Let me preface this piece by saying that to objectively look at Whisenhunt and make a case for his staying or going (regardless of what the ownership actually does), we need to separate his shortcomings from those of Ruston Webster. As with many things at present, Webster's GM tenure in Nashville is another prospect entirely. So Whisenhunt didn't build this roster as Webster did, and while he had his hand in the FA adds and draft picks, we have to, for the sake of argument, sever the roster management aspect from Whisenhunt's evaluation.
My second point, at least for now, is that we focus on Whisenhunt's claim to fame; the offense. Obviously a ton of this squad's struggles have come from the defensive side of the ball following the transition to Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme. But as the head coach, it's Whisenhunt's responsibility to make sure that aspect of the team is functioning as intended. Just because Whisenhunt is the de-facto OC, it doesn't mean we can compare him directly to the DC as if they have an equal hand in all this. He is the head coach; it's on his shoulders one way or the other.
The first matter is Ken Whisenhunt's total disconnect with the players currently on the roster. This is a squad that won games last season. It wasn't flashy or unique, often it was downright dysfunctional. But they were able to squeeze out seven wins, and many of their nine losses were close calls at that. That achievement alone seems like a lifetime away from where this roster is at present. Production across the board suffered, from the running game to the offensive line, and even the receiving corps. And before we go any further, let's not blame the running game on the exodus of CJ; he was mediocre to poor at best when he was given the boot.
The FO invested millions of dollars and high draft picks to reinforce their offensive line. And yet, even when the group is fully healthy, they have been terrible. Whisenhunt brought in a proven offensive line coach prior to the season's start, but it has mattered little down the stretch. Warmack doesn't seem to have developed at all from his first starts as a pro. Michael Oher and Andy Levitre don't look like NFL quality offensive linemen at all. This has had long-reaching affects on the rest of the offense.
But the problem goes beyond their quality. NFL coaches should know how to operate an offense even when the line is under performing, or at the very least alter their strategy to compensate for it. There is a distinct lack of adaption to player personnel and game situations. Rather than featuring more short passes and running out of spread formations, Whisenhunt continues to employ his static, dogmatic approach to offensive football; force the ball vertically, and run from heavy-set formations. The results speak for themselves. Bishop Sankey, a shifty player with excellent vision, has nowhere to run, no holes to hit, much less so when crowded into eight and nine man boxes; one's invited with stacked formations. This is a coaching sin, and there's no way around it. Even the best offensive strategies stale with time (and tape). Good coaches know that any scheme is one that is fluid, adaptable, and always changing with new wrinkles and nuances. I have seen little from Whisenhunt to make me believe that he shares that mind set.
And then there's the overarching goal that hangs over any franchise; wins. Over the course of the season, the results haven't improved. In fact, they've worsened noticeably. What direction is there for the team when they are losing by ever-greater margins as the year end looms?
Whisenhunt is not putting players in positions to succeed across the board. Poor offensive scheming and a lack of situational awareness only exacerbate the inherent problems with his coaching philosophy. The consistent decision to punt around the 50 yard line (even when terribly behind) is another puzzling trend. In the end, I don't think there's much of an argument that Whisenhunt has gotten less out of an already weak roster.
2015 will be a second shot for Whisenhunt and Webster to get it right. Barring any huge surprise they aren't going anywhere at the end of this season. Whisenhunt will have that year to prove that his new systems have an upside, and that he can effectively manage a roster that is molded in the image he has been seeking. To me, though, it is prolonging the inevitable struggles of a coach who seems out of touch with his players, and whose rigid, inflexible schemes doom this roster to failure, regardless of the talent on hand.
I would be thrilled if he proved me wrong, but at this point, all we have to go on is the product on the field, and that isn't exactly inspiring.
We'll get to Ray Horton and this disaster of a defense another day.