NGSC Sports

Updated Football Fabulosa – Meet the New Tennessee Titans Coaching Staff

[Updated from a week ago with new information and updates]

A bit of a change as I return from a whirlwind tour of lovely Hoover, Alabama where National Gridiron Network covered the USA Football Bowl. The Titans have hired a new head coach while retaining some coaches and hiring a few new ones. We take a look at the newly reformed Tennessee Titans coaching staff.

Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt

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Coach Whisenhunt has 18 years of coaching experience including 6 as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals where he took them to the NFC Championship game and ultimately the Super Bowl in 2008. He went 45-51 as a head coach and was fired by the Cardinals after the 2012 season. He spent 2013 as the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers.

Whisenhunt began his coaching career at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and is a native son of the South. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia and went to school at Georgia Tech. I will be taking a more in depth look at Whisenhunt later. While the Titans hired an offensive coordinator, he is expected to call his own plays with the Titans at least initially. Like many coaches on his staff, Whisenhunt has been to the playoffs several times during his coaching career and he also coached in 2 Super Bowls.

Offensive Coordinator Jason Michael

The hire of OC Jason Michael is a big puzzling to me though you have to respect what he has done in his short career. It’s the short career part that makes the hire so head scratching. Michael began his college career as a quarterback for Army but redshirted his freshman year in 1998 and then transferred to Western Kentucky University. He led the Hilltoppers to NCAA I-AA national championship in 2002.

He started his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the University of Tennessee in 2003 where he helped coach the secondary and special teams. In 2005, he left college for the NFL where he was the quality control coach for the Oakland Raiders. In 2006 he became the assistant offensive quality control coach for the New York Jets. In 2007, he was promoted to tight ends coach for the Jets. He left to join Phillip Fulmer’s staff in 2008 as the tight end coach in what was Fulmer’s last year at Tennessee.

In 2009, he was hired by the San Diego Chargers to coach their tight ends where he has been since. The Chargers have experienced much success at the tight end position with Antonio Gates and newcomer Ladarius Green. He has never been an offensive coordinator but is expected to mostly work with developing players and assisting in preparing game plans.

Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton

Ray Horton is a great choice as DC for the Tennessee Titans and comes with a great defensive pedigree. Horton played college football at Washington where he was a standout corner and returner. He was drafted in the second round of the 1983 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals where he immediately became the starter. He went to the Super Bowl with the Bengals and won a ring with the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXVII.

Horton started his coaching career in 1994 when he was hired by Norv Turner as a defensive assistant for the Washington Redskins. He spent several years coaching defensive backs for various teams before being hired as defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals in 2001 by Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt.

Horton’s defenses traditionally run the base 3-4 but the Titans are expected to run a hybrid defense per Coach Whisenhunt. A Dick Lebeau disciple for more than a decade, Horton’s defenses have traditionally ranked in the top of the league.

Offensive staff

Bob Bastad will coach the offensive line. Coach Bastad was a very well respected offensive line coach in Wisconsin, spending 6 years with the Badgers. He served as the offensive coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh before jumping to the NFL, coaching offensive lines for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012-13.

Sylvester Croom will remain the running backs coach and is in his second season with the Titans. Croom was a well respected college athlete at the University of Alabama where he played center after playing linebacker and tight end early in his playing career.

Croom began his coaching career at Alabama in 1976 and ultimately became the first African American coach in the Southeastern Conference at Mississippi State.  Croom returned to the NFL coaching running backs in 2009. He joined former head coach Mike Munchak’s staff in 2013 as the running back coach. Under his tutelage, several running backs have posted their best seasons ever including Steven Jackson.

Shawn Jefferson will remain the wide receivers coach and is in his second year with the Titans. Jefferson was a solid wide receiver in the NFL and led the league in yards per receptions in 1998 at 22.7. Jefferson previously coached the wide receivers for the Detroit Lions and while he was there the Lions receivers posted career numbers. He was hired by former coach Mike Munchak in 2013 after being released by the Lions following the 2012 season.

John McNulty will coach the quarterbacks and is a former quarterback who played 6 years in the league. McNulty started his coaching career at Michigan, but spent the bulk of his college coaching career at Rutgers, where he coached first running backs and then wide receivers under former Coach Greg Schiano. He became the offensive coordinator in 2007. The Rutgers offense turned into a juggernaut while he was there.

In 2009, he made the jump to the NFL when he joined Coach Whisenhunt’s staff in Arizona. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald went to 3 Pro Bowls and was named All Pro 2 years while he coached in Arizona. He was the quarterbacks coach in 2012 before joining Schiano in Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013 as their quarterbacks coach. When Schiano was fired, McNulty was let go as well.

Mike Mularkey will coach the tight ends. Like Coach Whisenhunt, he played tight end and spent several years in the league with the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers. He began his NFL coaching career in Tampa Bay in 1994 coaching tight ends. Mularkey has 20 years of coaching experience including a two year stint as the Buffalo Bills head coach and a one year stint as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. He took time off to spend it with family after he was fired by the Jaguars following the 2012 season.

Kevin Patullo will be the assistant wide receivers coach and is also a former player. He started his career at the University of South Florida where he played quarterback and then wide receiver. He began his coaching career at USF as a graduate assistant and made the jump to the league in 2007 when he joined the staff of the Kansas City Chiefs. He joined the Buffalo Bills as a quality control coach on offense in 2010. Like Mularkey, he was out of the league in 2012.

