Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Open line jobs big hires for Ken Whisenhunt
By Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Whisenhunt is down to two position coaching vacancies.
While they are all important, these may be the two most important: The offensive and defensive lines.
Offensive line was supposed to be rebuilt into a strength last season as the Titans signed veteran guard Andy Levitre, drafted guard Chance Warmack 10th overall and drafted center Brian Schwenke in the fourth round.
Offensive line coach and defensive line coach will be two of Ken Whisenhunt's most critical hires.
But a rebuilt interior didn't jell quickly or play consistently even with mentoring from two Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive linemen, head coach Mike Munchak and line coach Bruce Matthews.
One of the criticism of Whisenhunt during his six years as head coach in Arizona was the Cardinals' failure to develop young offensive lineman. Another Hall of Famer, Russ Grimm, was Whisenhunt's line coach for his entire tenure in Arizona.
Grimm didn't coach in 2013, but I do not expect he will be joining the Titans' staff.
Offensive line was generally a strength for the Titans when Munchak was the position coach before he was elevated to the top job in 2011.
Jim Washburn, recently retained by Detroit as the Lions' line coach, was a big part of that. Tracy Rocker followed him as Munchak's line coach, and for two years he had the assistance of Keith Millard, the team's pass-rushing coach.
The Titans really developed just one pass-rusher in that time, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is the sort of player who I think would play well under anyone.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will run a hybrid front that will feature 3-4 and 4-3 elements. The Titans have been a 4-3 since before the franchise relocated to Tennessee in 1997.
Whisenhunt, Horton and a new line coach will have a voice in drafting a guy – or a couple – who fit what they are looking for up front. It's imperative the team adds a quality edge pass-rusher, and the line coach Whisenhunt hires will be largely responsible for developing him.
Ron Aiken was Whisenhunt's defensive line coach for all six years in Arizona. He is now coaching the line at Oregon.
Whisenhunt is at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he is likely interviewing candidates for his remaining staff positions.
Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Tuesday evening that the Titans will hire John McNulty as quarterbacks coach.
I reported early on that McNulty had an inside track on the offensive coordinator post, which wound up going to Jason Michael.
Whisenhunt's staff at this point, with holdovers in italics.
Offensive coordinator: Jason Michael
Quarterbacks: John McNulty
Running backs: Sylvester Croom Tight ends: Mike Mularkey
Wide receivers: Shawn Jefferson
Defensive coordinator: Ray Horton
Linebackers: Lou Spanos
Secondary: Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi
Assistant secondary: Steve Brown
Special teams: Nate Kaczor Assistant special teams: Steve Hoffman