NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, January 15th, the Tennessee Titans and now former coach Mike Mularkey mutually agreed to part ways after reports initially surfaced that the team had offered him a contract extension.
Four days later and the search to replace him is in full swing.
Per Jim Wyatt of the team’s official website, Tennessee completed interviews Thursday with Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks and Mike Vrabel, who holds the same position with the Houston Texans. The Titans brought in Matt LaFleur, offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Rams, on Friday morning to make his case for the head coaching job, according to The Tennessean‘s Jason Wolf.
Tennessee confirmed that it had completed the sit-down with LaFleur Friday afternoon, per Wyatt.
Vrabel was the first of the trio to sit down with general manager Jon Robinson. The 42-year old spent three years in Houston, serving as linebackers coach from 2014 to 2016 before being promoted to defensive coordinator this season. He began his coaching career at his alma mater, Ohio State, after 14 years in the NFL as a linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1997-200), New England Patriots (2001-2008) and Kansas City Chiefs (2009-2010).
It was during Vrabel’s eight seasons in New England that he and Robinson crossed paths. Robinson came to the Patriots in 2002 as an area scout and worked his way up through the organization to become the director of college scouting from 2009 to 2013.
Wilks was the second candidate to visit with Robinson Thursday. Serving as both assistant head coach and defensive coordinator this season in Carolina, Wilks was at the head of the seventh-best unit in the NFL, in terms of total defense. The Panthers finished in the top half of the League in points allowed (11th), run defense (3rd) and sacks (3rd) at the conclusion of their 2017 campaign. Wilks joined Carolina in 2012 as a defensive backs coach before being promoted to his current position this season.
In previous stops at the professional level, Wilks coached defensive backs for the Chicago Bears (2006-2008) and the San Diego Chargers (2009-2011). He contributed to turning a unit in San Diego that ranked second-to last against the pass in the NFL the year prior to his arrival to first in the same category in 2010.
At the age of 38, LaFleur is the youngest of the potential candidates thus far.
The Rams offensive coordinator presided over the highest scoring offense in football 2017 (29.9 points per game) and was the quarterbacks coach for the Atlanta Falcons in 2015 and 2016, coinciding with Matt Ryan’s NFL MVP/Offensive Player of the Year season.
As the quarterbacks coach for Washington (2010-2013), LaFleur helped facilitate the success of Robert Griffin III in his rookie season, a year in which Griffin set franchise rookie records for passing yards (3,200), completions (258), passing touchdowns (20) and rushing yard by a quarterback (815). With LaFleur’s guidance, Griffin was the first Washington rookie quarterback to be elected to a Pro Bowl and led the team to it’s first division win in over a decade.
As of Friday, the search continues.