The Tennessee Titans have won the sweepstakes for Ken Whisenhunt as he was hired as their new head coach on Monday afternoon.
Whisenhunt, 51, the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, who were eliminated on Sunday, had been believed all along to be the frontrunner for the Detroit Lions.
Instead, the Titans hired Whisenhunt and will officially introduce him as the 17th coach in franchise history at a press conference on Tuesday.
Titans president and CEO Tommy Smith issued a statement via the team's website, saying “This is a big day for this franchise. 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. I want to thank Ruston (Webster) for his hard work in the process and the quality candidates that he brought in for interviews.”
Whisenhunt brings a history of having had success with quarterbacks, having revitalized Philip Rivers just this season after being fired in 2012 as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
It was a shared vision of football philosophy that led Webster to pursue Whisenhunt as his new coach.
“I have a lot of respect for Ken as a coach and as an offensive mind,” he 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 had success with the mostly woeful Cardinals franchise, taking them to a Super Bowl in the 2008 season, using the passing of Kurt Warner, another quarterback that he helped to rejuvenate in the latter stages of his career. Whisenhunt also helped Ben Roethlisberger develop into an elite quarterback as offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In Tennessee, Whisenhunt will be charged with working with Jake Locker to try and continue his growth track as a quarterback. Locker is currently rehabbing a foot injury that he had surgery on, but is optimistic that he will be ready to go by mini-camp in June.
He inherits an offense that has some pieces in place, including a rebuilt offensive line that might wind up being coached by long-time Whisenhunt ally Russ Grimm. The Titans still have to decide what to do with running back Chris Johnson, who is due $8 million. They also have young receivers in Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter.
Wright said he is excited about Whisenhunt, and lobbied for him to keep receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.
"I don't know much about him, but it should be exciting, especially for us as receivers if we keep Coach Jefferson," Wright said.
Whisenhunt compiled a 45-51 mark in six seasons as the Cardinals head coach. Two members of that Cardinals' staff have been speculated about as possibly reuniting with Whisenhunt. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm held that position in Arizona and Ray Horton was Whisenhunt's defensive coordinator. He spent last year with the Cleveland Browns, who fired their coach Rob Chudzinski the day the season ended. Horton runs a 3-4 scheme.
Whisenhunt has ties to Nashville as he once served as an assistant coach at Vanderbilt University on Rod Dowhower's staff.
Webster also interviewed Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer on Thursday and Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell on Wednesday. Jay Gruden, who interviewed with the Titans on Tuesday, was named the Washington Redskins head coach last week.
Also, the Titans were believed to be interested in Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, but neither interviewed because the Titans did not fire Mike Munchak during the Seahawks' playoff bye week. That meant that neither could be interviewed until Seattle was finished with its postseason run.