What Does Whisenhunt Firing Mean For Marcus Mariota?


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Usually when a head coach gets fired, it means a sea change and everybody’s playing time is at risk. So when I heard about the Tennessee Titans axing Ken Whisenhunt, I of course wondered what that would mean for former Duck Marcus Mariota. Benched? Traded to Philly? Asked to move to wide receiver or cornerback?

As it turns out, nothing of the sort. From what the Titans are saying (and admittedly this is them spinning things, but still), Whisenhunt was served with his walking papers because they didn’t feel like he was helping Mariota succeed enough.

While it’s great for Titans upper management to say “We now have another rookie quarterback who’s very promising, and I think our future is bright,” the truth is Whisenhunt couldn’t wait for tomorrow. He was 3-20 as Titans head coach. 3-20! As an NFL coach, your job is to win. Today. With the players you have. Hurt or not, rookie or not. Whisenhunt was 2-14 last season. Can an NFL head coach afford to bring a rookie along when he was 2-14 the year before? Of course not!

I’m not defending Whisenhunt and his actions. I’m saying that any rookie QB is going to have a steep learning curve, even if he’s a Heisman Trophy winner. College football and the NFL are really almost two different sports in terms of complexity and competitiveness. Every NFL defender coming after Marcus Mariota was one of the best players on his college team. Period. This is no knock on Mariota, but he didn’t go up against 11 future NFL defensive players every time he took the field as Oregon’s QB. Maybe one. Maybe 3. Not 11.

“I think our future is bright.”- Titans upper management

So when he steps into the NFL as a rookie starter, he’s going to have some bad games. When his head coach is coaching for his job, he’s not going to be as patient with the rookie as he could be. That’s not Mariota’s fault. That’s the pressure put by the Titans organization on Whisenhunt to win more games. The same pressure applied by every NFL team to every NFL head coach.

Perhaps now that Mike Mularkey (who didn’t do so hot as the head man in Jacksonville and Buffalo– of course this is Jacksonville and Buffalo we’re talking about) is the interim head coach, there will be less pressure on the coaching staff to win right now, and Mariota can play more relaxed- and therefore better- football.

Next: Don't Expect A Mariota/Chip Kelly Reunion In The NFL

In any case, the “win now” thought process that Whisenhunt was using will be set aside. He can’t be faulted for having it. But it wasn’t going to help Mariota become a better QB.