Tennessee Titans hire Ken Whisenhunt to replace Mike Munchak

The Titans have hired Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt as their new head coach.

Whisenhunt replaces Mike Munchak, who parted with the team after three seasons and a 22-26 record.

"This is a big day for this franchise," Titans President/CEO Tommy Smith said. "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 and took Arizona to a Super Bowl as a head coach. We all share a common goal for this team and that is to build a consistent winner."

A press conference is expected on Tuesday at Saint Thomas Sports Park.

Titans general manager Ruston Webster interviewed the 51-year-old Whisenhunt on Friday in San Diego. He'd long been considered the favorite to land with the Lions, but the Titans stepped in and snagged him.

"I have a lot of respect for Ken as a coach and as an offensive mind," Webster said. "The traits that stand out to me when identifying him as our next coach – he is intelligent, has a track record with quality offenses and head coaching success. I really enjoyed our meeting on Friday night in San Diego and we share similar philosophies about the game.

"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."

Whisenhunt was 45-51 in six seasons as head coach with the Cardinals, including a trip to the Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2008 season. Earlier in his career, he won a Super Bowl ring calling plays as offensive coordinator for the Steelers.

He spent one season as offensive coordinator with the Chargers, who were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday with a loss to the Broncos.

The Titans also interviewed Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell. Webster and Smith had a second interview with Zimmer today in Houston.

The Titans were also interested in Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, but they would have had to wait to interview him as Seattle advanced to the NFC Championship Game.

So the Titans pounced on Whisenhunt.

Perhaps Whisenhunt's biggest challenge in his first season will be figuring out the next steps for quarterback Jake Locker, who has missed 14 of his potential 32 NFL starts because of a variety of injuries.

Locker is scheduled to make $2.091 million in 2014, the final year of his contract. The team has an option for the fifth year but must make a decision by May 3.

There's also a decision to be made about running back Chris Johnson, who is scheduled to make $8 million in 2014. He recently told The Tennessean that if he's not going to be "the horse" of the offense, carrying around 300 times a season, he would like to play for another team.

The biggest expectation facing Whisenhunt, however, will be returning the Titans to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They haven't won a playoff game since the 2003 season.

Whisenhunt began his coaching career at Vanderbilt, where he coached special teams and tight ends from 1995-97.

"All the players just absolutely loved the guy," said O.J. Fleming, who played tight end for Vanderbilt from 1995-98. "As a player there was not a thing you wouldn't do for that man. Everything he asked of you, he could show you how to do by example himself. He was better at it than you were, which made you want to get better."

Said former Vanderbilt defensive tackle Jason Hill, who played special teams under Whisenhunt: "He was a player's coach. He was easy to talk to and he cared about his players. ... I loved playing for him. He was a great hands-on coach. I think it's a great hire for the Titans."

Whisenhunt moved on to the NFL in 1997, and coached either tight ends or special teams for four teams – Ravens, Browns, Jets and Steelers — through 2003.

His big break came in 2004, when he began a three-year stint as Steelers offensive coordinator, going to the Super Bowl with second-year quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That led to a head-coaching job with the Cardinals.

In Arizona, he helped resurrect the career of quarterback Kurt Warner, who was thought to be done before turning in three strong seasons with the Cardinals prior to retirement. The Cardinals also had four top-10 defenses in Whisenhunt's six years in Arizona.

In one season with the Chargers, he helped quarterback Phillip Rivers bounce back from a down season. Rivers completed 69.5 percent of his passes for 4,478 yards this season, with 32 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions. In one year, Whisenhunt improved the Chargers' overall offensive ranking from 31st to 5th, and the passing attack jumped from 24th to 4th.

Chargers first-year wide receiver Keenan Allen had more than 1,000 receiving yards this season and oft-maligned running back Ryan Matthews produced a career-best 1,255 rushing yards.

In his 10 years as either an offensive coordinator or head coach, Whisenhunt oversaw four top-10 passing offenses.

He struggled in Arizona following the retirement of Warner, as the Cardinals went just 18-30 over three seasons. He was unable to develop a consistent winner in the post-Warner era among a cast of quarterback misfits that included Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Max Hall.

Things ended poorly for Whisenhunt and the Cardinals in 2011, as they lost nine straight games and 11 of 12 to finish the season.

Whisenhunt is a native of Augusta, Ga. He played tight end at Georgia Tech. He and his wife, Alice, have two children – son, Kenneth, and daughter, Mary Ashley.


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