Whisenhunt Reflects on 2014 Season



(on his final message to the team)

Pretty typical, thanks for the effort this year, appreciate the way you worked. It wasn't what we wanted to get done on the field, but I really respect the way a lot of these guys worked, and then just how important the offseason's going to be for us, just from a standpoint of not so much having to learn a new system, but getting better at the systems that we have.

(on if he feels that the team is in a rebuilding process)

I made a statement, which was passionate, what I felt, and we didn't get it done, so we've got work to do to get to that point. Whenever you have a season like we did, there's going to be changes. You're going to get better. We've got work to do. We understand that.

(on if there will be any coaching changes)*

I've been in this thing long enough to know that you're always going to potentially have some changes in this business. That's just the way it works. We'll go through the process of evaluating that and meeting with them. A lot goes on today, so that'll happen over the next week or so.

(on how he feels the coaching staff did this season)

I think with anything there's always parts of it when you're working with a lot of guys that you've never worked with before, you work through some things, things that you can get better at, things that you like. It's hard to say that you're pleased with anything with the way our record went. I think an important part of where we are is going through the whole thing and looking at it. I think the one thing that I want to make sure is clear is continuity is an important part of it. That was probably the biggest thing in meeting with the players today, that they were the most excited about, was that we're going to have systems that they now are familiar with and there wasn't going to be change. They thought they had a chance to get better and believed in what we were doing.

(on if Ray Horton and Jason Michael will return as coordinators)

That's part of the process that we look and we sit and we talk. Once again, it's something that you go through at the end of a season. I feel like both of those guys did a good job, but once again, like I said before, when you have the record the way we did this year, you want to make sure that go through and talk about everything.

(on if he would let a coach leave who was under contract)

It depends on the situation. In the past, I've done that before. At other times, I haven't.

(on if there will be changes in the system)

I think we've always been flexible in the systems that we've run, and we try to adapt them based off of what personnel that we have and how we're doing things. You have to have a core system that you believe in as far as how you're going to do things. I do believe in that. I believe in how we approach, how we work, what we're looking to get out of it. For instance, you do have to change it based off of your personnel and what the strengths and weaknesses of your personnel are, and that's something that you always look at. I'm always looking to get better, to change. You always come up with new ideas and new things during the course of an offseason.

(on if he second guessed parts of the system this season)

I think there's always the chance for second guessing. In hindsight, there's always 20/20. We did a lot of different things during the course of the year, in trying to address penalties, bringing in officials. We've tried to change some of the ways we've approached practice, some of the process of how we've prepared for third downs. You do all those things when you're trying to get better at what you're doing. Do I feel like could we have done better? We were 2-14. We could have done a lot of things better. Did we continually try? Yes. I don't think that we were rigid in saying this is a square peg trying to fit in a round hole.

(on why there were so many losses when the team gave the right amount of effort)*

I think that there were a couple of, situationally, things just tended to go that way. We were competitive in the game to a point, and then we'd have a turnover. I know offensively part of it was not being very good on third downs hurt us, put the defense on the field more often. We had a number of turnovers, which hurt us. We didn't create as many turnovers to offset that. That's all part of it. A lot of it is just, unfortunately, the way a game works out.

(on what of the culture needs to change)

I think that's in the process of doing that. The one thing I'll say is that the culture has pretty much been the same here for however many years this team has been in Tennessee. There hasn't been a lot of change, and this year there was change. Part of that is trying to get everybody believing in what you're doing, and we made progress with that, and we'll continue to do that.

(on how much he needs players who have been a part of winning teams)

It's always good to have guys that have been there and done it and had experience doing that, but that doesn't mean that. The best way to do that is to get there yourself. I don't necessarily know that you have to have that, but if you have the right kind of guys, it can certainly help.

(on his message to Zach Mettenberger in his exit interview)

We haven't finished my interview with Zach (Mettenberger) yet. We've still got the rest of today. We've talked briefly, but we haven't met and sat down yet.

(on how much easier it will be to have a franchise quarterback)

It's an important decision for us, for the organization going forward, and I think that that's one that we have time to make that decision. We're going to go through that process and look at it. I'm sure in time we'll come to the right one.

