Titans stumbling toward worst season since '94
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) First-year Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is done making predictions now that his talk of hosting a playoff game has been replaced with Tennessee competing for the top overall draft pick.
Things have gone downhill in a hurry.
The Titans, heading for their worst season in 20 years, are underdogs at home Sunday against the New York Jets in a matchup of 2-11 teams. They have lost 10 of the last 11 and could match the 2-14 mark in 1994 with three games left for a franchise that hasn't picked first overall since 1978 - a selection gotten via trade, not poor play.
This all after 7-9 wasn't enough to keep Mike Munchak around with a few changes to his coaching staff.
President Tommy Smith hired Whisenhunt in January and insists he's sticking with his coach and general manager Ruston Webster. That doesn't mean the man who took over when team founder Bud Adams died in October 2013 is happy.
''This is not what we anticipated, but I do believe in what we're doing, and I know that we're going to have success,'' Whisenhunt said.
The Titans have plenty of reasons they are poised to beat the 4-12 mark in 2005 for their worst in Tennessee including new offensive and defensive schemes, injuries, too many mistakes in free agency and poor drafts.
Whisenhunt installed the offense he used to take Arizona to the 2009 Super Bowl, and defensive coordinator Ray Horton switched the Titans from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4. But the Titans also have started three different quarterbacks this season, and an injury to rookie Zach Mettenberger's right, throwing shoulder means Jake Locker will start again even on his way out of town.
The Titans insisted the eighth pick overall in 2011 was their quarterback all offseason, though he never really fit Whisenhunt's offense. Locker, on his third offense in four seasons, loves to run and throw. He lost the starting job in late October just as he was coming back from his second injury of the season.
Injuries also have taken a toll with 11 players on injured reserve, seven of those starters. The changing personnel has shown with Tennessee being outscored 81-0 before scoring a single point in the past four games combined. They rank at or near the bottom in several offensive and defensive categories. Whisenhunt said continuity is key for a team with new schemes.
''It's not an excuse,'' Whisenhunt said. ''I'll sit here and say, we haven't done a good enough job, and we've got to do better, but that is part of the issue as far as where we are as a team right now.
The Titans have spent heavily in free agency the past three years with few results.
Chasing Peyton Manning before losing out to Denver cost much of that free agency period in 2012. Defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, their biggest signing that year, has just two sacks this season playing his natural position at outside linebacker. Signed in 2013, tight end Delanie Walker has thrived, but left guard Andy Levitre and right tackle Michael Oher have been heavily criticized.
They haven't fared much better in the draft with two quarterbacks selected in the top eight washing out including Vince Young, the No. 3 pick in 2006, now working at the University of Texas. Chris Johnson and safety Michael Griffin are the only first-round draft picks since 2005 to sign second contracts here, and Johnson was cut in April in a salary dump.
And Whisenhunt now is 3-22 in his last 25 games as a head coach, including his final 12 games at Arizona in 2012. That has some fans longing for Munchak and even Fisher who left after going 6-10 in 2010.
''Whiz is not out there playing is he?'' Walker said after a 36-7 loss to the Giants. ''It's us.''
That has left the Titans, now in their 18th season in Tennessee, still looking for their first playoff win since January 2004 with a playoff drought now at six straight years and counting.
Wide receiver Nate Washington has had only one winning season in his six years here.
''It's definitely a growing pain,'' Washington said. ''Here we are with another new regime and a lot of new guys on our roster. We're dealing with injuries. We're dealing with a lot of things.''
Just not wins.
Notes: Griffin (back) did not practice along with Oher (left toe), QB Zach Mettenberger (right shoulder), S Daimion Stafford (concussion) and Wimbley (left hamstring). LT Taylor Lewan (left ankle) was limited along with WR Kendall Wright (right hand).
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker