NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- We know the Tennessee Titans are in line to be searching for a head coach and have an interim CEO and president.
It’s very likely that this Sunday is the final game of a four-year term for general manager Ruston Webster, who has an expiring contract.
If the Titans are in the market for a new GM, who might they court?
Here are some of the guys in front offices around the league who are viewed as prime candidates to make the jump into the job.
Eric DeCosta, assistant GM, Baltimore Ravens: From ESPN.com Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley: “There's no surer bet for teams looking at general manager than Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta, who has not pursued other jobs because of his loyalty to Baltimore. He's long been the right hand man of Ozzie Newsome, so he understands how to take input from others and make the final decision. DeCosta's strength has been organization and thoroughness, which are evident on draft day. Since taking control of running the draft in 2005 (Newsome has the final say on all picks), the Ravens have drafted six Pro Bowl players and one Super Bowl Most Valuable Player [quarterback Joe Flacco].”
Jimmy Raye, vice president of football operations, Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Grigson’s right hand man since 2013. Before that, Raye spent 17 years with the San Diego Chargers as a scout and personnel executive who placed a premium on evaluating character. A receiver at San Diego State, he was with the Rams in 1991. He went to training camp with the Houston Oilers in 1993. Raye is one of eight minority candidates on a list presented by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which seeks to improve minority representation in NFL management and coaching circles.
Jon Robinson, director of player personnel, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: He spent 12 seasons in New England before moving to Tampa Bay this season to work with another former Patriot, Bucs GM Jason Licht. As director of college scouting for Bill Belichick, Robinson had a hand in drafting Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Nate Solder and Chandler Jones. He’s from Union City, Tennessee, and went to Air Force and Southwest Missouri State. From Rick Brown, who covers the Bucs for ESPN.com: “He is a keen evaluator of talent, having worked his way up as an area scout. He also can relate to the coaches as he was a college coach before becoming a scout. With the Bucs, he has not only helped with the team's draft but also has done some contract negotiations.”
Chris Ballard, director of player personnel, Kansas City Chiefs: Said ESPN.com’s Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher: “People in the Chiefs' organization think he will become a good GM. That seems to be the prevailing opinion around the league, too.” Previously, Ballard worked 12 seasons with Chicago, including 2012 as the director of pro scouting (2012). Per the Chiefs website’s article on his 2013 hiring, as the southwest area scout he helped Chicago draft Pro Bowlers Matt Forte, Johnny Knox, Charles Tillman, Tommie Harris and Nathan Vasher. Before he moved into scouting, he coached for seven seasons at Texas A&M-Kingsville where he worked with wide receivers, defensive backs and eventually defensive coordinator. He played at Wisconsin.
Nick Caserio, director of player personnel, New England Patriots: From ESPN.com Patriots reporter Mike Reiss: “Caserio interviewed for the Miami Dolphins’ general manager job in 2014 and my understanding is that he could have had it if he wanted. So before I share my opinion, that’s good context because Caserio is at the point where he’s viewed as ready to take that step. Bill Belichick has raved about Caserio, saying that he needs him, and what makes him so valuable is the link he provides between the coaching and scouting staffs. Caserio has served as a coach on the staff and is often with the team at practice, taking part in drills. So when he scouts players, he does so from both the traditional scouting viewpoint as well as from the more practical coaching standpoint. That makes his role one of the most unique in the NFL. If he ever decided to go out on his own, he’d likely institute a similar structure. There’s always a question of how much Belichick’s acumen plays a part in the success of those who work for him -- and if those people would be as effective going out on their own -- but I think Caserio is worthy of a closer look by any club looking for a GM. He is a grinder, smart, well-spoken and has learned from the best.”
Omar Khan, director of football and business administration, Pittsburgh Steelers: Khan is not exclusively a personnel guy, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Said ESPN’com Steelers reporter Jeremy Fowler: “Khan is well-organized, versatile and more involved in personnel than most think. He's fighting the perception that general managers without a grassroots scouting background are doomed [the John Idzik effect]. But he could work around that with a good team of evaluators.” Like Raye, Khan is on the Fritz Pollard Alliance list of suggested candidates.
