Few teams have more questions to answer this off-season than the Tennessee Titans.
And few teams have been slower out of the gate than the Titans as well.
While the need to hire a new general manager and perhaps a new head coach this off-season isn’t a race, it isn’t a leisurely stroll either.
What’s at stake for the Titans here in this off-season is just the future direction of the franchise. That’s all (insert sarcastic tone).
The Titans in making the announcement that Ruston Webster had been removed as general manager on Monday set in motion, in theory at least, that the new regime, led by controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and executed by team president Steve Underwood, is ready to move forward and build around quarterback Marcus Mariota as it hopes to climb back into contention.
But how ready are they? In the three days since Webster’s dismissal, the Titans have contacted a handful of general manager candidates and to date, have not had any head coaching hopefuls emerge, save for interim coach Mike Mularkey. That’s fine, if Mularkey is their guy going forward and is working behind the scenes to get ready for 2016 with whoever becomes the general manager.
But if the Titans are doing their due diligence and leaving no stone unturned as Underwood spoke of when he said there were 155 coaching candidates on the initial list, then shouldn’t someone have stepped forward already to be interviewed?
Maybe they are focusing on hiring a GM first. But if that is the case, it belies what Underwood said on Monday.
“I don’t think anything has to happen first. We have two openings, we’re looking for two different people. We know the qualities, or we think we know the qualities that we want in both men,” Underwood said Monday. “If one appears to be the candidate that is identified for a particular job first, then we’ll do that. Teams have done both things. I think some people think that there are some limitations about all of that, but we have had, just since the announcement this morning of Ruston departure, we’ve had over a dozen candidates, names that all of you would know, ask about being in our queue for interviews. We don’t think there is going to be any shortage of talent. As I said, we have identified extensive lists for both jobs and we are ready to get started.”
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But the Titans slowness in “getting started” could come back to haunt them, if they are hoping to be players in the coaching market where hot names like Adam Gase, Hue Jackson and others are already being lined up for interviews with other teams.
While the Eagles, Dolphins, Browns, 49ers and Giants have all had head coaching candidate names linked to them, none have been forthcoming yet as it pertains to the Titans.
Granted, this is a marathon and not a sprint, but if the Titans are going to pull from the best coaching pool they can draw up, shouldn’t they get in on selling themselves to the candidates now, before some of the top choices are signed, sealed and delivered somewhere else?
After all, if the Titans can get past the stumbling block that ownership is somehow unconcerned or wanting to sell the team, they can show that Tennessee is the most attractive long-term job available this off-season.
Why? First, there appears to be a young franchise quarterback available in Marcus Mariota, who should only get better the more seasoned he becomes. Other than the Giants, no other team with a coaching vacancy can say with a straight face that a franchise QB is on the roster. And with the Giants, Eli Manning is 35. Mariota just turned 22.
Second, the Titans have the first overall pick in the draft and just over $20 million of salary cap space to upgrade a roster that has issues, to be sure, but could seemingly be fixed with one prosperous off-season in free agency and the draft.
And finally, with a new GM and potentially a new coach, if the Titans can hit on the right combination of men, they can start fresh and maybe push this team back into contention for the long haul with the right moves and right hires on the coaching staff.
But the longer ownership drags its feet in the process, the more discouraged fans and media types become that the Titans can use this opportunity to finally get things right.