NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans coach Mike Munchak has filled one of the biggest openings on his staff by hiring Jerry Gray away from the University of Texas to become Tennessee’s defensive coordinator.
The Titans announced the move Saturday, a day after Munchak picked Gray up at the airport to interview him for the job.
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Munchak said he respected Gray both as a player and a coach and was someone he knew right away he wanted to talk to about being his defensive coordinator.
“It was evident to me during interview process that he will fit well with us — he is familiar with our system and the type of players that we have on the roster. He is a great teacher and a great person, and I think the players will respond well to his style,” Munchak said.
Gray was hired by Texas, his alma mater, to be defensive backs coach and assistant head coach to Mack Brown last month. He was due to make $425,000, but this job meant at least doubling that for this season. Gray said in a statement that he knows the timing of this move isn’t ideal.
“But this was something that I couldn’t turn down,” Gray said.
He replaces Chuck Cecil, who was fired in January a week before the Titans parted with coach Jeff Fisher.
A two-time All-American at Texas, Gray was a four-time Pro Bowl pick during his nine NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He started his coaching career with the then-Tennessee Oilers in 1997 as defensive quality control assistant when Munchak was promoted to offensive line coach.
Gray was promoted to secondary coach in 1999 and 2000. Samari Rolle and Blaine Bishop earned Pro Bowl honors in 2000 when the Titans ranked first in the NFL in fewest yards passing and total yards allowed.
He left in 2001 with Gregg Williams for Buffalo as defensive coordinator through 2005. His defenses in 2003 and 2004 ranked second in the NFL in each season for yards allowed. Both defenses ranked in the top 10 in points allowed. In 2004, the Bills led the NFL with 39 takeaways and were fifth in red zone defense.
He coached the secondary in Washington between 2006 and 2009 before moving to Seattle for the 2010 season. Gray played with Munchak during the 1992 season for the then-Houston Oilers.
“I have known Mike for a number of years and if he is a head coach like he was a player or a position coach, we are going to be in great shape, because he has had so much success and everything he does,” Gray said.
This is Munchak’s second hiring since taking over on Monday. He also hired close friend and fellow Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews to replace him as the offensive line coach.
Munchak still has several openings left to fill including offensive coordinator, running backs assistant, defensive line and a couple of other assistants.