Commentary: One down, one to go
By Joe Biddle, Columnist
For several days, Nashville had a unique situation. It’s one I don’t believe any other city has experienced. (I’m sure I’ll be flooded with correspondence informing me there have been hundreds of such cases.)
Not only were the Tennessee Titans searching for a head coach, so is Vanderbilt University.
Two coaching searches—one NFL and one college in the same city—were being conducted at the same time.
The Titans broke the tie Monday as they managed to pry San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt away from the Detroit Lions in a move that was quite a surprise around the NFL.
General Manager Ruston Webster was leading the Titans search and he was able to get his man. It was the 51-year-old Webster’s first head coaching hire.
Webster flew to San Diego last Friday and interviewed Whisenhunt, a native of Augusta, Ga., who played at Georgia Tech. It was two days before the Chargers lost to Denver, 24-17, in the AFC Divisional play.
Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers, whose career got a second lease on life under Whisenhunt, said that the interview process didn’t impede the team’s preparation one bit. Rivers said Whisenhunt was all-in every day.
Whisenhunt brings hope for Titans fans. He was the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach for six years, taking them to Super Bowl XLIII five years ago. He had Kurt Warner as the quarterback in Arizona and they lost to the Steelers, 27-23.
If he could get the Cardinals to a Super Bowl, he should be able to get this Titans team off of this playoff dry spell they have been fighting for several years.
They lost some close games this season, losing all their games by an average margin of 8 points. They only got blown out in one game.
So with Whisenhunt in place, the focus in Music City turns to Vanderbilt where Vanderbilt Athletics Director David Williams will be hiring his second head football coach.
The Commodores fan base has its collective fingers crossed Williams will land someone who possesses many of the qualities James Franklin brought to the job. That will be a most difficult feat to pull off.
At Vanderbilt, Williams had to first fight a mass exodus of Vanderbilt’s draft class. A growing number are following Franklin to Penn State. Funny, it was great for Franklin to take a verbally committed recruit (Patton Robinette) away from another college, but when he spoke to a group of fans and boosters at a signing day function, Franklin blasted players who had de-committed from Vanderbilt. He pointedly questioned their integrity and honor.
If Franklin has integrity and honor, he would not accept any players who have signed a letter of intent at Vanderbilt. We all know that won’t happen.
Williams has to show a sense of urgency in the process. Even the most naive fan should have known if the right offer came along, Franklin would take the grass-is-greener choice.
Surely, Williams has a keen sense of which coach or coaches he wants. He needs to get someone hired to salvage this recruiting class and bring in more players. Some are waiting to see who the new coach is before committing. Others have confirmed their commitment. Still others plan to entertain more offers.
The longer it takes to find Franklin’s replacement, the more likely it will lead to other Franklin commitments going with him to Penn State and other schools.
Webster hit a home run. Now Williams steps up to the plate.
Sport Columnist Joe Biddle is a four-time sports writer of the year in Tennessee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: 1/16/2014