Culture change can be difficult process that can take time when you take control of a losing franchise.
That’s what Georgia Tech alumnus Ken Whisenhunt is finding out rather quickly after seeing the Tennessee Titans 2014 NFL season go down the tubes to the tune of a 2-14 record in his first season as head coach.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Turns out the job of turning the Titans around was a little bit more difficult than expected. Fortunately, difficult seems to be right up Whisenhunt’s alley.
Sometimes the best projects are the ones where you have to tear things down and rebuild them, and the reclamation project that Ken Whisenhunt is undertaking in Nashville fits that description.
Before the 2014 season got underway and coaching vacancies were plentiful, Whisenhunt had his choice between going to the “Volunteer State” taking the head coaching job with the Detroit Lions.
Most people would have taken the Detroit job in a heartbeat. Detroit has Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson which is a QB/WR combination that most offensive minded coaches would salivate over.
However, even though you would have thought in the aftermath of making the decision to take the “Southern Route” and not go to “Motown”, Whisenhunt would have regret given how bad the Titans performed as compared to the 10-6 season the Lions had, it was not like that.
Actually, Whisenhunt’s feelings are to the contrary, and according to an article on detroitnews.com, it was not that difficult watching what could have been in Detroit while his team floundered in Nashville:
“It wasn’t difficult, I’m a huge fan of Martin Mayhew and a lot of guys in that organization. There’s a lot of guys on that staff. Coach Caldwell, I’m a big fan of his, so I was excited for them and for their organization.”
So now after a year of evaluating why his Tennessee Titans were getting smacked up on most Sunday’s, the facelift begins.
The first part of the facelift for the Titans was to make an already knowledgeable brain trust smarter and more experienced, by bringing in legendary defensive architect Dick LeBeau in to be the assistant head coach.
LeBeau resigned from his post with the Pittsburgh Steelers after 16 seasons ,and is going to use his defensive expertise to fix a defense which ranked 27th in yards allowed and 29th in points per game.
Dick LeBeau and His new Tricks. steelers. Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
He is going to lend his 56-years of knowledge as a player and coach to defensive coordinator Ray Horton who Whisenhunt brought along with him to be on his coaching staff.
He will also have a say in the draft process.
Dick LeBeau name might bring more than just decades of knowledge to the staff of the Titans. His name may also bring the missing defensive pieces needed to improve a poor defense.
According to a post by Darin Gantt on ProFootballTalk for nbc.com, Jim Wyatt of the Tennesseean told PFT, “the Titans could well tap into LeBeau’s old Steelers network for some of the defensive help they need this offseason.
It gets even better for Titans fans from there. Free-agent cornerback Ike Taylor co-signed on the sentiment and said “he’d happily follow Coach LeBeau from Pittsburgh to Nashville, and thinks others would too” ,in the same ProFootballTalk post.
Taylor also added this high praise of LeBeau in the PFT piece:
“Coach LeBeau recruits himself. He is like Coach K; you know what you are getting yourself into, you don’t have to ask the veteran guys who have played under him. Just say Coach LeBeau wants you to come, and they’d say: “What time? That’s the way people feel about him.”
Lebeau is like “Coach K” ? For those who don’t know the “Coach K” that Taylor was referring to is legendary Duke basketball coach Mike Kryzewski.
Dick LeBeau is basically being referred to a Yoda type figure that Jedi Knights who have been under his tutelage in the past will have no problem going into battle with again. That is high praise !
The next part of the Titans’ facelift is taking a long hard look at their quarterback situation.
After the ‘swing and miss’ that was injury-prone draft bust Jake Locker, the Titans are now deciding if 6th round draft pick Zach Mettenberger out of LSU is the right choice at signal caller.
Instagram selfies aside, Mettenberger actually has some tools that could be developed.
But with the Titans picking second overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and two projected franchise quarterbacks available in Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida State’s Jameis Winston, taking a long look at your quarterback situation is purely due diligence.
Also part of doing their due diligence is weighing potential trade options that could come their way for the coveted pick.
Coach Whisenhunt in a ProFootballlTalk post by Josh Alper said that “there is no deadline to determine what direction they’ll go with the pick”, and simply brokedown the Titans approach on how they will handle the use of their draft pick like this:
“It’s a conundrum because if you don’t have the left tackle to protect the guy, or have the pass rusher to get your defense off the field, or have a lot of those things, sometimes it doesn’t matter what your quarterback can do. But it’s an important position. It’s one for us, that the Tennessee Titans make the right decision going forward. We have to do what we feel like is the best for us at the quarterback position. You weigh that against potentially what else is available. If there’s somebody that you think is a guy like a J.J. Watt that’s there and make that kind of impact on the game, you have to take all those things into consideration.”
He went further in depth about the potential draft picks in the 2015 NFL Draft Class as well as the potential direction the team may go in this video from ProFootballTalk:
Don’t forget that there are rumors that the Chicago Bears could part ways with quarterback Jay Cutler, and the Vanderbilt alum could end up in Tennessee.
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Whether the Titans decide to get a new toy for Ken Whisenhunt to play under center, or decide to get a defensive player like USC’s Leonard Williams to be the cornerstone their defense, when your team was as bad a Tennessee, either direction looks like an upgrade.
In the end this is just the beginning phases of the makeover project that is the Tennessee Titans football team.
Fortunately for Tennessee, they have a coach in Ken Whisenhunt that won’t shy away from the challenge and leave fans with the belief that things can turn around sooner rather than later.