With one settled and one looking, the Titans and Vanderbilt hope to upgrade coach to first class 

Head Hunt

Head Hunt
click to enlarge Ken Whisenhunt

Photo: Tennessee Titans

Ken Whisenhunt

The Titans' indecision whether to retain Mike Munchak reached Brett Favre levels — though thankfully without owner Tommy Smith engaging in any flagrante-delicto cell phone shenanigans.

Thus it was hard to blame fans of the Two-Toners if they rushed to Kroger, bought up all the bread and milk and hunkered down for a long winter's wait, expecting to see the groundhog's shadow before the team named the successor to the eventually fired Munchak.

But the team moved with alacrity and got their man: former Arizona Cardinals coach and San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, who also interviewed for the vacant Detroit Lions job. That left him deciding whether to spend the next phase of his life under the bright lights of Music City, or in the shadows of downtown decay in Motor City.

Shocking indeed that he chose Nashville. Of course, maybe he had fond memories of his first coaching job in the mid-'90s, when he was at Vanderbilt coaching H-backs at a time when "H-backs coach" was a real thing.

In Whisenhunt, the Titans picked up a coach with Super Bowl experience and well-developed offensive chops — a whole new tack for a team whose offensive creativity all too frequently meant running left instead of right, or throwing badly aimed passes for a whole new set of receivers to drop.

Whisenhunt is exactly the kind of coach Bud Adams' heirs needed to put in place — one with no connection to the franchise, and with a mind that can conceive of plays that gain more than four yards.

On the other side of town, Vanderbilt vice chancellor and athletic director David Williams will set about a coaching search of his own once he finishes his ongoing media tour, which has consisted so far of telling various outlets he has yet to begin his coaching search.

While Titans fans worried whether the team could move quickly and directly towards a goal — something they've been unable to do either metaphorically or actually in recent years — the Black and Gold faithful are blanketed in a sense of calm, now that their justified anger towards James Franklin has subsided.

Franklin not only jilted Vanderbilt (which was, frankly, predictable) but is working at flipping part of the Commodore recruiting class to join him at Penn State. This is of course the same Franklin who — after rating the attractiveness of his assistants' wives and booking limos for inking a Top 50 recruiting class — declared teenagers who dared change their minds about where to play football as "not men of honor."

There is faith that Williams can find a successor to continue the recent run of success Franklin started. This is the same man, after all, who nearly convinced Gus Malzahn — who himself nearly won an unlikely national championship at Auburn — to stalk the sidelines at Dudley Field. And it is the same man who plucked the then relatively unknown Franklin from the morass at Maryland.

The decision Williams has to make is whether to find the next Franklin, a young, ambitious coach who sees Vandy as a stepping stone — and despite all his insistence otherwise, it's clear in hindsight that's how Franklin saw the job — or to find an established coach, who perhaps is less boisterous but might be here for the long haul. The former may cause hearts to race, but those same hearts may break in three years.

There's no easy answer. The first option yielded Vanderbilt Franklin and unprecedented success. Duke chose the second, hired David Cutcliffe and made the ACC championship game. But Vandy fans trust that Williams will choose correctly — if he ever gets the time to do it.

Email editor@nashvillescene.com.

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