Titans part with Ruston Webster

The Tennessee Titans announced this morning they will not renew Ruston Webster’s contract and will be searching for a new general manager as well as permanent head coach.

Webster’s fate was thought likely to be sealed when he did not take part in the press conference following Ken Whisenhunt’s firing as head coach that announced Mike Mularkey’s elevation to the interim job. Rather, that was led by longtime franchise stalwart Steve Underwood, who had the “interim” part of his team president and CEO title removed in today’s announcement. When Paul Kuharsky reported late in the year that Webster’s contract was up at the end of this season, something Webster had previously declined public comment on, pretty much everybody know what was likely to come this week.

As I wrote in Saturday’s post, it was difficult to put together an argument in favor of Webster’s continued employment as Titans general manager after he took over the top job following a 9-7 season and ended it with a team that went 5-27 in his third and fourth seasons and earned the second and first overall picks in the NFL draft. There’s a good argument not all the problems were of his own making, but he compounded them with a series of bad decisions from a team-building and roster management perspective.

Now, the next step, finding a new general manager and permanent head coach. The press release indicated Underwood will read both of those searches and was non-committal on whether one or the other would take priority. This indicates to me a level of flexibility on whether the head coach or the general manager would have final personnel authority. My personal preference is that the general manager is the general manager and the head coach is the head coach, which as we’ve seen is a difficult enough job on its own, but teams have been successful giving the head coach final authority and I won’t rule anything out.

As to who I’m looking for to fill both jobs, I don’t have any specific insights. The potential general manager candidates are people whose precise roles, responsibilities, strengths and weaknesses, and interests I have no specific insight into. My general preference is for people who have worked in more than one city, for more than one boss, in more than one system, and who have had success. Given the Titans are where they are, I would prefer a candidate familiar with a rebuilding process. The most important things are that this person have a vision for building the franchise and that they work well with the head coach.

For the head coach, I would prefer a candidate with experience at the head coach or coordinator level; the list of good coaches in the past 25 years who haven’t had that and have been successful is basically “Andy Reid.” Familiarity with the NFL and managing the NFL player is a necessity in my eyes; speaking theoretically, I would not want the Titans to hire a career college coach with no NFL experience like Kevin Sumlin, while I would be more open to a college coach with NFL experience like Pete Carroll had. Unlike Mike Munchak, this head coaching candidate should have watched a 7-on-7 drill before (the head coach or coordinator requirement should take care of this). Like the general manager, this person must have a vision for the type of team they want to have and they must work well with the general manager. Given the Titans have one irreplaceable asset, this person must have a plan for Marcus Mariota’s use and development; this does not mean they have to have an offensive background, but they must have an identity they want for their offense and a person to implement it (see, e.g., Mike Zimmer with Norv Turner in Minnesota). My general preference is that the head coach would not call the plays-being a head coach is hard enough without having to be the offensive or defensive coordinator as well-which is why I’m not necessarily as high on potential candidates like Hue Jackson or Josh McDaniels as others. If this person has previously been an NFL head coach, I want to know what they would do differently this time around and why. Retention of current coaches should not be a priority or even a target point given you are looking for somebody to lead an overall building process and the development of the franchise’s most valuable asset of the past 20 years.

I plan to keep commentary on the ins and outs of the coaching search to Twitter, unless something particularly interesting that I believe would benefit from a longer form treatment happens. Any hirings and actual news on who will lead the Titans into the 2016 season and beyond will be covered as they happen.