While most observers had chiseled in Ken Whisenhunt for the Detroit Lions new head coach, the Whizzer instead opted for the Titans and will replace Mike Munchak.
Thus, there's a new sheriff in Titans Town.
It took General Manager Ruston Webster 10 days to hire former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt in hopes of leading the Titans out of the NFL playoff wilderness.
Whisenhunt has come full circle in his coaching career.
The Augusta, Ga., native was a walk-on at Georgia Tech and became an All-ACC tight end before embarking on a NFL career.
His first coaching job was at Vanderbilt. He was here two forgettable seasons under head coach Rod Dowhower. They won four games in two years and only one SEC game.
The Titans ability to land Whisenhunt was a total surprise to most people around the NFL. It was almost a foregone conclusion that Detroit had won Whisenhunt over and they offered a more complete roster than the Titans.
"It's a really good fit, but I had Whisenhunt pegged to join the Lions with his buddy, GM Martin Mayhew,'' said CBS sportscaster Solomon Wolcots. "The cupboard is not bare there, but I can't wait to hear Ken Whisenhunt say why he took the job over Detroit.''
But Webster got his man. The Lions sent the owner's private plane to San Diego Monday, thinking they had Whisenhunt. But he did not board the aircraft, instead taking the Titans' offer.
It's a huge feather in Webster's cap. It was his first hire of a head coach.
Titans CEO Tommy Smith was more than excited to endorse the newest Titans head coach.
"This is a big day for this franchise,'' Smith said in a Titans press release. "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. … We all share a common goal for this team and that is to build a consistent winner.''
Whisenhunt is known for the quarterbacks he has coached. He was with the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger, Arizona's Kurt Warner and San Diego's Phillip Rivers. Rivers blossomed under Whisenhunt this season and led the Chargers into the playoffs where they won a wild card game before losing Sunday to the favored Denver Broncos.
He will be instrumental in the future development of Titans quarterback Jake Locker, a first round selection three years ago. Multiple injuries have kept Locker off the field all too often. The team started 3-1 this season before Locker got injured and they floundered the rest of the way with a 7-9 record.
When Whisenhunt and Webster had dinner Friday night, Webster came away feeling he had found the right fit.
"We share similar philosophies about the game,'' Webster said. "Additionally, we have several mutual colleagues that have spoken highly to me about Ken, both as a coach and as a person. I am excited about Ken joining us and the future of the Titans.''
If you had to point to one reason Webster sought Whisenhunt over other candidates it was his head coaching experience.
"He is intelligent, has a track record with quality offenses and head coaching success,'' Webster said. "I have a lot of respect for Ken as a coach and as an offensive mind.''
Whisenhunt must get to know the Titans personnel and implement his system after he hires a staff that shares his beliefs in how to win NFL games. Look for former Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm to be the Titans new line coach, if not the offensive coordinator.
Whisenhunt is personable and competitive, whether he is on the sidelines, or the golf course.
He and the Mississippi born Webster appear to be a perfect fit, both of them growing up in the Southeast where people take their football serious.
Titans fans are eager for a winner and will rally around Whisenhunt. For one, he signifies a break from the Titans staid family tree and way of doing things.
He is a much-needed breath of fresh air. Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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