TERESA M. WALKER, AP Pro Football Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt is the reason why safety Bernard Pollard agreed to return to Tennessee. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard did his research into the coach and learned enough that he signed with the Titans. Mike Mularkey waited and watched, hoping his old friend would choose the Titans.
Whisenhunt just wants to win in his second time as a head coach in the NFL — starting now.
“We’re not asking for patience,” Whisenhunt said. “We want to win, and we expect to win.”
Whisenhunt makes his debut Sunday at Kansas City, one of seven new coaches in the NFL and one of three in a second chance, along with Jim Caldwell in Detroit and Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay. Fired in Arizona after six seasons, Whisenhunt spent last season as coordinator with San Diego where the Chargers finished with the league’s fifth-best offense.
The second time around certainly smoothed the transition, and Whisenhunt credits a good coaching staff and working with general manager Ruston Webster, too.
“It’s easier from the standpoint of knowing what to expect, but it’s a fun job,” Whisenhunt said of his second chance. “I’m glad that I have this opportunity.”
When the Titans fired Mike Munchak, they edged out Detroit in January to hire Whisenhunt as their third coach in Tennessee and the 17th in franchise history.
Mularkey monitored the searches to see what team his old friend would choose. A former head coach himself with Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey wanted Whisenhunt to pick a good organization with good people. He is happy now to be Whisenhunt’s tight ends coach.
“The second time, you’re not going to get caught off guard as much as you are the first time, especially that first year,” Mularkey said. “You know what to expect. You kind of know the answer before the question comes. Now he’s handled everything extremely well. He’s got a good supporting cast around him.”
Pollard, who came to the Titans after winning a Super Bowl ring with Baltimore, wanted more accountability and structure after his first season in Tennessee. Once Whisenhunt was hired, Pollard signed a two-year deal.
“The guy knows how to win,” Pollard said. “You check his resume, the guy knows how to win, and he’s a fun coach. When you look at him, you see like a hard person on the outside. At the same time, he just wants guys to be accountable and go out there knowing what they’re doing.”
That’s what Woodyard learned when he called a couple of friends, including San Diego receiver Eddie Royal. They told him Whisenhunt was a players’ coach who loves and understands people. Woodyard has found Whisenhunt lives up to his billing.
“He’s a smart coach and definitely knows a lot about the offense,” Woodyard said.
The Titans need that offensive touch. They haven’t reached the playoffs since 2008 and ranked 22nd in the NFL in total offense last season and 21st passing, averaging 218.5 yards per game. Jake Locker missed nine games last season, and Whisenhunt and his assistants have tinkered with the quarterback’s footwork and other techniques to help him throw better.
Locker completed 70 percent of his passes this preseason, and the Titans ranked in the top 10 in several offensive categories.
The real test starts Sunday with Whisenhunt calling the offensive plays.
Wide receiver Nate Washington, who was with Whisenhunt a couple seasons in Pittsburgh, can’t wait. Washington recalled Whisenhunt calling a double pass from Antwaan Randel El to Hines Ward in the Super Bowl and loves how the gutsy coach keeps defenses off guard with his play calling.
“He’ll throw some wrinkles in there that’ll kind of keep you on your heels,” Washington said early in training camp. “It kind of surprised me at opportunities he was giving guys to make some plays. There’s going to be some big plays made, a lot of opportunities for guys to go out and show this league what we’re about.”