Ran Carthon

Titans GM Ran Carthon To Control Roster; Team Promotes Chad Brinker

Even if it was not necessarily a power struggle between Ran Carthon and Mike Vrabel that led to the latter’s ouster, the Titans’ GM selection did not sit well with the fired head coach. The organization will now give Carthon more power.

A year after his hire, Carthon received a promotion. The Titans bumped their GM up to the position of executive vice president, per a team announcement that also includes the Brian Callahan HC hire becoming official. Additionally, the Titans are elevating assistant GM Chad Brinker to president of football operations.

Carthon’s title bump means he will control the 53-man roster and oversee the coaching staff, TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick notes, as opposed to Callahan being given that power. This is not surprising, considering Amy Adams Strunk pushed back on Vrabel’s interest in controlling the roster. Vrabel is believed to have made that push before the Titans hired Carthon, whom the six-year HC did not view as an ideal GM candidate in 2023. Adams Strunk, however, confirmed Carthon will have more responsibility going forward.

Ran’s exceptional reputation around the league as a talent evaluator and culture builder was a clear competitive advantage during last year’s free agency and draft process, as well as our recent search for a head coach,” Adams Strunk said. “Simply put, Ran Carthon makes the Tennessee Titans a destination for the league’s top talent.

By expanding his role to include full roster control and oversight of the coaching staff, our organization will now benefit more completely from Ran’s unique ability to build and lead a championship-caliber football team.”

Wednesday morning’s title adjustments are also notable involving Brinker, whom the Titans hired as assistant GM last year. The ex-Packers exec joined Anthony Robinson as assistant GMs in Carthon’s first year leading the front office. The Brinker hire occurred first last year. No Robinson title change has taken place, pointing to the Tennessee power structure being Carthon-Brinker-Robinson in 2024. That said, veteran Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky indicates Brinker is expected to report directly to ownership. That would give the Titans two front office pillars who will do so.

Brinker joined the Titans after 13 years with the Packers. Although no GM interview requests have come Brinker’s way this offseason, he is well-regarded around the league. The Titans placed Brinker in charge of cap management during his first year in Nashville. Robinson, who came over from the Falcons last year, oversees the Titans’ scouting department.

Adams Strunk’s comments regarding Carthon’s work in the draft are interesting. A recent report indicated former interim GM Ryan Cowden ran the team’s draft board last year; Cowden is now with the Giants. After working alongside a head coach with a certain level of power in Vrabel, Carthon is clearly in charge now. Carthon is not believed to have been involved in Vrabel’s ouster; that move came directly from ownership. Should Callahan be fired during Carthon’s tenure, the latter will almost certainly have a hand in it. Carthon joined the Titans after six years with the 49ers.

Titans Considered Firing Mike Vrabel In 2023; HC Sought Full Roster Control

Mike Vrabel interview requests have not come in yet, but they almost certainly will soon. The well-regarded HC is done after six Titans seasons, with Tennessee’s 2023 offseason laying the groundwork for Tuesday’s firing.

Confirming a previous report of Vrabel preferring Titans interim GM Ryan Cowden over Ran Carthon for the full-time post, The Athletic’s Dianna Russini and Jon Rexrode report Vrabel suggested to Amy Adams Strunk the team make Carthon the assistant GM due to not viewing former the ex-49ers No. 3 exec — behind John Lynch and Adam Peters — as ready for the GM role (subscription required). With Strunk not taking kindly to that suggestion, it does not appear she and Vrabel’s relationship bounced back.

Despite the report of a rift between Vrabel and Carthon, the latter was not involved in the firing, according to Russini and Rexrode. Carthon came to Tennessee after six years in San Francisco, being hired Jan. 17, 2023, and the former 49ers director of pro personnel interviewed for the Cardinals’ GM vacancy last year. Peters declined both Arizona and Tennessee’s requests; he is now a finalist for Washington’s director of football operations post.

The Titans began to tear down their previous power structure by firing Jon Robinson in December 2022, doing so 10 months after extending the GM through 2027. While Vrabel is not connected to pushing Robinson out, the six-year HC subsequently made his case for full roster control, according to The Athletic, believing he had done enough to earn it. Strunk did not want to give a head coach such power, citing issues with Jeff Fisher having control during the latter part of his Tennessee tenure.

