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Sunday, October 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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NFL notes: Titans fire Ken Whisenhunt

Whisenhunt (Uncredited / AP)
Whisenhunt (Uncredited / AP)

Management has two primary goals for the Tennessee Titans: win games and protect franchise rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota. Ken Whisenhunt didn’t do a good enough job in either category, so he was let go.

Now Mike Mularkey gets his chance in a nine-game audition for the job.

The Titans became the second NFL team to fire a coach this season, relieving Whisenhunt of his duties Tuesday morning after he went 3-20 in his tenure with the franchise. They turned the team over to Mularkey on an interim basis.

A former head coach with Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey was a finalist in Tennessee in 2011 before Mike Munchak was hired.

President Steve Underwood said controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk wants the Titans to do everything possible to protect Mariota – including keeping him out of games if necessary to heal. This franchise hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2008, and Mariota now is the third quarterback they’ve drafted within the first eight picks in the last decade.

“I don’t care how good the rest of your team is if you don’t have the right kind of quarterback it’s hard to succeed long-term,” Underwood said. “We now have another rookie quarterback who’s very promising, and I think our future is bright. … So much in our league begins and ends with the quarterback.”

Whisenhunt helped draft Mariota at No. 2 overall last spring, but Underwood said Strunk had been thinking of making a coaching change for weeks. Underwood and general manager Ruston Webster told Whisenhunt he was fired.

“When you’re not winning and you can’t win, that’s when change happens in the NFL,” Underwood said.

Protestors investigated

The NFL and the Carolina Panthers still don’t know how protesters got rappelling gear into the team’s stadium Monday night and suspended themselves by cables from the upper deck during a nationally televised game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Panthers director of security Lance Emory said the protesters got into the game with tickets purchased through NFL Ticket Exchange.

“We are conducting an inquiry as to how the rappelling equipment got in,” Emory said. “We don’t know at this time but we are trying to determine that.”

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police arrested four people – the two that rappelled and two others that assisted them – and charged them with second degree trespassing and resisting a public officer.

The people arrested held up banners protesting against Bank of America, which owns the stadium’s naming rights.

Different venues coming in London

The NFL is on the move in London, with more games to come.

After nearly a decade of playing its games solely at Wembley Stadium, the league said it would stage at least one game per season starting next year at Twickenham Stadium, the home of England’s national rugby team.

“We are committed to continuing to grow our sport in the U.K. and believe that adding Twickenham Stadium to our roster of host venues in London is further evidence of that commitment,” NFL executive vice president of international Mark Waller said.

The agreement is for at least one game per season over the next three years, with an option for two more.

The NFL has already agreed to play at least two games per season at Wembley through 2020, and has also reached a 10-year deal to play at least two games at Tottenham’s new soccer stadium starting in 2018.

That means there will be a minimum of five regular-season NFL games in London in 2018 – two at Wembley, two at Tottenham’s stadium and one at Twickenham.

Patriots unanimous choice

It’s unanimous: The perfect Patriots are the top team in the AP Pro32 power rankings.

The Patriots received all 12 first-place votes and 384 points in balloting by 12 media members who regularly cover the league.

New England (7-0) beat the Miami Dolphins 36-7 on Thursday night.

“Suddenly, all that 19-0 speculation doesn’t seem very far-fetched,” the Tampa Tribune’s Ira Kaufman said of the possibility of the Patriots finishing the season unbeaten.

The Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos, also both 7-0, tied for second with 366 points.

The Carolina Panthers, the NFC’s only 7-0 team, remained at No. 4 after their 29-26 overtime win over Indy on Monday night.

On Sunday, the Panthers host the Packers, who fell to No. 5 after their 29-10 loss to the Broncos.

49ers sign RB Pierre Thomas

The San Francisco 49ers signed running back Pierre Thomas to bolster the position given a rash of recent injuries, adding to a wild two days of change for the once-proud franchise that included the benching of struggling quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The team also announced that running back Reggie Bush was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list after he hurt his left knee in Sunday’s loss at St. Louis. Defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey was suspended without pay for the next four games for violations of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the NFL said.

Colts can OC Pep Hamilton

The Indianapolis Colts have fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton less than 24 hours after a 29-26 overtime loss at Carolina.

Former Browns coach Rob Chudzinski will replace Hamilton as the play-caller.

In a statement, coach Chuck Pagano said the offense hadn’t played with the necessary consistency and it was “his responsibility” to give the Colts (3-5) their best chance to succeed.

Pagano also has faced criticism because the Colts opened the season with Super Bowl aspirations and are 0-5 outside the terrible AFC South.

Hamilton was hired in 2013 after spending three seasons as an assistant at Stanford, where he worked with future Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

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