Whisenhunt felt instant chemistry with Titans

The SportsXchange

Ken Whisenhunt was introduced as head coach of the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Tuesday afternoon at Saint Thomas Park.

"We had a good talk last Friday night and we hit it off," Whisenhunt said. "I feel very good about where we're going as an organization."

The Titans were 7-9 last season, competing for a playoff spot into December despite multiple injuries to starting quarterback Jake Locker.

"I really haven't had a chance to study that," Whisenhunt said of Locker's future with the franchise. "I liked Jake coming out (of Washington in 2011). One of the things I think we've done a good job of, the places I've been, is putting them in positions to be successful."

Locker has missed 14 games because of injuries since he was drafted as the quarterback of the future as a 2011 first-round pick. While Locker displayed some encouraging flashes of potential, he is entering the final season of his rookie deal without proving he can be a long-term solution.

"I really trust (general manager) Ruston Webster in his assessment of this team. Hopefully I'll get a chance to sit with him and talk with him. Everything I've heard about Jake as a student of the game is positive. All the players I've been a part of, that's been a big part of it.

"We'll be versatile offensively," Whisenhunt said. "We'll be versatile. A lot of it will depend on our personnel."

Because the Titans played the Chargers, Whisenhunt said he liked the defensive personnel on the roster. He said he didn't have a good grasp on offensive personnel, including running back Chris Johnson.

Whisenhunt, a discipline of Joe Gibbs and Bill Cowher, said he clicked with general manager Ruston Webster and others in the organization based on mutual acquaintances that both trust deeply.

"This place is special to me," Whisenhunt said. "We had many good conversations."

Whisenhunt replaces Mike Munchak, who split with the Titans after going 22-26 in three seasons as head coach.

Whisenhunt, 51, has 17 seasons of NFL coaching experience, including six years (2007-12) as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Whisenhunt has a 45-51 record, including a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII after a 12-win season in 2008.

Whisenhunt, who was Steelers offensive coordinator from 2004-06 before landing in Arizona, improved the San Diego Chargers from 31st in offense to fifth in his only season as offensive coordinator in 2013. Quarterback Philip Rivers said Whisenhunt deserves all the credit and attention from suitors this month.

"He called every snap, every play. He's run every meeting. Obviously, his background shows a heck of a lot of success offensively, both in Pittsburgh and Arizona. He's been great," said Rivers. "I think the one thing I appreciate - and I could have a long list - is his steadiness. He's intense. He loves ball, but his steadiness and consistency in his approach every day. When we lost and had a tough stretch, he didn't get all in a panic. He just said, ‘Stay with it.' And I think that rubs off on the guys. And it's been fun working with him."

The Detroit Lions were thought to be the leader in the Whisenhunt chase as recently as Saturday, and they had planned to send their team plane to San Diego to talk to Whisenhunt further. Whisenhunt asked the Lions to delay that meeting until he was finished with his business with the Chargers, and by Monday his business with the Titans was Whisenhunt's sole focus.

"This is a big day for this franchise," said Titans President/CEO Tommy Smith said Monday. "Ken is a well-respected coach in this league and I am looking forward to seeing his vision become reality for this team. He has a history of building successful offenses and took Arizona to a Super Bowl as a head coach. We all share a common goal for this team and that is to build a consistent winner. I want to thank Ruston for his hard work in the process and the quality candidates that he brought in for interviews."

The Chargers were 5-7 before steering into the playoffs with late-season losses by the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins opening the door to the No. 6 seed.

Whisenhunt is no newcomer to Nasvhille. He was a coach at Vanderbilt in 1995-96. He said Tennessee is a special place to him.

"We look forward to a new day and creating a new culture with the Tennessee Titans," said Webster.
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