Struggling Titans fire Ken Whisenhunt, name Mike Mularkey interim head coach
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt on Tuesday after he struggled to a 3-20 start in his tenure with the organization, with his latest loss coming in Houston where the controlling owner's father founded the franchise.
It was apparently the last straw for the Titans, who announced the move Tuesday and named Mike Mularkey as the interim coach for the rest of the season.
"We have expected more progress on the field, and I felt it was time to move in a different direction," Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement. "I would like to thank Ken for his efforts with our team, as he worked very hard to try to move us forward."
The Titans, who scheduled a news conference for Tuesday afternoon, went 2-14 in Whisenhunt's debut season. It was their worst record since 1994, after going 7-9 in 2013 under Mike Munchak. Tennessee drafted Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick overall in the draft, then named him the starter.
They won their opener 42-14 in Tampa Bay, then lost six straight for the longest skid in the NFL. Three of the losses were by a combined six points, and Whisenhunt was just 1-11 at home.
The latest was a 20-6 loss at Houston on Sunday with Strunk and other family members watching in the town where the late Bud Adams founded this franchise. Strunk took over as controlling owner in March, replacing Tommy Smith who hired Whisenhunt in January 2014.
That was the 16th loss in 17 games for Tennessee, and the Titans also have lost their last 12 games against AFC opponents for the longest such skid by a team inside its conference in the NFL. It's the worst skid since this team left Houston for Tennessee in 1997 and ranks among the worst stretches in franchise history.
Whisenhunt's .130 winning percentage also ranks behind only Leeman Bennett with Tampa Bay and Rich Kotite with the New York Jets (4-28, .125) for the worst NFL coaching record since 1970, according to STATS. Whisenhunt tied with Jim Ringo who went 3-20 with Buffalo.
Titans cornerback Perrish Cox, who missed the last two games to an injured hamstring, called the move frustrating on Twitter.
"For anyone who wants to kno, no i am NOT happy with wiz gone, he was a good coach, he wznt the prob and we all know it!!," Cox wrote.
Safety Michael Griffin, the longest-tenured player on the roster, wrote in a text to The Associated Press that anyone hates someone getting fired, but everyone knows this is a business.
"I will say I have a lot of respect for coach Whiz and I wish him the best," Griffin wrote.
The Titans have started four rookies on offense this season, including Mariota who has missed the last two games with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Tennessee currently ranks next to last in the NFL, averaging 17.9 points per game.
Mularkey arrived in Tennessee with Whisenhunt as tight ends coach and was promoted to assistant head coach this offseason. He has been a head coach with the Buffalo Bills in 2004-05 and in 2012 with Jacksonville and played nine years in the NFL with Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Mularkey also has been an offensive coordinator with Pittsburgh, Miami and Atlanta.
The Falcons had a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard receiver and 1,000-yard rusher in three of Mularkey's four seasons between 2008 and 2011.