GM: Titans might cast wide net in head-coaching search

Vanderbilt's James Franklin (left) and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden both profile as NFL head coaches in the not-too-distant future.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — As Titans general manager Ruston Webster goes through the process of hiring a head coach for the first time, he already knows the attributes the new leader must possess.

In part, he needs to have some of the qualities of former head coach Mike Munchak, who was fired last week after three seasons.

"I would like somebody that I can work with similar to the way I could work with Mike," said Webster, who just completed his second season as GM after serving the previous two as vice president of player personnel.

Webster has reportedly identified a handful of potential candidates for potential interviews. That includes Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden (interviewed on Tuesday). He is the younger brother of NFL analyst Jon Gruden, the former Bucs and Raiders head coach.

The other first wave of candidates, in Webster’s mind, may include Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Ravens offensive coordinator Mike Caldwell (and former Colts head coach) and Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the former Cardinals head coach.

Webster said previous NFL head-coaching experience would be a plus, but not necessarily the trump card to earn a job offer with Tennessee.

As head coaches, Caldwell and Whisenhunt guided the Colts and Cardinals to Super Bowl berths in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

"The biggest thing to me that you can’t do is rule out guys. I want an offensive guy or a defensive guy, previous head coaching experience. … It causes you to miss out on possibly some good candidates."

Vanderbilt’s James Franklin has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but apparently Webster has yet to ask for permission to interview the Commodores coach — who just guided his team to consecutive bowl victories and nine-win seasons, both program firsts.

Through a statement released on Tuesday, Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said no decision had yet been made concerning a new head coach.

When Munchak refused, he was fired.

"My goal as head coach was to do things the right way with the right people," Munchak said in a statement, "and I felt confident that the results would follow. Sometimes, rebuilding a team and its culture takes time.

"But I truly believe we were on the verge of great things. Unfortunately, my vision did not match that of the organization, so we will part ways."

Munchak had been a part of the Oilers/Titans franchise since 1982 when the then-Oilers drafted him as an All-American lineman out of Penn State. After a Pro Football Hall of Fame playing career, he was offensive line coach with the Oilers/Titans since 1997 before following Jeff Fisher as head coach in 2011.

It was reported earlier this week the Giants had requested permission to interview Loggains as offensive coordinator. Also, Munchak had reportedly interviewed for the head-coach opening with the Lions.

Possible candidates also being mentioned for the Titans include: Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. They were associated with Webster during his previous front-office stints at Seattle and Tampa Bay.

Other potential candidates include: Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman and UCLA head coach Jim Mora.

Then again, this might be the opportunity for the Titans to finally break clear of those on the staff from the Fisher era from 1994-2010.

"They had a lot of success," Webster said. "We’re just looking for the best coach we can find for this situation now, for this team, for the organization, for Tommy Smith and the (Adams) family, and for myself."

Webster said he had no preference as to which side of the ball — offense or defense — the new head coach specializes. But he also wanted to make sure the coach pays particular attention to the opposite side of the ball from his area of expertise.

"I think as long as the head coach has a plan for the side of the ball that’s not his," Webster said, "then I think we’re in good shape. He doesn’t necessarily have to be from one side or the other."

Another question mark for the Titans lies with the future of quarterback Jake Locker. The 2011 first-rounder missed nine games this season and five in 2012, his first year as starter, because of various injuries.

"I’m a fan of Jake’s and would love to see him have success here," Webster said of Locker, who guided the Titans to a 3-1 start before missing two games to a shoulder injury. He missed the last seven games with a foot injury that required surgery.

"I think the important thing is that coach has a plan for success and to move ahead and to build the team and to continue to build off what we already have here," said Webster, who has 22 years of NFL personnel experience. "One of the biggest things when you ask me about coaches is that they do have a plan moving forward."