Webster Out as GM; Mularkey in Mix for Head Coach


NASHVILLE, Tenn. —The Titans removed the interim tag from Steve Underwood's title on Monday morning, and named him Chief Executive Officer with the franchise on a permanent basis.

The Titans on Monday morning also decided not to renew the contract of General Manager Ruston Webster, and the team announced plans to conduct a search to find its next head coach.

Mike Mularkey, who replaced Ken Whisenhunt in November and served as interim coach the last nine games of the season, will be in the mix for the coaching job on a permanent basis.

The developments come one day after the Titans finished the 2015 season with a 3-13 record.

A press conference has been scheduled for later today.

"Today, I am glad to announce that Steve Underwood will be continuing in his role as our president and chief executive officer on a permanent basis," said Titans Controlling Owner and Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors Amy Adams Strunk. "I have had ongoing discussions with Steve on this issue for a while, and I feel his leadership is vital in order to move us forward. He has brought much-needed stability to our organization, and I look forward to progress that will be made under his leadership.

"Additionally, I would like to thank Ruston Webster for all of his efforts with our franchise, as he is a man of great character and integrity and someone for whom we I have tremendous respect. Our mission is to become one of the elite franchises in the National Football League, and we have fallen short of this goal in recent years. We are in the search process for our head coaching and general manager positions. We share our fans' frustration about the team's recent performance, and we are committed to doing everything we can to return our team to a perennial postseason contender."

Webster just finished his fourth season as General Manager after being elevated to the role in January 2012. The previous two seasons (2010-11) he served as the team's vice president of player personnel.

Last offseason, Webster spearheaded making significant changes to the roster via the draft and free agency, including picking quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft. The Titans also added linebacker Brian Orakpo, safety Da'Norris Searcy, tight end Anthony Fasano, receiver Harry Douglas and cornerback Perrish Cox in free agency.

A 5-27 record over the past two seasons, however, made Webster's job security a subject of conversation during the 2015 season, and on Monday, Titans ownership decided to make a change.

"I want to thank the Titans organization for the opportunity to be their general manager over the last four seasons," said Webster. "I have always had the best interests of the franchise in mind and did my best to move this franchise forward. The most important thing to me are the relationships I built within the building and the Nashville community. My family and I will be forever grateful, and we wish the franchise the best of luck in the future."

The Titans will immediately conduct a search for Webster's replacement.

Vice President of Football Administration Vin Marino will oversee the Titans' football operations during the general manager search.

The Titans will also begin exploring head coaching candidates. Mularkey said after Sunday's 30-24 loss to the Colts he'd like to be in the mix for the job, and he's expected to get consideration.

Mularkey replaced Whisenhunt seven games into the 2015 season, and served as interim head coach the final nine games of the season. The Titans went 2-14 in Whisenhunt's first season as head coach in 2014.

"Obviously I would like to have the opportunity to sit down and talk about it,'' Mularkey said. "There is a good nucleus here, there are a lot of young players, a lot of good. I think we are very close here and I would like the opportunity to talk about it."

The Titans must interview at least one minority candidate for head coach to satisfy the NFL's Rooney Rule, even if the team ultimately decided to keep Mularkey.

The rule, named after Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for all vacant head coaching and general manager positions.

Mularkey joined the Titans in 2014 as tight ends coach and was elevated to assistant head coach prior to the start of the 2015 season. He has 20 years of NFL coaching experience, including three seasons as a head coach and eight as an offensive coordinator, with coaching stops in Jacksonville, Atlanta, Miami, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. In five of the eight seasons he was a coordinator Mularkey's team went to the playoffs.

Mularkey joined the Titans after one season as head coach of the Jaguars (2012), and four seasons (2008-11) with the Falcons as offensive coordinator.  Mularkey served as head coach for the Buffalo Bills for two seasons (2004-05), and in his first season with the team the Bills finished 9-7.

After serving three decades in a number of roles with the franchise, including Senior Executive Vice President/General Counsel at the time of his retirement in 2011, Underwood returned to the Titans in March 2015 to serve as the team's interim President and CEO.

Underwood previously served as a general counsel and in other key capacities for the franchise for a 35-year period.

"I am honored and humbled to be asked to continue to serve in this leadership role," Underwood said. "We have a great deal of work to do to set up our franchise for long-term success, and we will continue to do everything in our power to move this organization forward. I believe brighter days are on the horizon for our franchise, and I am thankful for this opportunity."


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