NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It's been an eventful week at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Ken Whisenhunt lost his job as head coach on Tuesday, and the Titans promoted Mike Mularkey to replace him on an interim basis. Whether Mularkey can win the job on a permanent basis will be determined in the final nine weeks of the season.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota also returned to the practice field this week as a full participant for the first time since being injured back on October 18. He's expected back in the lineup on Sunday when the Titans (1-6) face the Saints.
On Thursday, I sat down with Titans General Manager Ruston Webster.
Here's Webster on 10 topics:
On Ken Whisenhunt
"It was great working with Ken. I think we worked well together. We all worked hard. We talked all the time, and sometimes you agree with each other and sometimes you don't, but it was never real combative or anything like that. In the end it didn't pan out like we wanted it too, and I am very sorry about that. But he is a good person and he worked very hard to make the Titans better."
On Mike Mularkey**
"I have known Mike for probably 20 years. The first time I ever met Mike I think it was his first coaching job, as a quality control coach for Sam Wyche at Tampa Bay. He is a good person, a good football coach, and he's smart. He brings toughness to the team. I think that is one of the things Mike has always been known for, that his teams were tough and physical and that's the way he coaches."
On getting Marcus Mariota back
"We have definitely missed him. Marcus is a very talented player as a passer and a runner, and we missed his ability to kind of get the ball out quickly and make quick decisions. Having him back will help the offense. Obviously he hasn't played in a few weeks, so there will probably be some rust there. But it is nice to have him back."
On protecting the QB
"I think we have to do a lot better job of that. Zach (Mettenberger) got hit a bunch last Sunday, and that was a factor last year, just our quarterbacks getting hit too much. So it is something that we have to work at getting better at, with the offensive line and just our quarterbacks getting the ball out. I'm sure (offensive coordinator) Jason Michael will have some different type plays to help that. We have to get better there because our quarterbacks are getting hit way too much."
On what he's liked so far from team
"I like the fact that no matter what the outcome is of the game, these guys come to work. They are hard workers, their enthusiasm is good, they don't drag and they don't complain, it is a good bunch that way. It has been a very difficult stretch because of all the close games we've lost. That's been really hard, and then to lose the quarterback and go through what we've been through. But they have continued to work. It is a good veteran group on defense and it is a young group on offense. The veterans know how to handle this situation and the young guys typically will continue to work, they are new to it."
On what needs to improve
"I've liked the play of our defense. But what needs to improve is offensively we've had way too many turnovers and way too many negative plays. We've had good field position and chances to do things, but then we'll have a sack and a penalty or something and those are the things we have to get past. We are not good enough to overcome that. We have to get better there."
On retooling the offensive line
"I think any time you are in our situation you have to look at doing that, you have to look at doing some different things. Especially when you have a new coach, he is going to maybe make some changes that way and I think that is probably needed, and we'll see where it goes. I would expect you to see some differences in personnel, and some of the things we are doing."
On OC Jason Michael as a play-caller**
"It's a great opportunity for him to call plays, and for Arthur Smith, it is a great opportunity for him to coach tight ends. So these guys are getting a chance to do something that will help them grow as coaches, and boost their careers. I know Jason is working really hard at it, and working with Mike to kind of do things the way Mike wants it done. So it is a great opportunity and I am looking forward to seeing him put his mark on things."
On Antonio Andrews and the running game
"I am really proud of Antonio. He has really done a great job of coming from where he came from. A lot moving forward will determine on what we are doing. If we are more downhill and power, that's Antonio's game. The running game will have to play itself out and we'll see how it develops. The situation we were in where we were playing the running back by committee, I think that kind of just happened over time. In Tampa we played a couple of backs and maybe in Cleveland and when Dexter (McCluster) starting playing better, the whole running back by committee thing came around. So we'll see."
On the wide open AFC South
"The team is looking at it that way. We feel like we've had some opportunities to put ourselves in great position, and we just haven't done it. I think sometimes it really feels doom and gloom, and after this week it's easy to feel that way because that was a tough thing. But I also think our guys realize how close we've been, and if we can figure out a way to get over the hump and make some plays and not beat ourselves, then maybe we'll have a chance the rest of the way."