Pressure now shifts to coach Ken Whisenhunt


After a league worst ten game losing streak, culminating in an AFC worst 2-14 season, there was plenty of blame to go around in 2014 for the Tennessee Titans. In their first full season without their owner, the late Bud Adams, Tennessee looked unorganized and disheveled…right from the beginning last season.

And that starts at the top.

As a result, the three people most culpable to shoulder the blame for last year’s debacle was CEO / President Tommy Smith, General Manager Ruston Webster, and head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

In his first attempt at running the show, Tommy Smith failed to move the Titans forward…or even at the very least…maintain status quo. While there are no questions regarding Smith’s ability to lead and run an organization (he was already a successful Houston business man without football), it certainly seemed that he was in over his head.

Head Honcho of an NFL franchise is not something that can be done effectively on a part time basis. Smith already had a full time job that required his full time attention, and was simply spread too thin to effectively lead Tennessee.

General Manager Rustin Webster was also feeling the pressure as the 2014 season came to a close. The Titans have become known as the biggest unknown in the league under his watch. From 2012-2014, Webster has drafted 21 players and brought in countless free agents.

Not one pro bowler.

Head coach Ken Whisenhunt was brought in by Smith and Webster in 2014. If you recall, coach Whiz and his innovative offensive mind was supposed to be the biggest free agent signing….the missing piece that would push a middle-of-the-road team over the top.

Let’s not forget, the Titans were a combined 16-16 the two years prior to coach Whiz’s arrival. Tennessee missed the playoffs by one game in 2012.

Not that far off.

After a full season of the Whiz regime, the Titans…and their fans…have more questions than answers.

All three were on equally hot seats at season’s end. But a series of events since then has placed the pressure squarely on one person.

Ken Whisenhunt.

Tommie Smith “stepped down” from his role as president and CEO prior to the draft. Steve Underwood was brought back to serve as president on an interim basis…thus eliminating Smith now by default.

GM Rustin Webster made a shrewd move on draft night by selecting qb Marcus Mariota second overall. Yes, he gave the Titans and their fans a face of the franchise and much needed help at the qb position. But he also gave himself something much more valuable.


By selecting Mariota, Webster has now leveraged himself in a favorable position with the soon to be new CEO/President. Everyone knows that Mariota will be given time to develop…time as in more than a year or two.

Which brings us to Ken Whisenhunt.

With Smith gone, and Ruston Webster smelling like a rose after being unilaterally congratulated for what was deemed a successful free agent and draft class, the pressure is all on coach Whiz now.

Dec 18, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt reacts against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If the Titans were to….(gulp)…stagger to another 2-14 type of campaign this season, then Whisenhnt would have to be the first to walk the plank. When necks are on the chopping block, it’s every man (woman) for themselves. It’s the nature of business.

If things go awry again, then Ruston Webster can make the argument that it is easier to find a coach to cater to Mariota’s style, than to keep burning picks on qbs that fit a coach’s system.

As if to say…”look, I’ve given the man a new qb, two new rb’s, and a host of receivers and defensive help. What more can I do?”

And it’s a good argument no doubt.

Ken Whisenhunt is at a crossroads this season. Not just as Tennessee’s head coach, but as an NFL head coach in general.

If he is able to break out of his comfort zone to maximize Marcus Mariota’s talent, while turning in a season of progress, then Whisenhunt can throw his name into the ring as one of the hot commodities in the league.

If he fails again this year, then an argument can be made that coach Whiz is no offensive guru at all, but rather the beneficiary of hall of fame qb’s falling into his lap.

Chip Kelly on line one.

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