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VOL. 40 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 15, 2016

Titans try to balance patience, urgency in searches

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And so we enter Week 2 in the Tennessee Titans search for a new general manager and perhaps a new head coach.

It is possible that one or both of those positions could be filled within a week, but the assumption in going through this process is that controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, team president Steve Underwood, part owner Kenneth Adams IV and vice president of football administration Vin Marino will do their due diligence and not make a hasty decision as to whom to trust in the rebuilding of their football franchise.

Other than Underwood, none of them have any experience in hiring a football coach or general manager, and the Titans also have opted against having a “football person” sit in as a consultant through the process.

“I do think that how you go about the selection process makes a huge difference in the end product,” Underwood said of the coaching search. “We’re going to use a traditional method of selecting people, that is, trying to get a broad list, narrowing the list overtime, interviewing people who are highly-qualified candidates, or who we hope are highly-qualified candidates, bringing more people into the process as you continue the interview process and then trying to end up with someone who is going to be able to work with the general manager and help us build the kind of franchise that Nashville deserves.”

As of Monday, six general manager candidates had been brought in for interviews, and no head coaching candidates had emerged from the search.

The only talk on the coaching front has been the club’s statement that Mike Mularkey would be given an interview to possibly keep the job, plus a couple of speculative reports that Josh McDaniels, who is busy right now with the Patriots in the playoffs, and Doug Marrone, who is available for interview as the Jaguars offensive line coach, are on the club’s radar.

The Titans are moving at a deliberate pace to be sure, which is not necessarily a bad thing, though the process definitely must speed up over the course of the next several days in order to give the new GM a chance to assess the roster and prepare for free agency and the draft – not to mention giving whoever becomes the new head coach the biggest pool possible from which to assemble a staff.

So while the Titans assess, fans must be patient.

And speaking of being patient, the burning question beyond these two hires is just how much more patient is the Titans fan base willing to be.

Since the team’s last playoff season in 2008, the Titans have had just one winning season (a non-playoff 9-7 in 2011). In that span, the Titans have burned through four coaches, three controlling owners and two general managers – enough turnover that the Cleveland Browns probably think the Titans are dysfunctional.

So if the Titans are starting over yet again in 2016, when can fans expect marked improvement? How long before Titans fans will be asked to purchase playoff tickets again?

It’s a question I posed to Underwood at the press conference announcing the dismissal of Ruston Webster.

The answer to that seemed to be that there was not specific time or date, only measurable improvement toward that end.

“We think that we have some of the pieces that are needed to get that done, including our young quarterback, but obviously, we need more weapons,” Underwood said. “Sometimes, that can take a little time, but I would look for real progress to be made in the next season. It’s just impossible, really, to put a timeline on being back in the playoffs. There are so many things that can go wrong that are not within a coach or general manager’s control.

“Injuries, for example, are one of those things. So I hate to try and tell someone it’s going to take this long and then if that doesn’t happen, we’re going to re-load and start over. I see from time to time franchises make changes after one year or two years, I don’t think our ownership group thinks that’s the way to go on a long-term basis. We’ll make good choices, stick with those people and help them succeed.”

Given all the instability that has driven this organization into the ground, just fulfilling that promise would be a big step back in the right direction.

Playoff predictions

OK, we know the Titans aren’t anywhere near the playoffs. But we also know that you’ll be watching, wondering and envying those teams that are in the postseason. Now that the divisional round of the playoffs has arrived, this is the time to separate the true contenders from the pretenders.

Chiefs (12-5) at Patriots (12-4) Saturday, 3:35 p.m., CBS

No team enters the playoffs hotter than the Kansas City Chiefs, winners of 11 in a row. But they face a tall task to go to Foxboro and knock out the Patriots.

New England’s biggest concern will be protecting Tom Brady from a formidable Kansas City pass rush behind a patchwork offensive line. Look for the Pats to try and run it and make quick throws to neutralize the rush.

Offensively, the Chiefs want to run the ball and keep the score low. They don’t want Alex Smith in a shootout with Brady in January.

It wouldn’t be surprising for KC to pull the upset, but in the end, we think the Patriots’ experience finds a way. Patriots 24, Chiefs 20.

Steelers (11-6) at Broncos (12-4) Sunday, 3:40 p.m., CBS

The Steelers benefited from the Bengals’ meltdown and advanced into the divisional round. But at what price? Ben Roethlisberger, who did finish the game, bum shoulder and all, is questionable for this week, as is his best receiver Antonio Brown, who suffered a concussion on the hit that triggered the Bengals’ stupid-fest at the end of the game.

The Broncos have their own issue at quarterback where Peyton Manning is back from injury, but certainly looks to be fading fast. The Broncos have ridden their defense all year.

If Big Ben can play and play effectively, the Steelers could pull the upset. If not, the Broncos could roll. Broncos 27, Steelers 13.

Packers (11-6) at Cardinals (12-4), Saturday, 7:15 p.m., NBC

Aaron Rodgers got his mojo back in the win over the Redskins on Sunday that advanced the Packers into the divisional round. The Cardinals, despite laying down in the season finale against Seattle, are still one of the league’s most complete teams on both sides of the football.

The Packers have not been consistent at all this season, and will have to ratchet up a performance as good or better than they had against the Redskins to pull this one off.

Carson Palmer and the Cardinals want to atone for last year when they were the best team in the league until Palmer tore his ACL. Cardinals 31, Packers 20.

Seahawks (11-6) at Panthers (15-1), Sunday, 12:05 p.m., FOX

On paper, at least, this is the matchup of the weekend. The Seahawks, gunning for a third straight Super Bowl appearance, got their act together late in the year, and then hung on last week when Vikings kicker Blair Walsh inexplicably missed a 27-yard field goal.

Nonetheless, the Seahawks will take it. The Panthers came within a late-season stumble against the Falcons from going 16-0.

Cam Newton will probably win the MVP of the league as he came of age in 2015 as the Panthers’ leader. Defensively, it features star-laden players for both teams, from Luke Kuechly with the Panthers to the Legion of Boom led by Richard Sherman.

The Panthers escaped Seattle with a 27-23 win back in October. But the stakes are definitely raised here against a team that knows how to do it at playoff time. Our upset special: Seahawks 26, Panthers 24.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com

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