Bengals assistant Gruden will meet with team today
The Titans left the Mike Munchak era in the rearview mirror on Monday, lining up interviews with candidates to be their next head coach.
First up is Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who is scheduled to interview today, according to sources familiar with the situation.
General manager Ruston Webster also requested permission to meet with Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, sources said.
All four men are popular candidates for other head-coaching vacancies, but the Titans expect their search to last weeks, not days.
"I would like somebody that I can work with similar to the way I could work with Mike," Webster said on Saturday when announcing that Munchak was out after three seasons. "I think it is important to me that that person has a system that he believes in and that we can draft and sign players to that system. I think that is very important.
"I would like somebody that is going to work with our current players and continue to develop them and turn them into the best players they can be."
Other coaches the Titans are believed to have interest in include Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Cowboys special-teams coach Rich Bisaccia.
Both have ties to Webster from his days with the Buccaneers and Seahawks.
Under NFL rules, coaches on teams still in the playoffs, such as Whisenhunt with the Chargers, are eligible to be interviewed for head coaching jobs this week, but they cannot be hired with the season ongoing.
Interviews with coaches still in the playoffs have to take place in the coach's city.
The Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, freeing up Zimmer and Gruden to travel for interviews.
Gruden and Whisenhunt are attractive candidates because of their offensive minds.
Gruden, the younger brother of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, has been praised for his work with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
He also has a background with Webster — Gruden was an offensive assistant with the Buccaneers for four years while Webster worked in player personnel and scouting.
Gruden interviewed for head coaching openings the past two offseasons but wound up returning to the Bengals. On Monday, the Lions, Redskins and Vikings also requested permission from the Bengals to speak with him.
"Every team is different, what they're looking for," Gruden told reporters in Cincinnati on Monday. "But as far as myself being ready, I've been in the league now three years as a coordinator and obviously with my brother for a lot of years. If that challenge were to come about, I think I'd be ready."
Whisenhunt, meanwhile, is in his first season with the Chargers. Like Caldwell, he has head coaching experience.
Whisenhunt was 45-51 as head coach of the Cardinals (2007-12), leading them to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season.
He was the first Cardinals coach to go .500 or better in each of his first three seasons. They fired him at the end of last season.
He settled in with the Chargers, who wound up in the playoffs and upset the Bengals on Sunday. He's reportedly the top choice of the Lions to replace their fired head coach, Jim Schwartz.
Caldwell is coming off his first full season as Ravens offensive coordinator after serving as Joe Flacco's quarterbacks coach during their Super Bowl-winning season of 2012.
He was Peyton Manning's quarterbacks coach with the Colts from 2002-08 and replaced Tony Dungy as head coach in 2009. The Colts posted a 14-2 record in Caldwell's first season, but lost in the Super Bowl to the Saints. With Manning sidelined because of a neck injury in 2011, the Colts went 2-14 and Caldwell was fired.
Caldwell also has ties to Webster. He was a quarterbacks coach with the Buccaneers in 2001 when Webster was their director of collegescouting.
Zimmer just finished his 20th season as an NFL coach and his sixth as Bengals defensive coordinator. Cincinnati had the league's third-best defense this season.
He interviewed with the Dolphins and Bucs two years ago and with the Browns last year.
He has a good reputation around the NFL as a no-nonsense coach that players like. Prior to joining the Bengals in 2008, he was defensive coordinator with the Cowboys (2000-06) and Falcons (2007).