NASHVILLE — Management has two primary goals for the Titans: win games and protect franchise rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Ken Whisenhunt didn't do either well enough, so he was let go. Now Mike Mularkey gets his chance in a nine-game audition for the job.
Tuesday the Titans fired Whisenhunt, who was 3-20 in a season and a half. They turned the team over to Mularkey, a former coach with Buffalo and Jacksonville, on an interim basis.
"I am sorry we weren't able to get it done in our time here," Whisenhunt said in a statement via the team. "Our players and staff were great to work with and I want to thank them for their dedication and hard work.
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 to heal if needed. The franchise hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008, and Mariota is the third quarterback Tennessee has drafted in the first eight picks since 2006.
"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."
Colts ax coordinator: Colts coach Chuck Pagano fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton the day after Monday's 29-26 overtime loss at Carolina, the third straight defeat for Indianapolis. Pagano named associate head coach Rob Chudzinski, the former college player and assistant at Miami who was Browns head coach in 2013, as Hamilton's replacement.
More London: The league will play at least three regular-season games over the next three years at Twickenham Stadium in London — a signal that the league plans to play a fourth annual game in London as soon as next season. Since 2007, all regular-season games in London have been at Wembley Stadium, including three this year. Twickenham is a famed rugby site — it hosted the Rugby World Cup final on Sunday.
Panther protest: The league and the Panthers are investigating how protesters got rappelling gear into the stadium and suspended themselves by cables from the upper deck while holding a banner during Monday's game against the Colts. Charlotte Mecklenburg Police arrested four people and charged them with second-degree trespassing and resisting a public officer. The protest was against Bank of America, which owns the stadium's naming rights.
Browns: Backup quarterback Johnny Manziel is preparing to start Thursday at Cincinnati because Josh McCown has a rib injury that affects his breathing and sleep. McCown, 36, a former Buc, took several hard hits in Sunday's loss to Arizona.
Chargers: Receiver Keenan Allen is out for the season after injuring a kidney while making a touchdown catch in Sunday's loss at Baltimore.
Cowboys: Running back Joseph Randle was waived when the third-year player was already away from the team to deal with an unspecified personal issue.
49ers: Running back Pierre Thomas signed a day after reports emerged that Blaine Gabbert would start at quarterback in place of Colin Kaepernick, Thomas replaces Reggie Bush (left knee), who was placed on season-ending IR. And the league suspended defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey for four games without pay for violating policy on performance-enhancing drugs.