*NASHVILLE, Tenn. — *The Titans made some significant changes in their front office on Monday, parting ways with General Manager Ruston Webster while also opening a search for a new head coach.
Already, the team has started the process of finding the men to fill those seats moving forward.
"We started our head coach and general manager searches in earnest today,'' Titans President and CEO Steve Underwood said during an afternoon press conference. "We have been working on the possibility of that prospect for a number of weeks. We have identified for our owners many candidates for both of these jobs.
"Nashville is a great city, and we have great fans. And we think -- our owners and I -- that the single most important thing we can be doing is finding a way to reverse our club's fortunes and to win. So we are going to work very hard on both searches going forward, and we think that we will refine our list and have great candidates. We have sent a number of requests already for interviews and we are excited about getting the process kicked off and going."
Underwood said Mike Mularkey, who was named interim coach in place of Ken Whisenhunt seven games into the 2015 season, is a candidate despite the 2-7 record the team posted in his nine games.
"I think there are a lot of considerations in determining the success or failure of an interim candidate. Let's take, for example, Jeff Fisher,'' said Underwood. Fisher was retained as head coach in 1995 despite winning just one game while coaching the Oilers on an interim basis the previous year. The Titans ended up going to the playoffs on six different occasions under Fisher, including two AFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl.
"Jeff was our interim coach before he became our permanent head coach, and he won I think one game during that stint. Yet he went on to become a highly successful coach for us. So how you do wins and losses as an interim head coach is not the only measurement tool. But that also doesn't mean Mike is going to be the final selection. It means that he is a candidate.
"… But you look at the wins and losses, and you look at his relationship with the centerpiece of our franchise (Marcus Mariota), and you look at how our players see him and view him as a head coach, how he interacts with his staff, how he interacts with Ruston, and what obstacles he faced in trying to use a system that was someone else's design. … I think there are so many things that need to be looked at in evaluating him."
Underwood said controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk and Kenneth Adams IV from the ownership group will be involved in the interview process, along with himself and Vin Marino, Vice President of Football Administration.
Interviews are expected to begin in the next 48 hours.
In addition to outside candidates, Underwood said in-house candidates will be also be considered, including Mularkey.
"We are going to interview a number of head coach candidates,'' Underwood said. "There hasn't been a decision made about head coach, but at the same time, we haven't eliminated Mike as a contender either."
Underwood said the franchise's vision is for a GM and head coach to collaborate on personnel decisions.
The list of candidates is a long one, Underwood said. Underwood said the Titans have identified 14 finalists for the General Manager position, although not all of them will get interviews.
Titans President/CEO Steve Underwood addresses head coach and GM search with reporters at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Donn Jones Photography)
Ownership was provided a list of 155 candidates for head coach after Whisenhunt was dismissed, and that list has since been trimmed. Coaches at the professional and college ranks will be considered.
Underwood said the Titans are looking for the right fits, and it doesn't necessarily matter whether the team hires a GM or head coach first.
"I don't think anything has to happen first. We have two openings, and we are looking for two different people. We know the qualities we want in both men. If one appears to be the candidate that is identified for a particular job first, then we'll do that,'' Underwood said.
"Some teams pick a head coach first, some teams pick a GM first. My personal view is that isn't always important as long as you have people that can work together. I think the worst thing that you can do is have two men who are at odds with each other, and we are not going to have that."
The most important thing, Underwood said, is to get it right.
"We haven't set a deadline,'' Underwood said. "My answer to that question (about the timetable) is as long as it takes to get the right people."