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GM Ran Carthon Motivated to Turn Titans Around, and Prove Ownership Right


INDIANAPOLIS – Ran Carthon just received a promotion, with a bigger title and, contractually, more control.

As Executive Vice President/General Manager of the Titans, Carthon has a new head coach in Brian Callahan that he's fired up about, and as he looks ahead, he has some big ways – a premium draft pick and plenty of cap room – to improve the football team he's in charge of rebuilding.

He's both flattered, and motivated.

"You can't ask for a bigger honor to be bestowed upon you than for an owner to put their trust in you," Carthon said from the NFL Combine. "I want to prove Miss Amy right. I know how much this means to Miss Amy, what this organization means to her and the family. So yeah, I want to prove her right.

"My No.1 thing is to always give this city and this state something to be proud of, and that's how I approach every day. Even though contractually I have roster control and these things, Cally and I are still going to make every decision together. Even in the moments that we disagree, we are going to find a way to come to the best resolution because it is not just solely about me, it is not solely about him. It is about making the best decision for the organization, and that's what we're going to do."

Carthon, Callahan and the Titans have plenty of work to do, of course.

On the heels of the team's 6-11 season, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk decided to part ways with coach Mike Vrabel.

There's been plenty of speculation that the decision was about more than just the results, but the results were reason enough. After all, the franchise hasn't won a playoff game since the 2019 season, and teams in 2020 and 2021 went one-and-done in the playoffs, quickly quashing bigger expectations. The Titans lost seven straight games to close out the 2022 season, blowing a big lead in the AFC South in the final month of that season, to finish 7-10. The franchise has lost 18 of its past 24 games over the past two seasons while being riddled by injuries, and plagued by insufficient offenses. The magic Vrabel used to win close games earlier in his regime vanished somewhat in 2023, when the team lost seven one-score games.

Now, Carthon has a big role in helping to get things back on track. Last month, Carthon's duties expanded to include all areas that impact the football team, including roster control, team activities and personnel decisions including draft and free agency acquisitions, oversight of Callahan and his coaching staff, and scouting.

Callahan, hired from a big group of candidates, said working with Carthon in his first month on the job has been "incredible."

"As you guys know, Ran's a relationship builder," Callahan said of Carthon. "It's kind of his superpower, I like to say. But us being on the same page, if you're on the same page with the front office and the coaching staff, you can really do a great job finding the right people and right players to fit your team when everyone's looking for the same thing. And so that part's been really fun. I enjoy being around Ran every day. And Chad Brinker too. Between me, Ran, Chad and Anthony Robinson, we probably are in and out of each other's office probably 10, 12 times a day. I mean, we're always talking, going back and forth. But it's been a really, really fun partnership to build and relationship to start to grow with. It's been a blast."

Carthon is excited about it, too, of course.

But, as Carthon shared the Indianapolis Convention Center hallways with Callahan, and not Vrabel, here at the combine, he was also completely prepared to answer questions about his previous partnership with the franchise's former head coach.

While spreading optimism about what's ahead with Callahan, Carthon, when asked, also cleared up a few things about his relationship with Vrabel then, and now.

And, he said he feels some responsibility for things working out like they did, with Vrabel out of a job.

There are plenty of theories about how things unfolded inside the walls of Ascension Saint Thomas Sports Park as it relates to decision-making in the last year, of course.

NFL Network analyst Charles Davis provided this one in an interview with

"When you're the GM, and you have a coach like Mike Vrabel, you are trying to work in tandem, in concert, with somebody like that, but Mike Vrabel has a presence, he's a force of nature, and he's not even trying to be – it's just who he is," Davis said. "And that force of nature (now) not being there gives Ran Carthon a chance, maybe his voice will be quote/unquote heard, not that it wasn't, but people will get to look at him with new eyes.

"It's just how it works – Mike was the established guy, and Ran was the new guy. Ran wants to be collaborative, and now he'll have a chance to do that with Brian."

Carthon said he and Vrabel did work together through issues, after he arrived in Tennessee, from San Francisco, following Vrabel's fifth season with the team.

While they didn't see eye to eye on everything, they worked things out.

A part of Carthon regrets not publicly clearing some misconceptions up about their relationship earlier, and he said that's a lesson learned.

"Mike deferred to me sometimes (on decisions), and I deferred to him," Carthon said. "There were guys that I didn't have exposures to that had been with the team, that I said: 'Hey Mike, you spent more time with this guy, and you know him a little bit better than I do, so I'm going to defer to you.' I did defer to him sometimes, but that's part of being in a partnership. But he deferred to me as well. It's a two-way street.

"People made so much about he and I's relationship that was completely false. At least from my vantage point, we never had an argument, we never really had much disagreements on players."

In fact, Carthon said he's remained in touch with Vrabel even after his departure. The two have wished each other well in their own endeavors since.

Carthon said his 16-year-old daughter sees a photo of herself – with Vrabel – every time she picks up her phone.

"Mike and I have texted since, and he congratulated me when we hired Cally," Carthon said. "If you look at my daughter's screensaver on her phone, it's her and coach Vrabel, because they had a really close relationship. If there was any true beef between us, it wouldn't happen that way. Even when we let (Mike) go, my daughter reached out to him, and he texted her back. And they have a good relationship. … There's no real animosity (with us) or anything like that."

"I have so much respect for Mike and what he has done, and what he has meant to this game. Of course, you wanted it to work out, and I feel responsible for why it didn't, and you have to. But with where we are with Cally, it's onward and upward."

Yes, onward and upward.

On the final day of February, the Titans are less than two weeks away from the start of free agency, with money to spend. The Titans rank among the top teams in the NFL in cap room.

The Titans have the seventh overall pick in the first round of the draft, with eight picks total.

While questions surround the future of running back Derrick Henry, there are reasons to be optimistic about the team's young quarterback, Will Levis, who just completed his rookie season.

In many ways, it's a fresh, new start for Carthon.

He has high hopes, and yes, plenty of motivation.

"Our long-term goal," Carthon said, "is to build this football team into a consistent winner."

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