Nashville (AFP) - Ken Whisenhunt was fired as coach of the Tennessee Titans after a 1-6 start to the season, the NFL club announced Tuesday, naming assistant coach Mike Mularkey as interim coach.
Whisenhunt went 3-20 as coach of the Titans, the second-worst showing by an NFL coach over his first 23 games with a team after John McKay's 0-23 run from 1976-78 with Tampa Bay.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity and appreciate the hard work the staff put in and the support I got from our players and our fans," Whisenhunt said. "I wish the organization much success going forward."
The Titans dropped their sixth consecutive game Sunday at Houston, marking the third season in a row with six losses for Whisenhunt as coach.
"After thoughtful consideration, the decision has been made to relieve Ken Whisenhunt of his head coaching duties," said Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.
"We have expected more progress on the field, and I felt it was time to move in a different direction. I would like to thank Ken for his efforts with our team, as he worked very hard to try to move us forward."
It was the first major shakeup for the club since the death of owner Bud Adams in October 2013.
"I had to kind of take a step back. I'm better now than I was a couple hours ago," Mularkey said. "She felt like there needed to be a change. That was the brunt of it. I'll leave it at that."
Mularkey, who played a total of nine NFL seasons at tight end for Minnesota and Pittsburgh, was hired by Whisenhunt as tight ends coach in 2014 and was promoted to assistant head coach before the season. He has two years as head coach at Buffalo in 2004 and 2005 and guided the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2012.
Mularkey has a 16-32 record from those campaigns, including a 2-14 mark with the Jaguars. He has also spent eight seasons as an offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Miami.
"We'll cast a wide loop looking for a successor head coach," Titans president Steve Underwood said. "This is a chance for him to audition for a permanent role."
Whisenhunt coached the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl in 2009, where they lost to Pittsburgh.
The Titans have a top quarterback in 2015 NFL Draft number two overall pick Marcus Mariota, who now will likely have to learn an entirely new offensive scheme.
"I don't think there was a single straw that broke the camel's back. Amy has been considering for several weeks. It was a process, not an event," said Underwood. "Improvement in our business is measured in wins."