field. Who will fill that role?
Admittedly, this decision will be made after hiring his defensive coordinator…a choice he must get right. Otherwise, you won’t see much improvement on that side of the ball.
Titans fans should be cheering for Ray Horton to be fired in Cleveland. He put some real quality defenses on the field when coordinating for Whisenhunt in Arizona from 2011-12. Not to mention, Horton pieced together a feisty defense (considering his resources) in Cleveland this season. His name has been mentioned in following Whisenhunt to Nashville.
Regardless of what happens in this facet of the organization, it’s going to take quite a bit of time to adjust to a new system….for either the coach or the players.
You may charge me with nitpicking here, but it’s worth mentioning that Whisenhunt put a strain on his 2012 team by dragging out the starting quarterback competition through the entire preseason. Paired with a reputation as a player’s coach to a fault, his personality as a head coach comes into question.
Ideally, his ability to coach offensive football along with Ruston Webster’s ability to evaluate talent will provide an exciting brand of football in Nashville. Hopefully, Whisenhunt will have learned from his mistakes in Arizona, and know exactly how to captain the ship for the Titans.
For me, I’m going to believe it when I see it.