(on what Zach Mettenberger can do in the offseason to prove that he is the right quarterback for the team)

We don't get a lot of opportunities to be with him in the next couple of months, according to the CBA. A lot of it's going to be based on where he is when we get a chance to get back together and start working again.

(on what he would like improve on next season)

I always look to do that. You always look to get better. I think that's what this profession is about. I always look at things we could have done differently, things we try to do better. Just as far as everything. To me, that's part of the process.

(on addressing issues in the system)

I'm just in the process of doing that. Like I said, I think we continually try to do things, as we went through the season, to try to address our problems and our issues. Continually tried to adapt our system to what we felt we needed to do. We looked at a lot of different things, as far as how we practiced and how we approached things. I think that's what you have to do.

(on Zach Mettenberger believing that he is the quarterback for the team)

I'm glad Zach (Mettenberger) feels that way. That's what you want your players to feel. Like I said, it's a process. We're going to go through that. It's an important one for the organization. There is no rush to do that.

(on how much he will be involved in scouting for players in the offseason)*

I don't have any plans to go to the Rose Bowl. There will be time for that. We'll get an opportunity to spend time with them, yeah. That's an important piece of it. The combine's a part of it, the workouts are a part of it, watching the tape, meeting with people that have been around the players. That's all part of the process, as well. You balance that between free agency, between college and then also going back and looking at what you do, your systems and trying to correct those things and get better at them.

(on what he is looking for in a franchise quarterback)

I think you look at what they do, what the quarterbacks you're looking at, who you're evaluating. You, obviously, are going to fit some of the things they do well into your system. There is no set criteria. There is no cookie cutter way. If you look in the league right now, different guys do it different ways. I think a lot of it is the success that they've had, the intangible part of it, and their ability to make plays in critical situations.

(on if he is looking for quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Kurt Warner)

Ben (Roethlisberger) ran around a little bit. I don't necessarily agree with your assessment of all three of those guys being the same type of quarterback. Every one of them was a little bit different. I guess the answer to your question is they can be different. We're looking for guys that can be successful, and we have an idea of what we're looking for from that position, from a standpoint of everything, leadership, how they handle the huddle. It comes down to making plays and doing things on the field.

(on if he found the team's identity this season)

I think a large part of that'll be on where we go with the team going forward. To be honest with you, we had a number of different guys, a lot of the guys that we started the season with, the ones that you grow with, that you build with, we didn't finish the season with. We had, at some points during the season, and I'm not trying to use it as an excuse, just an answer to your question, we're working with guys that have been here for three days that are playing in a game. As far as an identity, you've got to have a set number of guys or a core group of guys that are your guys that are in your system. That's going to help form our identity. Obviously, there's a number of areas that we have to be better as a football team. Third down on offense is one of them. We've got to run the ball better. We've got to stop the run better. All of those things are part of the process of getting better and looking at those things, and how do we get better at those things. The one thing that we've got to do is less penalties. If we're going to have an identity, we've got to be a smarter football team. Those are all things that we've got to work through.

(on if there is a common thread in protection that led to all three quarterbacks being injured)

Football's a tough game. It's a physical game. That's the way it happens sometimes.

(on if he is looking forward to the offseason)

Yeah. I think one of the things that's really important is consistency or having a process that's already in place that now you can work on getting better at. This is a great town. You want to win here because the fans have been so good. I'm excited about that opportunity.

(on how well the coaching staff developed players this season)

If you just look at our draft picks, I think the review on that would be positive. The one area, obviously we didn't get a chance to see Bishop (Sankey) enough from the standpoint of the carries, but he did some good things for us in different facets of the game. (Taylor) Lewan looked like a great player when he's in there. Unfortunately, he got injured. DaQuan (Jones) showed up yesterday. Avery Williamson had a really good year. Marqueston Huff did a nice job for us. As far as developing those young players, I would say it was positive.

(on what areas of the team fell short)

I guess if I asked you guys, you'd probably say every one of them. I'd say we've got a lot of work to do.

