With Jeff Fisher gone, the Titans now embark on something they have never done since the team arrived in Tennessee – search for a head coach.
Sources indicate to TitanInsider that offensive line coach Mike Munchak is still the leading candidate, though others, including an applicant to satisfy the Rooney Rule for minorities, will be interviewed.
Owner Bud Adams, 88, speaking from Houston by conference call, professed confidence in general manager Mike Reinfeldt and senior executive vice president Steve Underwood and their ability to find the right man to rebuild the franchise.
“I am still confident about our future. I think we have some good young players. I believe in Steve Underwood and Mike Reinfeldt to find our next head coach and I want every one of you to know I continue to have high hopes about our team,” Adams said. “I’m not giving up. We are going to get in that (Super) Bowl game again.”
Whoever takes the reins will face a daunting task, as the Titans need to find a starting quarterback and fill numerous holes on defense, plus hire three new coaches – a defensive coordinator, a defensive line coach and a running backs coach.
In hiring the next coach, general manager Mike Reinfeldt, who largely operated in the shadow of Fisher at times, will now have to stop into the spotlight and have a large say in the hire.
“I think we’re open,” Reinfeldt said in describing what type of coach he might seek. “I think head coaching experience is a good thing. There’s some interesting guys that you have to look at. At the same time, Jeff was a defensive coordinator, became a head coach – a very successful head coach.
“We do a pretty good job of – whether it’s players or personnel people or coaches – we retain lists and kind of have a ready list of guys that we think are candidates. Over the next couple days, Steve and I will be going through that list. We’ll be conferring with Mr. Adams, and we’ll be kind of taking this long list and narrowing it into a short list.”
Munchak's name is surely high on that list, given that he had a Hall of Fame career with the Titans as a player and has served on the staff since 1995 under Fisher.
“I think he’s a person, given his playing career and his coaching career, he’s certainly a person that you’d have to consider,” said Reinfeldt, a teammate of Munchak's when the franchise was in Houston. “Again, we’re kind of in the early stages of this, so it would be kind of premature to answer that question at this point in time.”
The other question will be what to do with with the 14 coaches currently on the staff. All but assistant strength and conditioning coach Jason Novak have signed extensions and Novak could be extended as well. One of the rubs with Fisher's situation apparently stemmed from the timing of the extensions – especially defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil, who signed his in December and was fired anyway last week.
Reinfeldt said the Titans will honor the coaches extensions (they are obliated to) and the new coach will have the discretion over who might stay or go after that.
“I think we have 13 coaches still under contract, and the Titans will honor those contracts,” Reinfeldt said. “When we hire the new coach, he’ll get great discretion as to who he retains and what format he retains those people.”
The process to find a new coach will begin soon, but might not find as quick a resolution as some might think. Still, a new coach needs to be in place before the Scouting Combine, which begins Feb. 24.
“We’re going to take however long it takes. Speed is not the primary consideration,” Underwood said. “Quality – just as it was in selecting our general manager four years ago – is the single most important consideration. So my answer is: however long that process takes.”
In addition to Munchak, others who might merit consideration include linebackers coach Dave McGinnis, who is a former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals; offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, if his health allows it, and former Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who is in the same capacity with the New Orleans Saints. Williams spent three years as head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
Given that Fisher is being paid several million dollars to go away, Cecil (and perhaps other assistants) will be getting paid not to coach, don't look for Adams to sign the big check it would take to bring Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden on board.