It didn't take Ken Whisenhunt long to be asked just what his plans are as the Tennessee Titans new head coach at Tuesday's press conference.
GM Ruston Webster (left) and Titans CEO Tommy Smith (right) introduce Ken Whisenhunt as the team's new head coach Tuesday.
Whisenhunt, who will call his own plays as head coach of the Titans, is eager to put his stamp on the entire team, and in his area of expertise – the offense.
“Hopefully, our offense will look a little bit like it looked this past year in San Diego,” Whisenhunt said. “We were pretty good. I think we are going to be versatile offensively. We will have a number of different personnel packages. I think we will have some up-tempo components with it. A lot of it is going to be dependent upon our personnel and what they can handle. We are going to push them; that is where you have success when you do that.”
Specifically, Whisenhunt, who said he liked the feel of the Titans organization and the fact that he and Ruston Webster hit it off quickly in their interview on Friday, was asked how current Titans quarterback Jake Locker fits into his plans. While he carefully dodged the issue, Whisenhunt did sound as if Locker will get every chance to be the Titans' starter in 2014.
“I just got finished with our (Chargers) season two days ago. It has been kind of a whirlwind. You know there is a lot of time that goes into that, especially when you get into the playoffs. I really haven’t had a chance to study that,” Whisenhunt said. “That is going to be a big thing over the next weeks and months, as far as evaluating our players and how they fit in. The one thing I will say is that I liked Jake coming out. One of the things I think we have done a good job of in the places that I have been is putting them in positions to be successful and that is what our goal is to be here.”
For his part, Locker told TitanInsider that he is excited for the chance to work with an offensive guru like Whisenhunt, who has managed to revive the sagging careers of veterans like Philip Rivers and Kurt Warner, and also was instrumental in developing Ben Roethlisberger for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“(I'm) excited about the hire and looking forward to working with Coach Whisenhunt. He has always had very successful offenses and I look forward to learning from him,” Locker said.
Locker isn't the only one excited about the hiring of Whisenhunt, who turned down an offer from the Detroit Lions to come back to Tennessee where he once served as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt for two seasons.
“This place is special to me and that has a pull,” Whisenhunt said. “From my experience and playing here as an opponent coming in here, the fan base is great, they are loud, you like that environment, so when you think about wanting to coach in a place where you have that, that is our goal for our fans to be supportive of us. That means we have to do a good job of giving them a product to be proud of. The fact that I felt so good about Ruston and Mr. (Tommy) Smith and I had many good conversations and I felt really good about him when I met him, I think that was a big piece of it.”
Likewise, Webster, who interviewed three other candidates – Jay Gruden, Mike Zimmer and Jim Caldwell – is excited about Whisenhunt as a match for the Titans.
“Ken is an excellent fit for the Tennessee Titans and I’m glad he felt the same way we did about that. We spent several hours talking last Friday night and hit it off,” Webster said “I look for this to be a really fine marriage. Ken is an outstanding offensive coach, but also an outstanding head coach. He has a background with several successful franchises and we look forward to a new day and creating a new culture with the Tennessee Titans.”
Part of that new culture that Whisenhunt and Webster hope to create is one that puts an exciting and competitive team on the field, something that hasn't always been a part of the Titans' repertoire over the past several seasons.
“If guys don’t buy in, they don’t fit in,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s the atmosphere you have to create, and that’s our job to create that. It starts by picking the right guys. It starts by creating an atmosphere of competition, which allows these guys to put their best foot forward. Then having two good men here, that helps me, and that’s an important piece of it.”
Some of Whisenhunt's first items of business will be to assemble a coaching staff. He didn't rule out a few of Mike Munchak's leftover coaches at least getting the chance to interview for their jobs. But he also said he will begin the process of trying to hire the best people he can find, no matter if they are from inside the organization or outside.
Some of those hires and interviews for assistant coaches could come next week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
As for defense, Whisenhunt has mostly been a 3-4 guy, and his old coordinator in Arizona, Ray Horton, was among the Cleveland Browns assistant coaches who are now free to interview for other jobs. Whisenhunt, however, said he wasn't necessarily married to the 3-4 or the 4-3 when it comes to defense.
“Defensively, there is a misconception I think about the 3-4 and the 4-3, 70 percent of this game now is in sub-defense which is four down, three down and you are using both components when you do that,” Whisenhunt said. “I know this as an offensive coach: when you are preparing for a 4-3 and a 3-4 it very difficult because of protection issues. You have to have elements of both of them. I think to say that we are going to run a 3-4, two-gap defense that is not what we are going to do.”
In time, Whisenhunt will begin to put his stamp on the Titans on both sides of the football, nbut he emphasized that an important building block in that is the working relationships sold him on Tennessee in the first place.
“I think one of the things that I have learned in my time in the NFL is that chemistry is an important part of this. When you feel like you have that chemistry and you are excited about it that plays a big part of it,” he said.