(on if there is a characteristic that this team is lacking)*

I think that the biggest thing is we had opportunities to make plays here, and we didn't make those plays, on both sides of the ball. To be honest with you, that's what this league comes down to. If you watched the games last night or yesterday, when it came down to it at the end, you had some guys that made those plays. We had opportunities. We were in position at times, and we didn't get it done. Whether that's a confidence level, whether that's a guys just got to get better at doing what they're doing, those are all things that we've got to improve on.

(on Jurrell Casey saying that the team was close to having success)

When one of your best players says that he thinks you're close, I'm not going to disagree with him. I think Jurrell (Casey) was a good player for us. I think, and it goes back to what I said just a minute ago, we had opportunities to make plays, and we didn't get it done in certain situations that could have made a difference. Paul (Kuharsky) asked me about the Cleveland game yesterday, and if we'd made that fourth down and the offense had kept the ball and we'd won that game, that's a play that could make a big difference for us, but we didn't make that play. Those are the things that we have to get better at. I understand we had a lot of mistakes this year, we didn't do the things that we wanted to do, that doesn't mean we're going to sell everything out. We're going to continue with our system. I think Jurrell's a good example of that. This is a player that's been in the league for a little while that's been a good football player. I think you guys know he's a straight shooter. He's not just going to give you lip service. If he feels that way, then we've made progress with the team.

(on if he hopes to get Dexter McCluster involved more in the future)

Yeah, I would love to get Dexter (McCluster) more involved, and I think we'll have a better feel for what he can do and how he can fit in. That's an important piece of it. I think he's an explosive athlete. I think we could have, obviously, had a few better punt returns, which is one of things he does really well. When Paul (Kuharsky) asked me about things that we can do differently or being flexible, that's one of the things we've got to get better at. We've got to be better about trying to get Dexter involved in some things and getting the ball in his hands.

(on if there were a lot of plays that he did not get to this season)

Yeah, that's a good question. There were plays. I think we had some good things that we couldn't get to because sometimes the way the games went. It takes you out of some of the things that you do. Some of those things, quite honestly, did involve Dexter (McCluster). I think it comes back a little bit to the third down. If you're not better converting third downs, you're not going to be on the field as often.

(on if there is something good about this team that the fans don't know)

That's a tough question, because obviously everybody's looking at the win-loss record. Anything that you say contrary to that is going to be hard to believe. I think one of the things that is positive is that we had a number of young players that played for us this year that got better. We've got an opportunity in the draft to get a high pick to have an impact player to make our team better. That's something that's exciting, too, so there are some positive signs. We get some guys back that didn't play for us this year injury-wise, that can help, but I think the biggest thing is the second year in the system, with guys believing in what we're doing, and we have to be better.

(on changes to the roster)

Obviously, we're going to get a chance to see that. We're going to get a chance to work with these guys. As with anything, we're going to go through the process of trying to make our team better. That's what's important to our ownership. That's what's important to our fans. It's a process that we have to make sure we go into it and put a lot of effort in making sure we do it right.

(on if the roster will look different next year)

Whether you have success or don't have success, the roster's always going to change in the NFL. Some of that's because of contracts, some of that's because of free agency, that's the way it is.

(on if there are players on injured reserve that may not return for OTAs)

Their final physicals were today, and I haven't met with Todd (Toriscelli) to talk about it. The only one that I would think, just off the top of my head, would be Blidi (Wreh-Wilson), just where he is from the surgery. As far as all the other guys, I think they have a chance to be available for OTAs. I'm not saying Blidi doesn't, but I'll have a better assessment of that when I spend time with Todd.

(on Michael Roos considering retirement and wanting to re-sign him)

I think Michael (Roos) did a good job for us. He was a good player for this organization, and I think you have dialogue with him, certainly. I think that's part of the process.

