Just a few days ago, Chargers Offensive Coordinator, Ken Whisenhunt was named as the 17th Head Coach of the Tennessee Titans. Whisenhunt comes in to Nashville after previous coach; Mike Munchak was shown the door on a 22-26 combined record in 3 seasons for the Titans. Ever since Jeff Fisher was fired as HC in 2010, the Titans have struggled to find consistency in the team play and the coaching department, and Titans fans should feel confident in Whisenhunt’s coaching abilities as he comes over from San Diego.
Whisenhunt passed on the Lions job with a solidified Quarterback in Matt Stafford, an elite wide receiver in Calvin Johnson, and a pretty good defense and now comes to Tennessee with some issues he needs to address pretty quickly. Whisenhunt went 45-51 in 6 seasons as the HC of the Arizona Cardinals leading them to a Super Bowl Berth.
Of course you have to start with the Quarterback situation. Jake Locker has had major injury issues in his short NFL career, but has a ton of upside and potential in his 6’3”, 230 lb. body. Locker is also a cheap option, only being paid around $4 million this upcoming season, so Whisenhunt would be wise to at least keep Locker on the roster next season, if not give him one more chance to succeed in this league. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the back up who is being paid around $4.3 million, and played a lot last season with Locker’s injuries. The beard threw 13 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, and played decently with this Titans offense even though the team posted a 7-9 record in 2013. The last Quarterback on the roster is Tyler Wilson, who the Titans signed off of the Raiders practice squad in December, who will be used as the 3rd string/practice squad quarterback as previous 3rd string quarterback, Rusty Smith will reach Free Agency this offseason.
Whisenhunt has had success with big-time quarterbacks in his past. With Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Kurt Warner at the end of his career in Arizona, and just this past season with Phillip Rivers in San Diego where he helped Rivers get back to the Pro Bowl and lead the league in completion percentage. After Warner retired, Whisenhunt has trouble with his quarterbacks in Arizona, with names like Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, and Ryan Lindley led to his firing in Glendale.
Most new Head Coaches like to draft their own quarterback and start their own regime. The Titans currently hold the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft, and are also without a 3rd round pick because of the draft-day trade that allowed the Titans to draft Justin Hunter. I don’t think it would be wise to draft a QB with the 11th pick, because I think all of the primary QB’s will be taken in the top 10. (Manziel, Bridgewater, Bortles). There are more needs for the Titans at 11 than another QB on the roster. If Whisenhunt wants to draft a QB later in the draft, somewhere around the 3rd-4th round range, then Ryan Fitzpatrick would likely be the odd man out in Tennessee. The bottom line is that Jake Locker should be allowed one last chance in Tennessee with Ken.
Chris Johnson is another big question mark for this team going forward that Whisenhunt needs to address soon. CJ is due $10 million this upcoming season and its safe to say that the former 2000-yard rusher isn’t worth that money anymore. He has lost his explosive play-making ability that gave him the nickname “CJ2K”. The Titans should cut Johnson and look to draft a RB later in the draft especially knowing solid young running backs in the NFL that have been snatched up in the later rounds of the draft. (Alfred Morris- 6th Round, Zac Stacy-5th Round). With Shonn Greene due $3.23 million, you can assume that the former Jet is safe to make the roster, and have a decent chance to be the starting RB week 1.
Defensively, Whisenhunt has said he plans on running a hybrid 4-3, 3-4 defense with the Titans. I like the move… It adds variety and confuses offenses playing against them. With the young core of Jurrell Casey, Derrick Morgan, Zach Brown, and if they can keep him, Alterraun Verner, this defense can only get better. Verner though, is a big question mark. The Pro-Bowl Corner is an unrestricted Free Agent and being a pro-bowler, he expects to be paid like one. There is always the franchise tag for the Titans, but I don’t see them going this route for Verner. They either sign him to a big contract or he walks in FA and signs with another team. I think its absolutely key that the Titans HAVE TO RESIGN BERNARD POLLARD!!! This is a must. Pollard brought great defensive play to the Titans this season, but also great leadership in the locker room, which the team lacked in previous years. With a new coach like Whisenhunt, Pollard is the perfect guy to be the leader in the locker room, and that’s what Whisenhunt needs. Pollard was brought in after winning a super bowl with the Baltimore Ravens and came to Tennessee on a one-year deal. He likes being in Tennessee, and therefore I think the Titans will be able to retain Pollard especially if he meets with Whisenhunt before Free Agency begins.
Titan fans should be very happy with Whisenhunt especially since people expected him to go to Detroit and not Tennessee. It helps that he has a track record with great quarterbacks and Jake Locker needs to take advantage of this opportunity to learn from a guy like Whisenhunt and help him maximize his potential because this could very well be his last chance to be the starting QB in Nashville. Is this team a playoff team with Whis? It’s too early to tell right now. Ask me again during training camp, after the draft, after free agency, after Ken hires and Offensive and Defensive Coordinator to really make a solid decision about this team. But the future looks bright for Tennessee with Ken Whisenhunt at the helm.
Be sure to tune into Sports Sunday this Sunday (1/19) as we go over our predictions for the AFC & NFC Championship games!!!!