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My Two Cents: Titans Boss Ran Carthon Got His Man in Brian Callahan, Now It's Time to Get To Work

Now that Ran Carthon basically has total control of all the big decisions with the Tennessee Titans, it's on him to get it right. His first big move, hiring Brian Callahan as his head coach, looks like a good one. This much we know: They're both ready to get to work.
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NASHVILLE — Ran Carthon, the man with the new long title, strolled up to the podium at the Tennessee Titans' complex with a chore to do. He's the boss now, the guy in charge, and it was his job to introduce Brian Callahan as the franchise's new head coach. 

Long-winded speeches are not his thing, and you could tell the Titans' new Executive Vice President/General Manager didn't want to be up there long.

"I just want to get to work,'' he said.

We all agree.

It was a special day at the Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park, because you don't get to introduce a new head coach very often. The Titans hadn't done this for six years, not since they hired Mike Vrabel. Callahan, the 39-year-old former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, is the sixth Titans coach since the team moved from Houston to Nashville.

And it was his day, for sure, He arrived to much fanfare, with his wife and adorable two kids in tow. After some kind words from Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, Callahan said his piece — getting emotional at times during all of his thank yous — and then answered about 40 minutes' worth of questions from the local media.

He handled it all well. And this, folks, is the start of a new era. He's the guy.

Just as importantly, he is Ran Carthon's guy. When the Titans announced Callahan's hiring on Wednesday, they also announced Carthon's promotion. He was just hired a year ago — practically to the day — and now he's the man in charge of most everything. It's going to be his roster, with final say on draft choices and free agents. He's also in charge of the coaching staff, including Callahan.

Every major decision going forward is his to make. He'll get praised for every success and criticized for every failure. That's a lot for a guy who has a long NFL resume as a player and front office executive, but never with this kind of power.

Miss Amy might own this team, but it's Carthon's to run now. She made that clear in this new power structure. And his first decision — with the blessing of everyone, including the owner — was to hire Callahan. 

We can't really answer if it's the right move or not, but on day one, it sure looks good. Callahan's going to have to win games, of course, and he has a lot to prove. He's replacing a dominating figure in Vrabel, who was just the NFL's Coach of the Year three years ago but fell on hard times lately, going 6-18 in his last 24 games.

Ownership — and Carthon — wanted a more ''collaborative'' work environment, and they've got that now. Callahan said he had an instant connection with Carthon during the interview process and wished they could have struck a deal during the first interview. 

The second interview, which was in person in Nashville, was all everyone involved needed. This was their guy, and everyone on the Titans' staff was thrilled to have Callahan. He wasn't leaving the building without a deal in hand. 

Callahan was thrilled, too. He wanted this job — and wanted it badly.

It's been a life-long dream of his to be an NFL head coach because he grew up in a football family. His dad, Bill Callahan, has been a college and pro football coach since 1980, before Brian was even born. He was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders for two years, and even led them to the Super Bowl in 2003. He grew up around the game, and it's been in his blood forever.

Calling his father with the big news was a surreal moment, Brian Callahan said.

"It was cool. It was cool,'' he said, his voice crackling a bit. "I think I asked him; I don't know how many fathers and sons have been head coaches in the NFL. I don't think it's many. And I think it's a very prideful thing for him to be associated with him and I. 

"It's been a lot. You live this lifestyle, and there's a lot of ups and downs, and there's a lot of adversity that comes your way in coaching. And so just the fact that I've been able to stand up here and he's been able to do the same thing, for me that's a huge honor. Obviously, you want to be like your dad, you know?''

Carthon and his team, they did their homework. They interviewed nine candidates in total, but Callahan was immediately the primary target.

And for good reason.

He has the offensive mind they were looking for. He's worked with a lot of great quarterbacks through the years, from Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford, to Derek Carr and, most recently, Joe Burrow at Cincinnati.

He's had a lot to do with Burrow's growth. They went to a Super Bowl together already. He's one of the best young quarterbacks in the game, and Callahan and Bengals coach Zac Taylor had a lot to do with it.

Carthon loves many, many things about Callahan, but when he pushed all of his chips to the middle of the table in wanting to hire him, that ability to get the most out of quarterbacks was at the top of his list.

And with good reason.

Carthon's most valuable personnel asset right now is rookie quarterback Will Levis. Last April on draft day, Carthon and the Titans' front office watched in amazement as Levis fell out of the first round. They acted quickly and traded up overnight to grab him with the second pick in the second round, No. 33 overall.

Levis, a former Kentucky star who started his college career at Penn State, has all the physical tools you'd want in a quarterback. He was able to start nine games as a rookie, and did some good things, including throwing four touchdown passes against Atlanta in his debut.

It's Carthon's bet that Callahan is the guy to bring out the best in Levis. It's a big bet, and that's what this hire is all about. During Vrabel's six years, this Titans leaned heavily on a power running game focused on Derrick Henry, with some good-and-bad quarterback play from Ryan Tannehill tossed in.

There was some success. They reached the AFC Championship Game three years ago, but the Titans lost 18 of their past 24 games and things were trending in the wrong direction. Henry and Tannehill both just played out their contracts, and it was definitely time for a change.

So Vrabel got tossed, and now ownership has handed the keys to Carthon to get the Titans back to the playoffs — and quickly. Hiring Callahan is the first step.

There are a lot of things to be excited about. Tennessee has more than $75 million in cap space to play with this offseason — a league high —  and they have a quarterback in Levis who is on a very cheap four-year, $9.5 million contract. 

They can build around him — and quickly — and they have the cash to do it. 

It's also Carthon's big bet that they've hired the right guy in Callahan to make this all work. You sit in the big chair, and every decision you make will get overanalyzed. That's certainly true of Carthon's first big move. Lots of eyeballs on this one.

One thing is certain, at least from Thursday's news conference. Callahan and Carthon are in lockstep, and are ready to work together to get everything right. The pecking order works for both of them. That includes building a coaching staff, securing more talent, and establishing a culture that's based on ''resilient and relentless'' work habits every day.

So these two, Carthon and Callahan, are attached at the hip. They're ready for one thing, for sure.

They are ready to go to work. 

And Titans Nation will be watching.    

  • TITANS INTRODUCE CALLAHAN: New Tennessee Titans leader Brian Callahan, sometimes choking back emotion, calls his first head coaching job an incredible honor and responsibility and promises to field a team that is resilient and relentless. Here's the story from his introductory press conference. CLICK HERE
  • CALLAHAN GETS EMOTIONAL: Tennessee Titans coach Brian Callahan got emotional talking about his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. He took a long pause before thanking team owner Mike Brown and coach Zac Taylor for the opportunities with the organization. CLICK HERE
  • CALLAHAN'S COACHING EDUCATION: Once upon a time, Tennessee Titans coach Brian Callahan was a backup quarterback warming the bench with the greatest high school football program ever. He never did play much, but the coaches who nurtured him say he was always a brilliant student of the game. CLICK HERE
  • TITANS DAILY PODCAST: The Tennessee Titans are set to hire Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan as their next head coach. We need to get to know him better, so publisher James Rapien joined the "Titans Daily Podcast'' to tell us all about him. CLICK HERE
  • TOM BREW COLUMN: Brian Callahan has worked with some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and most recently has helped turned Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow into a star. He's the next head coach of the Tennessee Titans, and his first job will be to turn Will Levis into that same kind of star. This is a great hire for the Titans. CLICK HERE
  • PEYTON MANNING ON CALLAHAN: Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is raving about his former collaborator and the Tennessee Titans' new coach. He's a "great hire." CLICK HERE