Ken Whisenhunt is entering his first season as coach of the Tennessee Titans. (Michael Conroy / Associated Press)
Indianapolis — From the way he answered the question Thursday, Ken Whisenhunt didn’t feel like he was the Lions’ first choice to be their new head coach last month.
Whisenhunt, on the day the Lions arranged a private jet to fly him to Detroit for a second interview, instead agreed to terms with the Tennessee Titans.
“I have a lot of respect for Detroit,” Whisenhunt said during his podium interview from the NFL combine. “Martin (Mayhew, general manager) and I were teammates and it’s a good organization. I really liked what I’d seen in the quarterback (Matthew Stafford).
“But you have to understand, there’s a lot going on in a short window. I feel honored I had the opportunity to be interviewed by the Lions, but they were looking at different candidates, as well. I did not have control over that situation.”
Whisenhunt said there was nothing negative about his experience with the Lions. The Titans were the first team to make a firm, concrete offer and, as he said, “I had an opportunity with that team and I felt good about it.”
The Lions never got a chance to make a contract offer to Whisenhunt, though they were expected to if Whisenhunt had taken that second interview.
The Lions, though, did hire Teryl Austin as their defensive coordinator, a coach Whisenhunt worked with in Arizona and wanted for his staff in Tennessee.
“I was glad to see him get the opportunity,” Whisenhunt said of Austin. “He’s very passionate about the game. He’s been in a bunch of different defenses and he’s a sponge. He’s learned things from everywhere he’s been.
“I expect him to be very good in this league as a defensive coordinator.”