This request and Vrabel’s stance on Carthon appears to have damaged his relationship with ownership, with Russini and Rexrode adding Strunk did not view the head coach as showing sufficient faith in her. This did not lead to Vrabel wanting out, however, with ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler noting the defense-oriented HC wanted to give the Titans another year — trade rumors notwithstanding — and that Strunk orchestrated this decision.

Strunk considered firing Vrabel last year, Russini and Rexrode note, but still believed in him as a head coach. Her goal was to start fresh at that point, though she had previously authorized a through-2025 extension for the former linebacker. Additionally, the Titans’ next draft will be the first one Carthon runs. Cowden is believed to have managed the Titans’ 2023 draft board for continuity purposes. Teams often move on from scouts and executives after the draft in order to not shake up things before big-picture investments are made, but it is a bit unusual another strong candidate for GM to wield such control. The Titans fired Cowden soon after the draft; he is now with the Giants.

The Titans’ 2023 draft looms large regarding their long-term future. The team was involved in trade talks with the Cardinals in Round 1, with the pre-draft target being C.J. Stroud, and did move up for Will Levis the following night. Carthon said Tuesday the team will hire a head coach that is interested in developing Levis and also alluded to first-round pick Peter Skoronski being an option (via Titans.com’s Jim Wyatt) to become the team’s long-term left tackle. The Titans kept Skoronski at guard during his rookie season, though the Northwestern standout played only tackle in college.

Fall developments also played a role in Vrabel’s ouster. Strunk had planned to keep Vrabel as recently as November, but it appears the last straw was the Titans’ 19-16 overtime loss to the Texans in Week 15. That is viewed as the point Strunk was ready to move on, Vrabel’s three straight playoff appearances (from 2019-21) notwithstanding. Strunk was also not thrilled about Vrabel’s trip to Foxborough during the Titans’ bye week, according to The Athletic. The Patriots inducted Vrabel into their Hall of Fame that week, and he was seen sitting with Robert Kraft during the ensuing Buffalo-New England game in October.

Strunk’s firing record, which includes canning Mike Mularkey after a divisional-round appearance, has led to an impulsive reputation. The Vrabel move, despite the Titans’ sub-.500 record over the past two years, will not help on that front. A number of teams are likely interested in Vrabel as a head coach option, and Bill Belichick‘s exit would put the Patriots — who have viewed Vrabel as a potential “home run” hire — atop that list. The Commanders, Chargers and Raiders could also have interest, Russini and Rexrode add. It will be interesting to see if Vrabel seeks major personnel input with his next team.

Titans Fallout: Vrabel, Adams Strunk, Carthon, Trade, Levis, Henry, Cowden, Pats

The most surprising of this year’s head coach firings came out of Nashville. Although steady smoke about Mike Vrabel discontent emerged over the past several weeks, the Titans were connected to a trade — not an outright firing. But the organization took the latter route Tuesday morning. Vrabel is out after six seasons.

The Titans considered making a concerted effort to trade Vrabel’s rights elsewhere, as the Saints did with Sean Payton last year. But controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said the team did not want to risk a lengthy trade negotiation, during a search in which interested teams would also need to comply with the Rooney Rule, delaying the team from finding a suitable Vrabel replacement. This led to the firing, with Adams Strunk informing Vrabel today.

Yes, we thought about it, but at the end of the day, with league rules the way they are, it would have maybe put us back three weeks,” Adams Strunk said during an appearance on 104.5 The Zone of a trade. “Honestly, to get the right head coach, I was not willing to go to the back of the line and take a chance of missing out on someone we really wanted.”

Rumors of a rift between Vrabel and first-year GM Ran Carthon had surfaced, and while Carthon attempted to shoot those down, Adams Strunk said the team wants “an aligned and collaborative team across all football functions.” Vrabel also may have sought more of a say in personnel, per SI.com’s Albert Breer. The Titans gave their veteran HC such input when they fired Jon Robinson in December 2022, but the team added Carthon and assistant GMs Chad Brinker and Anthony Robinson this offseason. Both Vrabel and Carthon reported to Adams Strunk. Tennessee’s ensuing moves provided a rebuilding outlook, something that might come to fruition this year.

