Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt is becoming more salty by the day as the seat he currently occupies grows increasingly hotter with every mounting loss. On Sunday afternoon following the latest Titans defeat at the hands of the visiting Atlanta Falcons, Whisenhunt's frustration became apparent as he faced tougher questions concerning his 3-19 record at the helm of the Titans,
"Yeah, I understand. I do understand. I’ll tell you what other thing I understand. I understand we’re a different football team than we were last year," said Whisenhunt. "We’re playing with a lot of young guys, we’ve got a lot of things going on, but we’re a much better football team than we were last year. I’ll be happy to debate that with you."
When pressed further to compare Sunday's loss to the lone win in week one this season, Whisenhunt continued to defend the results.
"Well, we’ve been in every game that we’ve been in except last week’s game. And even then we had a chance when we were down and come back and…I mean, how do you compare to the first game? We got up 42 to whatever it was. Things went our way and we played good football, but there’s been stretches where we’ve played well, there’s been stretches where we made mistakes."
Whisenhunt is correct in his assertions that this team is better than a season ago.
Last season the Titans were being blown out in not so entertaining fashion. This season the team is losing close- three of the last four losses came by a combined six points to the Colts, Bills and Falcons- but the 28-point blowout loss to Miami is a red flag the size of the Grand Canyon.
Remember that the Dolphins were a disaster entering that game, yet looked like the best team in the NFL in spanking one of the worst teams.
Whisenhunt was beaten and embarrassed by a rookie coach in his first NFL game. On Sunday he lost to the second rookie head coach in a row, and the second at Nissan Stadium.
Perhaps it's just rookie coaches named Dan, (Campbell of Miami and Quinn of Atlanta) but then Chuck Pagano and Rex Ryan aren't exactly rookies.
These losses are by ne means all the fault of Whisenhunt. He didn't tell Marcus Mariota to throw an interception at the end of the loss to Buffalo. He didn't order Zach Mettenberger to toss two to the Falcons yesterday. He didn't miss a block or a tackle, but he is responsible for some questionable coaching decisions and play calls.
Take for instance the runningback by committee approach being employed now six games into the season.
Antonio Andrews and the Titans running game as a whole were very productive against Atlanta. Andrews finished the day with 57 yards on 10 carried. That's 5.7 yards per rush. Dexter McCluster added five carries for 20 yards. That's a 4.0 yard per carry average.
Combined Andrews and McCluster managed to average 5.5 yards per carry while the team totaled 16 rushing attempts that averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
By contrast, Mettenberger attempted 35 pass, completing 22 of those for 187 yards.
It's an indisputable fact that the pass is a faster way to cover ground, and more big plays come in the passing game than the running game, but when you are running the football efficiently, why not use it more than 16 times.
Remember last season-even though Whisenhunt would like to wipe it out of our memories- when the head coach continually lamented that because the Titans were so far behind, they had to abandon the run. On Sunday they were behind by a mear three-points. One field goal. One play away from taking a lead, or tying the game, yet the Titans passed the football 19 more times thay they ran it.
Also remember that Mettenberger was starting for the first time this season and only the sixth time in his career. Yes he is a seocnd year pro that has had a season plus in the system, but he has started only one more career game than Mariota, yet Whisenhunt felt comfortable enough to allow him to throw it around the yard in spite of the success the team had on the ground.
I'm no football coach, but I have spent many years around the game and have more than a basic knowledge of concepts and play calling. I also know it's very easy to second guess something when you already know the outcome, but if you use that second guess to disect more than the result there can be merit in the process.
Take for instance Whisenhunt's Sunday decision to go for it on 4th and 3 late against Atlanta. I totally agree with the decision to go for it. He was obviously trying to win the game. No one, certainly not me should ever question a coaches decision when he goes for it on a 4th down while trying to win a game.
However, the play called in those situations is certainly up for second guessing.
We know that the Titans failed to convert the play when Mettenberger's pass on the sideline out-route intended for Justin Hunterfell incomplete.
We can also debate wheter of not Hunter would have been able to gain the first down if he had caught the football. There was a Falcon defender bearing down on him, though Whisenhunt eluded to the play and inferred that he would have been able to move the chains if the reception were made.
"I think if he’d caught it then he would’ve gotten it, but we’ll have a chance to review it after we’ve seen it. I was just looking off the pictures that I saw," said Whisnhunt.
That part can be debated from now till forever, but we will never know the true answer.
What I question most was the play call itself.
They play was a outroute to the far sideline, meaning that Mettenberger had to throw the football about 30 yards to get it to the receiver for a three-yard gain.
There's no debating that Mettenberger has the arm, and more for that throw. However it is a risky and long throw to make for a short gain. Then there is they question that I have been asking for several weeks now.
Why is it that we continually see the Titans on third and fourth down and short plays running routes that are short of the first down line?
If you need three yards, wouldn't it make sense to run the route at four yards, or five? Why on a third or fourth down when you need 3 yards do you run short and hope to make a play to get another yard when your team has a history of failing to make those kinds of plays.
I understand that sometimes quarterbacks do not have open receivers and they must check-down to a shorter route, but these are not chack-downs. These are designed plays where the route is shorter than the yard to gain marker.
That's coaching malpractice in my book, and that's the main complaint I have when examining why the Titans are losing games they had every opportunity to win.
Yes players have to make plays, but coaches have to put them in a position to do so. A sideline out at four yards rather than three is one of those positions a coach should put his player in with the game on the line.
On Sunday Whisenhunt failed to put Hunter in that position, and he also failed Mettenberger by calling a play that required a 30 yard throw to gain three yards.
At the same time, Mettenberger failed Whisenhunt by not making a throw an NFL quarterback should make.
It's a team loss, but Whisenhunt deserves more of the blame that he is currently shouldering. That's a problem that needs correcting and fast.