NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson in line to become coach of the Philadelphia Eagles after the Kansas City Chiefs' playoff run ends, the Tennessee Titans are going to be the last team with a vacancy to hire a coach.
While it ultimately hurts the coach-to-be’s ability to assemble the best possible staff, it’s not entirely a bad thing if they use it to their advantage.
Incumbent interim coach Mike Mularkey isn’t going anywhere. There is no ticking clock for appointing him, and the Titans need to be aware of that. They haven’t hurried so far; there is no reason to start now.
Top candidates who are assistant coaches on four teams remain available, though they can’t be spoken to until their team’s season ends.
That list includes Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has a relationship with new GM Jon Robinson. There is also Matt Patricia, New England’s defensive coordinator; Darrell Bevell, Seattle’s offensive coordinator; Sean McDermott, Carolina’s defensive coordinator; and Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub.
Those are good candidates. Former head coaches Mike Smith and Lovie Smith are also still on the market.
And what about a crack at a big surprise? They've got the last open job. They should be sure David Shaw, Mark Dantonio or whatever other college guy they might covet isn't surprisingly willing to make the jump.
Why hire Mularkey tonight or this weekend or Monday when there is still at least one very good candidate in McDaniels to check out?
Word is that McDaniels, who butchered his head-coaching opportunity in Denver, was humbled by the experience. He knows how he messed it up and he's got a plan for making it different if and when he gets a second chance.
Sure, many Bill Belichick assistants have fared poorly on their own. Bill O'Brien is an exception, however. And plenty of smart NFL people think a second chance for McDaniels would be an excellent decision. And we're measuring him here against Mularkey.
Titans fans should root against the Patriots on Saturday, when they host the Chiefs. If New England loses, the Titans can meet with McDaniels as early as Sunday.
They have to at least talk to him.
Albert Breer of NFL Media, who used to cover the Patriots exclusively, told me on the radio Thursday that he knows there is a strong mutual respect between Robinson and McDaniels.
The Titans have waited this long.
If they hire Mularkey after just three coach interviews -- Doug Marrone and Teryl Austin were the others -- then this "search” has been a charade.
They’d be insulting their fans and under-utilizing the connections and insight of the general manager they just hired.