NASHVILLE, Tenn. — 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.

BROWNS: Johnny Manziel is preparing to start against unbeaten Cincinnati on Thursday night because Josh MCown is still struggling with a painful rib injury.

McCown, 36, took several hard hits in Sunday’s 34-20 loss to Arizona. He would not rule himself out against the Bengals, but he didn’t sound optimistic.

COLTS: Indianapolis 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.

PANTHERS: The NFL and Carolina 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.

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.

COWBOYS: Dallas waived running back Joseph Randle, who is already away from the team dealing with an unspecified personal issue.

RAMS: Team officials are turning to the NFL and the city to do something about the skating-rink of a concrete ring that rings the field at the Edward Jones Dome and has resulted in injuries to two players.

San Francisco 49ers running back Reggie Bush suffered a season-ending torn medial collateral ligament Sunday when he ran out of bounds and his feet flew out from under him when he got to the concrete behind the bench. Cleveland Browns quarterback Josh McCown hurt his shoulder when he flew into the wall a couple of weeks ago.

CHARGERS: Wide receiver Keenan Allen is done for the season after injuring a kidney while making a spectacular touchdown catch in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

TRADE DEADLINE: The only action at the NFL’s trade deadline Tuesday came in Denver, where tight end Vernon Davis arrived to take his physical and begin learning the language of Peyton Manning’s suddenly revved-up offense.

Joe Thomas won’t be joining them.

Switching teams in pro football isn’t as easy as it is in other sports, so there’s usually a scarcity of midseason moves, and even Sunday’s rash of injuries to key players served to quash talks rather than ignite talks.

After filling a void at tight end, Broncos GM John Elway explored an even bigger splash but the Broncos and Browns couldn’t reach agreement on a blockbuster deal for Thomas, Cleveland’s eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle.


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