Terry McDonough, vice president of player personnel, Arizona Cardinals: The right hand man to GM Steve Keim during a time when the team has pieced together a very good roster. Before joining the Cardinals in 2013, he spent 10 years with the Jaguars, the final four as director of player personnel. His dad, the late Will McDonough, was a longtime sports reporter and columnist for the Boston Globe. One of his brothers, Ryan McDonough, is GM of the Phoenix Suns. Another, Sean McDonough, is the play-by-play voice of Monday Night Baseball on ESPN.
Anthony “Champ” Kelly, director of pro scouting, Chicago Bears: Kelly worked for the Denver Broncos from 2007 until he went to the Bears with John Fox last year. With the Broncos he rose to assistant director of pro personnel and was involved in the decision to sign players including receiver Emmanuel Sanders, defensive lineman Terrance Knighton, Aqib Talib and DeMarcus Ware. Previously, Kelly was certified by the NFLPA as a contract advisor. He played receiver and defensive back at the University of Kentucky. He’s not on the Fritz Pollard list, but he is a minority.
Eliot Wolf, director of player personnel, Green Bay Packers: Would the son of Hall of Famer Ron Wolf leave the Packers? Said ESPN.com Packers reporter Rob Demovsky: “Don't let Eliot Wolf's age fool you. Yes, he's young -- he won't turn 34 until March -- but he's experienced beyond his years. He wrote his first scouting report at age 14. It was on Chad Scott, who went on to become a first-round pick of the Steelers in 1997. And yes, Wolf gave him a first-round grade. He's ready to become a general manager. The only question is whether he'll want to wait out Packers GM Ted Thompson, who may be nearing retirement, to see if he can get the job his dad held in Green Bay.”
George Paton, assistant general manager, Minnesota Vikings: Vikings reporter Ben Goessling says, “Paton is no stranger to offseason job searches; he's been in consideration for openings with the Rams and Jets in recent years, before pulling his name out of the running. Rick Spielman's longtime aide has played an integral role in the Vikings' aggressive drafts [eight first-round picks in the last four years], and has shown a keen eye for under-the-radar players, like defensive tackle Tom Johnson, thanks in part to his knowledge of the CFL. He'd need a cap expert along the lines of the Vikings' Rob Brzezinski in any front office he'd run, but he's had a long time to learn the tools of the trade, and figures to be a strong candidate again this year.”
Trent Kirchner, co-director of pro personnel, Seattle Seahawks: A top assistant to a successful GM in John Schneider. Kirchner interviewed for the Jets job last year. He was the team’s director of pro personnel from 2013-14 before being elevated to his current role. The Detroit Lions will be hiring a GM and ESPN’s Mike Rothstein did this capsule on Kirchner.
Duke Tobin, director of player personnel, Cincinnati Bengals: He’s touted an organization motto in Cincinnati -- “Draft, develop and retain.” Per this WCPO article Tobin's father, Bill Tobin, is a Bengals scout who worked as GM of both the Bears and Colts. The franchise has a tiny scouting staff, and Tobin could be in position to really blossom given broader resources. He can’t climb any further with the Bengals given that those above him are part of the Brown family, which owns the franchise.
Chris Polian, director of pro scouting, Jacksonville Jaguars: His father is Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian, now an ESPN analyst. His brother, Dennis, is the Titans assistant director of football administration. He’s been a right hand man to Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell as Jacksonville has worked through an extensive, and still incomplete, rebuild. From ESPN.com Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco: “Polian spent three seasons as the Colts' VP/GM (2009-11) and that experience has been useful in his role as the Jaguars' director of player personnel. He helped the Jaguars draft quarterback Blake Bortles and wide receiver Allen Robinson, who have become two of the game's rising stars. Jaguars upper management has been impressed with his preparation and organizational skills, too. With his father as a resource and the experience he gained during his first stint as a GM, Polian will be getting another chance to be a GM soon.”