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Coaching Hire Helped by Quick Bonding Between Titans GM & Ken Whisenhunt

Posted Jan 14, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans general manager Ruston Webster said the pace of his first ever search for a new head coach was fast but resulted positively in the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt.

“It is an exciting time for the Titans.  I also want to thank (Titans President and CEO) Tommy (Smith) for giving us the resources to make this happen,” Webster said. “We are very excited to have Ken Whisenhunt as our new head coach. This has been, I wouldn’t say a long process, it has happened fast, but a lot of work has been put into the last few weeks and we are excited for where it is going.” 

New Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Ruston Webster quickly bonded over their philosophy of the game when Webster interviewed Whisenhunt for the job on Jan. 10. Click here for a slideshow of Whisenhunt's first day at Saint Thomas Sports Park.

The former San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator (2013) and head coach of the Arizona Cardinals (2007-12) said he plans to mix in a quick tempo from time to time on offense, but is currently most pleased with his comfort level with Webster, Titans President/CEO Tommy Smith and the organization.

“I think the thing that’s become important to me, especially where I am in my career, is feeling comfortable with the people you’re working with and feeling comfortable with the organization,” Whisenhunt said. “I feel great about Ruston, about that working relationship and I have tremendous confidence in Mr. Smith, and this team wants to win and I’m excited about it.”

Tennessee introduced Whisenhunt on Tuesday during a press conference at Saint Thomas Sports Park one day after naming him the 17th head coach in Titans/Oilers franchise history.

The last time Whisenhunt was coach of a team in Nashville (1995-96 as an assistant at Vanderbilt), the Titans were still the Houston Oilers. The coach and the city’s landscape have changed considerably since, but Whisenhunt said he has maintained relationships over the years during trips back to the area as a coach for the Steelers, Cardinals and Chargers.

Whisenhunt’s close friends know some of Webster’s close friends, and conversations that each man had with others quickly reinforced the way they connected during their in-person interview in San Diego Friday. The Titans were allowed to interview Whisenhunt in San Diego while the Chargers were preparing for their AFC Divisional game at Denver Sunday. Whisenhunt became available after the Chargers were eliminated, and Webster said he called Whisenhunt Monday.

“I think Ken is an excellent fit for the Tennessee Titans and I’m glad he felt the same way we did about that,” Whisenhunt said. “We spent several hours talking last Friday night and hit it off. 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.”

Whisenhunt, 51, said he has some familiarity with the Titans’ roster, particularly on the defensive side of the ball from San Diego’s Week 3 game at Tennessee this past season, but looks forward to learning more about Titans players and the AFC South, which had its rotational schedule with the AFC West in 2013.

Before that, however, Whisenhunt’s next order of business will be building his staff of assistant coaches. The NFL Combine is scheduled for February, followed by free agency in March, the beginning of the offseason program in April and the NFL Draft in May.

Whisenhunt and Webster said they found they share similar philosophies on the game, which will be helpful in the upcoming decisions. He said “anything is possible” in the Draft.

“In my discussions with Ruston, and we haven’t had specific talks about that,” Whisenhunt said, “but I’m comfortable up here saying that I feel strong that we’re going to take the best player that we feel is available for the Titans organization, and that’s one of the big reasons that I came here, was that I felt strongly about Ruston and his belief in football.”

Smith said he is “delighted” the Titans were able to hire Whisenhunt because the coach exemplifies what he and Webster had in mind, and he looks forward to seeing Whisenhunt call offensive plays.

“Ruston and I have worked closely for quite some time in defining the characteristics that we were looking for in a head coach. Time and time again, we came back to Ken,” Smith said. “I’ve always said we were looking for someone who was intelligent and understood and wanted to play the type of football that we want to play here, which is hard-nosed. 

“His work product is something that you can see every Sunday," Smith continued. “We got a good view of that, the run game and all those things. I’ve said I wanted to hire intelligent people, give them their job description and let them run with it. I certainly have an intelligent man here, who I think is well-versed in all aspects of the game. And the fact that he’s going to be the playcaller delights me.”

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