Furthermore, Adams Strunk did not choose the GM candidate Vrabel wanted last year. Vrabel is believed to have preferred the team to elevate interim GM Ryan Cowden to the full-time role, according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin. Vrabel and Cowden shared responsibility to close out last season, following the surprising Jon Robinson ouster. Vrabel and Robinson had signed extensions in February 2022; Robinson’s went through 2027, Vrabel’s through ’25. Cowden ended up with the Giants this past offseason.

Not in the meeting when Adams Strunk fired Vrabel, Carthon will lead the Titans’ HC search, the Athletic’s Dianna Russini tweets. The ex-49ers exec said others will be part of it. Tennessee’s assistant coaches will be retained until a new coach arrives.

While Carthon said a Will Levis-centered approach will not drive the search, the young GM did point out (via TitanInsider.com’s Terry McCormick) the team will seek a head coach willing to work with the 2023 second-round pick. Ryan Tannehill is a free agent in March and appears likely to join Derrick Henry in leaving. Although Henry being handed a microphone to thank Titans fans after the season sends a pretty clear signal he intends to move on after eight seasons, Carthon said the door is not closed on a third Henry contract.

Adams Strunk has now fired both the pillars who helmed the Titans to three playoff berths from 2019-21, with Robinson also in place for the team’s 2017 sojourn to the divisional round. She has developed a reputation as impulsive, Breer adds. With the Titans coming off back-to-back losing seasons, the second-generation owner will assemble a new power structure. She did not confirm who would report to whom just yet.

Regarding the obvious Vrabel fit, the Patriots should be considered likely to express interest. Bill Belichick has been connected to every non-Titans HC opening, and while not all of the teams with vacancies may ultimately be interested, it does seem some interest would be out there. The Patriots’ goal could soon be to hire Vrabel, who is now available without draft picks changing hands, and trade Belichick. That would leave Jerod Mayo, who held the inside track on being Belichick’s heir apparent when Robert Kraft stepped in and authorized an extension last year, on the outside looking in. But Vrabel — a Patriots mainstay from 2001-08 — has been connected to the Patriots for months, being viewed as a “home run hire.”

Helping to smooth out this process: Belichick and Vrabel share an agent, Volin adds. Belichick is aiming to stay on in New England for at least one more season, and he sounds willing to adjust the personnel aspect of his job. One season remains on Belichick’s contract. It still sounds more likely than not the legendary HC will be elsewhere next season, and the separation process is expected to take some time. Vrabel being unattached, however, could conceivably expedite these proceedings.

Friction Between Titans HC Mike Vrabel, GM Ran Carthon?

The Titans entered the 2022 season on the heels of six straight winning campaigns. They are closing out a second straight slate with double-digit losses. Speculation about Mike Vrabel‘s future has persisted this season, and as the coaching carousel prepares to spin, the sixth-year Tennessee HC’s name continues to come up.

Vrabel-Patriots buzz has circulated at points, and although multiple previous reports poured cold water on the former Pats linebacker coming back to Foxborough via trade, the topic of Vrabel’s fit in Tennessee is back on the radar. The Vrabel-Ran Carthon relationship can be described as rocky, according to the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora, who notes the two do not seem a match as their first year together wraps.

Tennessee made the unusual move to fire GM Jon Robinson months after giving him an extension that ran through 2027. The Titans then hired Carthon from the 49ers, giving him the personnel keys. Although Vrabel is unlikely a true passenger in a Carthon-driven car, the Titans made several cost-cutting moves that pointed to a step back this season. That has come to fruition, with the Will Levis-quarterbacked team sitting 5-11 and on track for the franchise’s worst record since 2015. Vrabel’s extension surfaced on the same February 2022 day Robinson’s did. Robinson’s deal was believed to run through 2027, pointing to Vrabel’s being in that range as well.

