New Tennessee Titans head coach and former Georgia Tech tight end, Ken Whisenhunt, is going to have quite the undertaking as he attempts to turn the fortunes of the Titans franchise around.
Tennessee has been below average the last five seasons going 36-44 over that span. What is even more distressing about the Titans is that over that same span they are 9-21 in the AFC South Division.
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With the emergence of QB Andrew Luck, who is 4-0 against the Titans since taking over signal calling duty for the Indianapolis Colts, and the fact that the Houston Texans are not going to be cellar dwellers for long, the time for the Titans to turn their fortunes around and get back into the fray is now.
Whisenhunt is inheriting a team with problems with the biggest problem being at QB. The jury is still out on quarterback Jake Locker who the Titans took with the 8th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Locker has a strong arm with some mobility however his arm strength has meant nothing because he is either erratic with his accuracy, or not on the field at all to work on his accuracy.
Locker has played only 18 games in the past two seasons. That is a big reason the Titans decided to draft Zach Mettenberger in the 6th round of this years NFL draft.
Whisenhunt is used to grooming and designing offenses for classic pocket passers such as Ben Rothlisberger, Kurt Warner, and Phillip Rivers. His system is proven also with Whisenhunt coaching the Arizona Cardinals to the 2009 Super Bowl with Kurt Warner at the healm.
That is not to say that he would not be able to make it work with Jake Locker, but at the same time the mobile Locker does not really fit what Whisenhunt prefers in his QBs.
The Titans roster has gone through a little bit of turnover from last season also. Gone from the roster are running back Chris Johnson, wide receiver Kenny Britt, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick , and kicker Rob Bironas. However, those moves were needed and in reality, it was a pretty sure bet that they were not going to fit into Whisenhunt’s or the franchises plans going forward.
The cupboard is not bare by any means though. The Titans continued to build up their offensive line by drafting offensive tackle Taylor Lewan out of Michigan in the first round of this year’s draft. That comes after taking Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack in the first round of last year’s draft. The Titans also took Washington running back Bishop Sankey in the second round of this year’s draft.
Those moves are right up Whisenhunt’s alley when you consider that a stout offensive line and strong running game are what he prefers, though he has aired it out when his offensive personnel called for that.
Whisenhunt is inheriting some pretty good skill position players offensively overall with versatile receiver Delanie Walker, veteran wideout Nate Washington, and young receivers Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter and Brian Robiskie.
The running back stable is not bare either with Shonn Greene, Jackie Battle and the aforementioned Bishop Sankey in the mix.
With Whisenhunt coming into a new coaching situation he made the decision to not guarantee anything for his players. The depth chart is open and the players will have to figure out who is going to be first, second or third string on the football field.
In an article for The Tennessean by Jim Wyatt, Ken Whisenhunt spoke to why he decided to go that route with the roster:
“I kept coming up with this depth chart that had a bunch of slashes and a bunch of different names on the first line, and I said that it’s just not worth doing that and we’ll let it settle out. I told the players … ‘Don’t pay attention to the depth chart. You’re going to control that.’ ”
When you take inventory of the entire situation that Whisenhunt is taking over, the best way to put it is he is so close and yet so far. The pieces are in place to be competitive on offense and defense.
The problem lies in getting the system in place and knowing for certain who the leaders are supposed to be not only in the locker room but in the huddles as well.
Until Whisenhunt can put his full belief in either Locker or Mettenberger, the Titans are going to be looking up at the Indianapolis Colts.
Ken Whisenhunt is going to fix the Titans issue and change the culture of the franchise the way he has everywhere else. It is just a matter of when.