Titans look for new coach, GM, own top draft pick
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are looking for a new general manager and head coach after the worst two-year stretch for this franchise since the 1980s.
Luckily, they believe they have two very big pieces for rebuilding: Marcus Mariota at quarterback, and the No. 1 pick overall in the 2016 draft.
The Titans are confident enough in their quarterback that they plan to consult with him when picking a new coach, and interim head coach Mike Mularkey is a candidate after he made protecting Mariota a priority. The No. 2 pick overall, who missed four games with sprained knees, said sticking with the same coach would help to keep the same system in place.
''Whatever they decide to do, I'll be prepared and ready for it,'' Mariota said Monday.
The Titans are looking for their third coach since January 2011, and have had only one winning season since last reaching the playoffs in 2008.
The Titans themselves believe they're much closer to success than their 5-27 record over the past two seasons with Ken Whisenhunt, then Mularkey, indicates. They went 3-13 this season with six games decided by six or fewer points - four of those by a combined nine points.
''I would look for real progress to be made in the next season,'' president and CEO Steve Underwood said.
Here are some things to know about the Titans as they head into a crucial offseason:
OWNERSHIP QUESTIONS: Underwood reiterated again Monday that the Titans never have been and never will be for sale. That doesn't mean the NFL doesn't have some questions about current ownership. Founder Bud Adams died in October 2013, and Amy Adams Strunk took over as controlling owner in March. She is co-chairman of the board of directors with her sister, Susie Adams Smith, with Adams' grandson Kenneth Adams IV, who lives in Nashville, also on the board of directors.
''Since I came back to work here, we have made progress in trying to work through our issues with the league,'' Underwood said. ''I think we have made good progress. We expect to continue working with the league to help get there, but we have never discussed any of those things publicly, and we are not going to start.''
MULARKEY'S ARGUMENT: Yes, Mularkey is 18-39 as a head coach, with two seasons in Buffalo and one in Jacksonville. He only went 2-7 as interim head coach. Three close losses came under Mularkey, and the Titans posted a six-week stretch with the fewest penalties and penalty yards in the NFL. With only 24 penalties in those six games, it was this franchise's best stretch since 1983. The Titans finished second in the NFL with 93 penalties and tied for second with 779 penalty yards.
Fewer than 10 coaches currently are on the Titans' list of candidates, while they're down to 14 names to replace Ruston Webster as general manager.
FIX OFFENSIVE LINE: The Titans could wind up drafting an offensive lineman for the third time in four years in their continuing quest to fix this unit. They started eight combinations this season looking for the right mix while plagued by injuries. The Titans gave up an NFL-worst 54 sacks, including two when Mariota sprained first his left, then his right knee. Those injuries cost the rookie two games apiece.
DEFENSIVE IMPROVEMENT: Whisenhunt helped persuade Dick LeBeau to join the Titans as assistant head coach in charge of defense. Working with coordinator Ray Horton, the Titans took major leaps in several categories and finished 12th in total defense, 18th against the run and seventh against the pass. A year ago, Tennessee was 27th overall, 18th against the run and 15th defending the pass. Keeping Mularkey might mean both Horton and LeBeau stick around a bit longer.
BIG NEEDS: Mariota needs more help, so running back and wide receiver will be high on the offseason shopping list. Mariota is their only 100-yard rusher in a game since December 2013. Injuries sidelined receiver Kendall Wright for six games, and Mariota's advice for Dorial Green-Beckham this offseason was to stay out of trouble and keep his weight down.
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