An anonymous GM informed La Canfora “things are not good” between Vrabel and Carthon, reigniting the trade talk that had died down for a bit. During his latest GM Shuffle podcast, former GM Michael Lombardi described Vrabel and Carthon as having some “real issues” in their first year together.

The Titans are 0-5 in a shaky AFC South, and since another solid start in 2022, the team is 5-18. Injuries led to Tennessee limping to the finish line last season, and in a division that saw three teams make early-round QB investments, the Titans trail the Texans and Colts — despite Indianapolis losing Anthony Richardson early in the season. Vrabel, 48, has guided the Titans to four winning seasons and three postseason berths during his time in Nashville. It is worth wondering if he is onboard with a rebuild.

Some around the league expect the Patriots and Bears to be connected to Vrabel, in the event this situation leads to actual trade talks, La Canfora adds. A first-round pick has been floated as a potential cost for Vrabel, who steered an injury-riddled Titans team to the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021. Vrabel has obvious history with the Patriots, who made him part of their historic 2001 free agency class and employed him for eight seasons. Bill Belichick is not certain to be gone from New England this year, though La Canfora points to a divorce still being in the cards. Given his ties to the organization, Vrabel would represent an obvious fit as a Belichick replacement. Though, that would obviously complicate the Pats’ relationship with potential successor Jerod Mayo.

The Bears are expected to retain GM Ryan Poles, whose first two seasons with the Chiefs — under GM Scott Pioli, a top Belichick lieutenant when Vrabel signed with the Patriots — doubled as Vrabel’s last two as an NFL player. The Chiefs acquired Vrabel as part of the Matt Cassel tag-and-trade transaction in 2009; Poles moved into a college scouting director role in 2010, Vrabel’s final season. Unless the Bears trade the No. 1 overall pick once again and pick up another trove of assets, it is somewhat difficult to see them parting with one of their two first-rounders for Vrabel in an attempt to upgrade on Matt Eberflus. Though, the minor connection between Poles and Vrabel is noteworthy.

Carthon being kept over Vrabel in Tennessee would be a fascinating development and one that would, considering the latter’s success, conceivably turn up the heat on the GM early in his Titans tenure. The nucleus from Vrabel’s playoff teams has splintered a bit, and Ryan Tannehill appears headed out the door soon. Derrick Henry, who appeared in trade rumors this season, may follow as a UFA-to-be.

It is too soon to know if the Titans would seriously entertain trading their head coach and giving Carthon his pick of the next one, but a definitive answer will come soon.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

The latest NFL general manager hiring cycle only produced two changes, but each took over for an executive who appeared in good standing at this point last year.

Steve Keim had held his Cardinals GM post since January 2013, and the Cardinals gave both he and Kliff Kingsbury extensions — deals that ran through 2027 — in March of last year. Arizona has since rebooted, moving on from both Keim and Kingsbury. Keim took a leave of absence late last season, and the Cardinals replaced him with ex-Titans exec Monti Ossenfort.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches]

As the Cardinals poached one of the Titans’ top front office lieutenants, Tennessee went with an NFC West staffer to replace Jon Robinson. The move to add 49ers FO bastion Ran Carthon also came less than a year after the Titans reached extension agreements with both Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel. But controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk canned Robinson — in place as GM since January 2016 — before last season ended. Adams Strunk cited player unavailability and roster quality among the reasons she chose to move on despite having extended Robinson through the 2027 draft months earlier. The Titans are now pairing Vrabel and Carthon.

The Bills reached an extension agreement with GM Brandon Beane two weeks ago. Hired shortly after the team gave Sean McDermott the HC keys, Beane has helped the Bills to five playoff berths in six seasons. Beane’s deal keeps him signed through 2027. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has hit the 10-year mark leading that front office, while this year also marks the 10th offseason of Buccaneers honcho Jason Licht‘s tenure running the NFC South team. Although Jim Irsay fired Frank Reich and later admitted he reluctantly extended his former HC in 2021, the increasingly active Colts owner has expressed confidence in Chris Ballard.