Arthur Smith will remain with the Titans and be the assistant offensive line and tight ends assistant coach. He went to school at North Carolina where he played offensive line. He started his coaching career there as a graduate assistant in 2006.

He started his NFL coaching career in 2007 working for the Washington Redskins as a defensive quality control coach and did some scouting. He spent 2010 at the University of Mississippi and joined the Titans in 2011 as defensive assistant quality control.

Mike Sullivan was just hired as the assistant offensive line coach. Another former player, Sullivan was a swing lineman for the University of Miami where he played both tackle and guard. He was well decorated in college earning honorable mention All American honors. Drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1991, he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1992-95.

He began his coaching career in 2001 at the University of Miami as a graduate assistant. From 2001-04 he was with the Cleveland Browns as assistant offensive line coach. He went to Western Michigan University where he was the offensive line coach from 2005-06. From 2007-08 he served as the assistant offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns. He became the offensive line coach for the San Diego Chargers where he remained from 2009-12. In 2013 he was the Cleveland Browns offensive line coach.

Defensive staff

Louie Cioffi will be the defensive backs coach having spent the past year with the Cleveland Browns. He began his coaching career in 1994 with the New York Jets as a staff assistant. He has primarily coached defensive backs but did spend 2 seasons at W. Post University coaching wide receivers.

Steve Brown will remain the secondary assistant and is in his second year with the Titans. Brown is a former player who played his entire career with the Houston Oilers. He began his coaching career in 1995 with the St. Louis Rams as a defensive assistant. He then coached cornerbacks and the secondary before leaving to coach at the University of Kentucky.

At Kentucky, Brown coached the defensive backs from 2003-2006. He became the defensive coordinator in 2007 and remained in that capacity until joining the Titans in 2012 as the assistant secondary coach. Brown is an up and coming guy in the league and under his direction the Titans secondary was one of the best in the league in 2013.

Giff Smith will coach the defensive line and is a former defensive lineman. A 1991 graduate of Georgia Southern, Smith was a member of three NCAA I-AA national championship teams at the school in 1986, 1989 and 1990. A three-time All-America defensive end, he helped the Eagles to a perfect 15-0 mark in 1989, and as a senior in 1990, he served as team captain. He was inducted into the Georgia Southern University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.

Smith began his coaching career in 1991 as a graduate assistant at Georgia. He joined Georgia Southern in 1996 as a wide receivers coach. He then coached the secondary before taking over for the defensive line in 1999 at Tulane University.  At Tulane, he rose to be the assistant head coach while remaining active on the defensive side of the ball. He then went to Georgia Tech where he coached the defensive line.

He jumped to the NFL in 2010 as a member of the Buffalo Bills coaching staff coaching the defensive line where he remained prior to joining the Titans staff. He had great success in Buffalo coaching their defensive line.

Lou Spanos will coach the linebackers and is also a former player. He played center at Tulsa University where he earned All American honors. Following his graduation, he stayed on to assist coaching the linebackers for a year. He joined the Steelers in 1995 as a defensive quality control assistant. He was on the Super Bowl XXX, Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII coaching staffs.

He left Pittsburgh in 2009 to coach the linebackers for the Washington Redskins for 2 years. In 2013, he was the defensive coordinator for the UCLA Bruins. In addition to being on 3 Super Bowl teams, he has won 2 Super Bowl Championships (2005 and 2008).

Nick Eason has been hired as the assistant defensive line coach. Eason is a former defensive end who played college football at Clemson. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in round 4 of the 2003 NFL Draft and played 10 years in the league. His final season was in 2012 when he played defensive end for the Arizona Cardinals in Ken Whisenhunt’s last year coaching the Cardinals. Eason earned his bachelor’s degree from Clemson in Sociology in 2001. Eason finished his NFL career with 128 tackles, 7 sacks and 1 forced fumble. He spent 2013 as an intern and defensive staffing assistant for the Cleveland Browns where Ray Horton was the defensive coordinator.

Cannon Matthews has been hired as the quality control coordinator on defense. Matthews was a 2 sport athlete in high school and earned his bachelor’s degree from Ohio University in Sports Management. He spent 4 years as a coaching assistant with the Buffalo Bills. From 2008-09 he was a defense and special teams assistant. From 2010-12 he was an offensive assistant. He spent 2013 as the running back coach at Kentucky Christian University.

Special teams, strength and training, and quality control

Steve Watterson isn’t new to the staff since he has been with the Titans/Oilers organization since 1986 as the strength and training coach. A well respected coach in strength and training, Watterson was recently also named Assistant Head Coach for the Titans.

Nate Kaczor will remain the special teams coach and is in his second year with the Titans. Kaczor is another former center who has made a name for himself in coaching. Kaczor spent 18 years coaching in the college ranks where he has coached tight ends, quarterbacks and served time as offensive coordinator. In 2008, he made the leap to the NFL joining the Jacksonville Jaguars assisting on special teams. He joined the Titans in 2012 as assistant offensive line coach. He coached special teams in 2013.

Steve Hoffman will remain the assistant on special teams and is the 8th member of former head coach Mike Munchak’s staff to remain. Hoffman has an abundance of coaching experience and like many others started his career as a player. Hoffman was an all purpose player at Dickinson College where he quarterback, running back, wide receiver, placekicker and punter. He punted for a year for the Washington Federals of the UFL.

He began his lengthy coaching career in 1985 at the University of Miami as an assistant coaching special teams. He has coached specials teams for the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, and Oakland Raiders. He joined the Titans in 2013 as an assistant coaching special teams.

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