Titans’ Webster out, Mularkey coaching candidate

Titans GM Ruston Webster out, Mularkey candidate in coaching search run by team president. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans are looking for a new general manager and coach with no timeline to fill either job.

The man running the searches for both positions just had the interim tag taken off his own job after coming out of retirement a few months ago.

This franchise has won just five games the past two seasons — its worst stretch since 1983 and 1984.

Yet, the Titans have Marcus Mariota at quarterback and the top overall draft pick in the 2016 draft.

Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood said Monday they were "overrun" by requests from people wanting to be interviewed for either general manager or coach once news broke about the positions. Now they need to hire the right people.

"We already have one of those pieces, or at least we strongly believe that we do in Marcus," Underwood said. "We need to find people to surround him with that will help him mature as a NFL quarterback and lead our franchise to the next success."

Underwood relieved Ruston Webster of his job as general manager Monday. Interim coach Mike Mularkey will stick around while the Titans search for a coach to replace Ken Whisenhunt who was fired Nov. 3. Mularkey is a candidate for the job.

Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement that the Titans have fallen far short of the goal to be one of the NFL's elite franchises.

"We share our fans' frustration about the team's recent performance, and we are committed to doing everything we can to return our team to a perennial post-season contender," Strunk said.

Webster was promoted to general manager Jan. 18, 2012 after two seasons as vice-president of player personnel. He also worked with Seattle and Tampa Bay. But the Titans went 18-46 in his seasons and just 5-27 the last two years. Going 3-13 landed the franchise the top overall draft pick for the first time since 1978 when the then-Houston Oilers traded for that pick.

"Does that mean the fact we won only five games in the last two years, that all that's all on Ruston?" Underwood said. "No. But he was the general manager then. Our talent was acquired then, and I think in making her decision Amy looked first to what is the principal measurement tool that's used in our business, and that's wins and losses."

Vin Marino, vice-president of football administration, will run football operations during the search for a new general manager.

Strunk also asked Underwood on Monday to remain as president and CEO permanently. He came out of retirement last March when Strunk took over as co-chairman of the board of directors, and he's sticking around to help a franchise he has worked with for 35 years.

His first priorities are hiring a new general manager and a coach, not necessarily in that order. Underwood said both will be expected to work together.

Interviews are expected to start as soon as candidates can arrive, ideally within the next 48 hours. There is no timeline for hirings, but Underwood said Strunk and Kenneth Adams IV, a member of the board of directors who works in Nashville, will take part in interviews.

The Titans started with more than 80 possible candidates for general manager, a list that has been whittled to 14 Underwood said they consider finalists, all with at least 15 years of personnel experience. Tennessee also started with 155 names for head coach and it's now down to fewer than 10.

That includes Mularkey, who went 2-7 since taking over as interim coach Nov. 3 when Whisenhunt was fired after a 3-20 record with three seasons left on his contract. Mularkey has an overall record of 18-39 with stops as coach in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005, and in Jacksonville in 2012.

Underwood said Mularkey's record and adjustments made since replacing Whisenhunt will be considered because the interim coach had no chance to put in his own schemes.

He also made it very clear that nothing has changed about the Titans' ownership.

"The team is not for sale and has never been for sale," Underwood said.