Here is how the NFL’s GM landscape looks going into the 2023 season:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2022
  8. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  9. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  10. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  11. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  12. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  13. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  14. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  15. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018; agreed to extension in 2022
  16. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  17. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  18. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  19. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  20. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  21. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  22. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  23. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  24. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  25. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  26. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  27. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  28. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  29. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  30. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022
  31. Monti Ossenfort (Arizona Cardinals): January 16, 2023
  32. Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans): January 17, 2023


  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Latest On Cards’ Trades With Texans, Titans

A key party in a few teams’ early-round draft machinations, the Cardinals played a particularly important role in what could be long-term AFC South roster construction. They made deals with both the Texans and Titans, equipping each with potential 2020s pillars.

Both teams discussed prospective trades with the Cardinals before the draft. The Titans did not have to give up what it would have cost to move from No. 11 to No. 3 — a climb Tennessee was continually connected to attempting — but they had C.J. Stroud in mind. The new Texans quarterback was the Titans’ target at No. 3, with Albert Breer of SI.com confirming the team dropped out of trade talks after Houston took the Ohio State passer at 2.

The Titans were viewed as high on Stroud, and with the Texans believed to be planning to take a momentous risk — tabling their quarterback need yet again to select an edge rusher — it looked like Tennessee could have a clear path to trading up for its preferred passer. But Nick Caserio confirmed (via NBC Sports’ Peter King) his team had decided on Stroud at No. 2. That decision ran counter to just about every Texans-centric report leading up to the draft. Though, reports of Houston’s defensive end intent were not entirely inaccurate, given how the team proceeded at No. 3.

Although Caserio taking Stroud at No. 2 removed a buyer for 3 in the Titans, the Texans still traded a monster haul to land the Cardinals’ No. 3 choice. Houston gave up No. 33, along with first- and third-round picks in 2024. The Texans held two 2024 firsts, thanks to the historic Deshaun Watson package, and Houston’s first — not Cleveland’s — now belongs to Arizona. The Texans’ lengthy rebuild process has involved top-three draft real estate in each of the past three drafts, running a risk the team gave a prime draft asset for a non-quarterback in Will Anderson Jr. Two of the three Browns first-rounders acquired in the Watson trade ended up going toward Anderson.

Caserio and former Patriots coworker Monti Ossenfort had engaged in pre-draft talks about a trade involving the Nos. 3 and 12 picks, Breer adds, and King confirms the Cards and Texans agreed to the swap with “close to a minute left” on the clock.

It helped that I had a personal relationship with Nick Caserio in Houston,” Ossenfort said during an appearance on the Dave Pasch Podcast (via AZCardinals.com). “… There was some back and forth there and the clock’s going, the clock’s going, and I think it was around two-and-a-half minutes where we have a couple of [different] deals up written up on the board [with] a couple of teams and it’s ‘OK, Nick, I think we’re at a spot where we are close here. It’s this and this for this, this and this. Are you in?’ ‘Yeah, I’m in.’ And it’s ‘OK, great, call it in.'”

Ossenfort had planned on trading back up and called multiple teams in order to secure Paris Johnson draft real estate. After talks with fellow former coworker Dave Ziegler did not produce a deal with the Raiders, Ossenfort found a taker in the Lions, allowing them to avoid taking Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 6.

The Cardinals and Titans revisited their talks Friday, and GM Ran Carthon pivoted to the freefalling Will Levis. The Titans had discussed a deal to move back into Round 1, with Levis as the target, with Breer adding they discussed the move with the Bills — at No. 27 — late Thursday night. The Titans were one of many teams trying to move back into the first round, and teams also made offers to the Steelers for 32. The Titans may well have been one of those to send the Steelers a proposal for 32, but they ended up trading 2023 and 2024 third-rounders to climb eight spots to 33 for the Kentucky QB.

This draft brought some notable what-ifs regarding the non-Jaguars wing of the AFC South, seeing as the Colts were tied to Levis for weeks only to have been preparing an Anthony Richardson pick for a while. Should Stroud, Richardson and Levis become surefire starters, this will certainly go down as one of the most pivotal drafts in the AFC South’s 22-year history.

