Over the last 24 hours, optimism has returned to the Tennessee Titans fan base, but we still aren’t out of the woods yet.
This franchise has always chosen strange times to announce hirings and firings, but every minute that Todd Downing was still employed by the Tennessee Titans felt like an hour.
With rumors swirling around Nashville radio stations and on social media that Mike Vrabel didn’t view Todd Downing as a problem, it may have taken the seven-game losing streak to finally make it happen but Downing has now been fired.
That wasn’t the only news that helped build goodwill in the fan base though, as external names for the GM position started being leaked.
Remember, this is a staff that has almost exclusively been built out of people whom Mike Vrabel has worked with before, so there was legitimate concern that this would be more of a dog and pony show than a real search.
Looking at the names of potential GM candidates, it looks like Amy Adams Strunk might actually be trying to make the best hire for the team.
Tennessee Titans external GM candidates
In the order of when the news broke, here are the GM candidates connected to the Titans as well as comments made by people with inside information about the NFL.
Ran Carthon, San Francisco 49ers
"“Carthon interviewed for the Giants, Bears and Steelers jobs last year, and helped build winners with the Falcons, Rams and now the Niners. Along the way, the 41-year-old former NFL running back, who played with Peyton Manning in Indy, has worked for some of the league’s most forward-thinking personnel departments, while maintaining roots in old-school scouting as a second-generation NFL guy.”"
"“The 49ers are among the best teams in the NFL despite being forced to turn to their third-string quarterback. San Francisco has plenty of stars, but they’ve also built ample depth, and Ran Carthon is a critical part of that effort.”"
Adam Peters, San Francisco 49ers
"“Peters would be a top name if this was a ranking—he was runner-up for the Giants’ job last year, and the Maras raved about how the Niners exec was like Schoen—very complete as a personnel man, with command over every level of a football operation. Peters has rings from New England and Denver, and has had a presence in helping put together what’s arguably the best roster in football.”"
"“Like Carthon, Peters has been an essential component of the 49ers’ front office. When San Francisco hired him away from the Broncos in 2017, the move was viewed as a coup. Peters has served as a right-hand man to 49ers GM John Lynch, who had never worked in a front office before joining San Francisco.”"
Glenn Cook, Cleveland Browns
"“The former University of Miami linebacker interviewed for the Vikings’ and Bears’ openings last year, and despite Cleveland’s uneven year is a name you’ll continue to hear connected to jobs because of the reputation he has in scouting circles. Cook learned the business under executives Ted Thompson and Bill Polian, and having worked in an analytically sound organization under Browns GM Andrew Berry should help him with owners”"
Ian Cunningham, Chicago Bears
"“Chicago hasn’t had a great year, but Cunningham’s very clearly viewed as a future GM—if a year or two away. He learned under Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore, and rose there to become Southeast area scout (Newsome views that role as a big one organizationally), then helped to rework the Eagles’ roster as their college scouting director, eventually becoming director of player personnel before jumping to the Bears last winter.”"
Malik Boyd, Buffalo Bills
There isn’t much to find about Boyd and he has had a successful, but relatively quiet career so far. After a short scouting stint with the Indianapolis Colts, then he climbed the ranks with the Arizona Cardinals from 2005-2017 before Brandon Beane hired Boyd to start his regime in Buffalo.
Quentin Harris, Arizona Cardinals
"Both interviewed for GM jobs last year, and I think there’s a pretty decent chance Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill officially elevates both in a sort of co-general manager setup. For what it’s worth, the two scouted the Peach Bowl together last week while in town for Arizona’s game against the Falcons."
This is a very diverse and competent group of candidates, and it is hard to rank them in any sort of definitive order right now. For example, Harris has had an evident rise in the Cardinals’ organization and he made that leap right after he retired from the NFL which has to resonate with Mike Vrabel when you look at his path to becoming a head coach.
Ian Cunningham cut his teeth as the SEC scout under Ozzie Newsome in Baltimore and anyone who remembers that regime knows the emphasis put on SEC players. Similarly, most of the best players on the Tennessee Titans roster are SEC guys (Derrick Henry, Jeffery Simmons, Treylon Burks, Ben Jones, etc.).
If Mike Vrabel really wants to start trying to bring the Titans into the 21st century, Glenn Cook might be the perfect guy to get him there. Cook is a former linebacker who might be able to get through to Vrabel that you can still go by your gut and be a football guy, while also realizing that you don’t need to run the ball as much as humanly possible.
And you could do this will all the guys on this list, but it is hard for me to ignore the impact that guys like Adam Peters and Ran Carthon could have on this organization. Those two have been building a team around the same ideas that would fit the Tennessee Titans the best.
They have been drafting and signing players that fit in that Kyle Shanahan offense that suits players like Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. On the other side of the ball, they spent a long time finding players for Robert Saleh who strongly believes in a defense where your front four can get home by themselves, similar to what the Titans believe on defense.
The interview process would be the deciding factor obviously, but it is hard to go wrong with either one of those candidates in my mind.