(on the importance of building a foundation on offense)

I think losing Craig Stevens and Taylor Thompson also affected that. That's a position that's hard to find guys and an important position. The answer to your question is it is important. I think that we've got to do a better job of running the football. That's a piece of it. Let's face it, in the league today, you're not going to be a 50-carry-a-game team. That doesn't happen, but you do have to run the ball effectively. I think one of the things that we tried to do a little bit better in the second half of the season was run the ball on some of those third-and-shorter situations, and we had limited effectiveness with it. Those are the kind of areas, an answer to your question, that we have to be better at. We have to be less predictable in situations by being able to run the ball. I think we did a better job at the end of the season being in more third-and-manageables, and I think that's what running the football can help you do. I guess the long answer to your question is yes, we do have to be better at it.

(on if he saw enough of the running backs this season)

I believe in the approach of how we've done it, because I've had success with doing it. I think it's hard to judge this year because we weren't successful, as a whole, running the football. Did I see effectiveness out of the backs? At times, yes, I did, but we've got to do a better job overall of running it. I certainly feel like Bishop Sankey can be an outstanding running back for us. We didn't get a chance to give him enough carries to show everybody else that he can do that, so hopefully that'll be something that we do a better job of next season.

(on how frustrating it is that the most complete game of the season came in the first week)

Maybe next year it'll go differently. Maybe we'll have a bad game first and then we'll have 15 complete ones. It's tough whenever you go through a season like this. You don't like it, but that doesn't mean that we're not going to work to get better, and we are.

(on if there is comfort in hoping that this season's record is the worst it could be)

In my time in the NFL, it better get better than this, or you'll be talking to somebody else next year. Yeah, I do believe that it's going to get better. I'm extremely disappointed that we had a season like this. I think one of the things that gets lost is there's a lot of people's lives that are impacted with this, coaches, players, who put everything they have into this. When you don't have success, it's hard. It hurts, and it's a tough season. It doesn't shake our belief that we're going to win here, and I think that we have the right support in here to do that. We've built a foundation. I know some of you think it's a shaky foundation, but we've built a foundation, or started to build one, I think that's going to give us success, and we're going to continue to work on that.

(on if things have to change drastically next season)

Those are things that I don't even worry about. I'm worried about trying to get better as a team. If you think that that's not a part of this business, you're wrong.

(on if there is more work to do going into the 2015 season than going into the 2014 season)

You never know until you get in here. You never know until you work with the team and you see. You never know from a standpoint of injuries or age or wherever players are from that standpoint. Every year is different. It's never the same. There's no question that we have work that we have to do. I believe that we have the right guys in here to get it done.

(on putting the blame on himself and the importance of fans believing that)

You always have part of the blame for that. I do. I'm the head coach. It's my job to make sure. It was a tough year. I also feel like there has been a lot of positive support from our fans that believe we are going in the right direction. I see that all the time. They're excited about what they've seen, some of what they've seen. They're excited about where we are and the opportunities that are in front of us, and that's part of it, too.

(on how he can help Don MacLachlan market the team)

Any way I can. That's an important piece of it. I believe our fans are a big piece of this. They're important to us. I know as we win, they're going to all come back out. I hope that there's some excitement about what we have as far as having a high pick, some of the excitement that goes with that, some young players that played well for us this year. Whatever I need to do to help Don (MacLachlan)

(on speaking with Tommy Smith and his message)

I talked to Tommy (Smith) after the game. He's ready to move forward into this season. He's excited about it. He feels like we have a number of opportunities. He's committed to it, and that's exciting for me.

(on when he will find out about coaching at the Senior Bowl)

I would guess probably pretty soon. I've been busy with the players today and those things, so I don't know for sure.

(on if he would like to coach at the Senior Bowl)

Sure, yeah.

(on the value of coaching players in the Senior Bowl)

Every year, when we talk about college players and evaluating, one of the things consistently that we say is part of it that's valuable is the time you get to spend with them at the combine. Not seeing them do the drills, but the 15-minute interview. If you think about that during the course of the week and then actually being able to see them do some football things, especially things that you're directing them to do, that's valuable.

(on his evaluations of Ryan Succop and Brett Kern)

The only thing I'll say about those is that (Brett) Kern punted too much and (Ryan) Succop didn't kick enough. That would be the negatives that I would say about those guys. I thought Brett did a good job for us this year, and I thought Ryan, coming in, doing what we asked him to do, I think he had a career high for percentage made, so I like both of those guys.


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