AFC South Notes: Titans, Simmons, Key

The Titans struggled to develop a consistent passing game in 2022, as they tried to fill the void left by the A.J. Brown trade. Their shortcomings in that department have led to the expectation that moves at the receiver position will be made this offseason, though little has taken place so far.

Tennessee lost Robert Woods on an intra-divisional deal with the Texans after releasing the veteran amidst a slew of cost-cutting moves. They have re-signed Nick Westbrook-Ikhine on a one-year contract, but have yet to make a decision on depth contributors Chris Conley, C.J. Board and Cody Hollister. No outside additions have been made after the first few waves of the free agent period.

“We are going to look to address it,” new GM Ran Carthon recently said of the need for new pass-catchers. “We are not trying to fill everything via free agency, but if that’s where the best option comes from, we’ll address it that way. We just have to be patient, and exercise patience and allow that to come to fruition.”

Those remarks – along with the Titans’ lack of action so far – point to the draft being the source of additions to their receiving corps. The team used a Day 1 pick on Treylon Burks last year after dealing Brown to the Eagles, but they will have plenty of options this year (headlined in most evaluations by Jaxon Smith-Njigba) with the No. 11 pick. Tennessee also has a second- and third-rounder as part of their draft capital.

Here are some other AFC South notes, starting with one more out of Nashville:

  • Tennessee has been in talks on a new deal for defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, per ESPN’s Dan Graziano. That comes as little surprise, since he is set to play on the fifth-year option in 2023 ($10.75MM), but represents an obvious priority from a finanal standpoint. The 25-year-old put together another highly productive season in 2022, earning Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors for the second straight year. Simmons has made clear his intention to remain with the team long-term, something which will no doubt require a hugely lucrative multi-year deal.
  • Defensive end Arden Key spent the 2022 season in Jacksonville, and put up the second most productive season of his career (27 tackles, 4.5 sacks). The Jaguars felt they would be able to re-up the veteran, as noted by ESPN’s Michael DiRocco, something which would have allowed the team to retain useful edge rushing depth. Instead, Key signed a three-year, $21MM deal in Tennessee last month, leaving the Jaguars in need of either a less costly free agent addition or a draft pick to replace him.

Titans GM Ran Carthon Addresses Ryan Tannehill’s Future

Things didn’t go according to plan for the Titans in 2022 on offense in particular, and the team lost out in the AFC South title race. Not long before that took place, Tennessee fired general manager Jon Robinson in a move which took many by surprise.

His replacementRan Carthon, faces the challenge of determining the team’s future at the quarterback position. Four-year starter Ryan Tannehill remained the No. 1 when healthy in 2022, but questions have been raised about his chances of remaining in Nashville next season. The veteran struggled during his 12 games played, throwing 13 touchdowns and six interceptions while battling multiple injuries and overseeing a passing attack which had undergone significant changes.

Tannehill, 34, was thought to be in danger of losing his starting spot at some point when the Titans selected Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 draft. The Liberty product was seen as a long-term developmental option, and one who could make Tannehill expendable, especially in light of his contract status. The latter has one year remaining on his deal and a scheduled cap hit of $36.6MM.

When speaking on the former first-rounder’s situation, Carthon said, “Ryan is under contract. I know everybody wants to make a big deal out of the quarterback position and whether he will or won’t be here, but you guys just have to accept the fact that Ryan is under contract for us. Right now, he’s a Titan and he will be a Titan” (h/t Nick Shook of NFL.com).

Those comments certainly suggest that the Titans won’t be looking to cut Tannehill in at least the immediate future. Doing so would yield $17.8MM in cap savings, and follow the steps already taken by the Commanders with Carson Wentz and the Falcons with Marcus Mariota. On the other hand, they fall well short of the endorsement Tannehill received last offseason.

Notably, Tennessee turned to Joshua Dobbs, rather than Willis, for the final two weeks of the regular season with a playoff spot on the line. The latter did little in his three starts to cement his status as anything but competition for Tannehill (or another passer) for the top spot on the depth chart in training camp. The Titans currently have just over $12MM in cap space, with a number of positions needing attention after the slew of cuts they made last week. Moving on from Tannehill would help their financial situation, but likely add the team to the list of those already in the market for a short-term veteran addition under center.

Titans To Hire Ran Carthon As GM

Hours after a finalist contingent emerged, the Titans have made their choice. They plan to hire 49ers director of player personnel Ran Carthon as their next general manager, Dianna Russini and Jeff Darlington of ESPN.com report (on Twitter).

Carthon, who has been with the 49ers for six years, joined Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham and Titans interim GM Ryan Cowden as the finalists for this position. A day after the Cardinals hired Titans exec Monti Ossenfort, the league’s last GM vacancy — for the time being, at least — is now filled.

Carthon, 41, has been an NFL staffer since 2008 and has held high-ranking titles for the 49ers and Rams. A former Florida Gators running back and son of ex-Giants fullback and longtime NFL assistant Maurice Carthon, Ran has been in the mix for GM roles for a bit now. He interviewed for the Bears, Giants and Steelers’ GM jobs last year and met with the Cardinals last week. Carthon will now be set to team with Mike Vrabel in Tennessee.

The Titans hiring Carthon, who is Black, will equip the 49ers with third-round picks this year and in 2024. Due to the NFL modifying its Rooney Rule to reward third-round selections to teams who hire minority execs as GMs or minority assistant coaches as HCs, the 49ers will benefit again. They have been given eight third-round picks — for the hires of Martin Mayhew, Robert Saleh, Mike McDaniel and now Carthon — since the NFL greenlit this rule. Carthon becomes the sixth minority GM hired since 2021.

Tennessee’s hire doubles as one of the more unique GM additions in recent history. No HC change is in sight, with Vrabel having established himself as one of the league’s most respected coaches. Carthon, then, will be tasked with working alongside the sixth-year Titans HC to retool the roster. Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk made the surprising decision to fire Jon Robinson less than a year after giving him an extension that ran through the 2027 draft. The Titans signed both Vrabel and Robinson to new deals in February 2022, but Adams Strunk reversed course and cited personnel decisions and the team’s repeated trouble with injuries as reasons for the Robinson ouster.

Hired in 2016, Robinson helped rebuild the Titans into a consistent contender. He tabbed Vrabel in 2018, and the two guided the Titans to three straight playoff berths from 2019-21. This year brought change, with the most notable move being the A.J. Brown trade. Adams Strunk said Brown scoring twice against the Titans did not impact her decision to fire Robinson, despite the firing coming soon after the Tennessee-Philadelphia matchup in December. One of Carthon’s duties will be to help rebuild a Titans receiving corps that dearly missed Brown this season. Overall, the Titans closed the season with seven straight losses, going from the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021 to a team with a 7-10 record and a less stable future a year later.

The 49ers, who hired Carthon in 2017 after his five-year tenure as the Rams’ director pro personnel, promoted him from director of pro personnel to director of player personnel in 2021. Following Mayhew’s 2021 exit, Carthon joined Adam Peters as a top John Lynch lieutenant. The 49ers have ventured to two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl during Carthon’s tenure, and their pro personnel department oversaw quite the seminal transaction in 2017 — a trade for Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers have withstood injuries to both Garoppolo and Trey Lance this year to become the NFC’s No. 2 seed behind seventh-round rookie Brock Purdy. Although Peters is viewed as the most likely Lynch successor, Carthon with have the chance to work as front office leader first. The Titans tried to interview Peters, but the 49ers’ assistant GM declined the opportunity.

This move could lead Cowden elsewhere, though that is not yet certain. Robinson hired both Cowden and Ossenfort, and the former — who joined Robinson’s staff from the jump seven years ago — worked as Tennessee’s interim GM to close out this season. Cunningham also interviewed for both the Titans and Cardinals’ GM posts. Considering Cunningham just completed his first year in an assistant GM role, this GM hiring cycle illustrated the league’s view of his work.

2023 NFL General Manager Search Tracker

So far this offseason, only two NFL presented general manager vacancies. The Cardinals and Titans have now each made their choices. If other teams decide to make GM changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 1-17-23 (4:27pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Tennessee Titans