NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is the Titans' next head coach, he might not be able to accept the post until Feb. 3.
No current coach in the NFL has been hired so late.
Only four have been hired on Jan. 20 or later: Joe Philbin was hired by the Dolphins on Jan. 20, 2012; Mike Tomlin was hired by the Steelers on Jan. 22, 2007; Mike Smith was hired by Atlanta on Jan, 23, 2008; Chuck Pagano was hired by the Colts on Jan. 25, 2012.
The last time the Titans were hiring, they took far too long to make a decision on Jeff Fisher.
They fired him on Jan. 27, 2011, and didn’t elevate Mike Munchak until Feb. 7. That set up Munchak with a bad situation for putting together a staff since his was the final NFL staff assembled.
The Titans’ decision on firing Munchak was not nearly as late as it was on Fisher. They parted ways with Munchak on Jan. 4.
But the six-day wait from the end of the season did cost the Titans a chance to interview replacement candidate from the four teams with bye weeks -- Seattle and Carolina, Denver and New England.
NFL rules are different for assistants on teams with byes.
If a team searching for a coach from one of those teams interviews him during the bye week, that team can have a second interview with him during the down week after the championship games.
Quinn talked to Cleveland and Minnesota during that bye week, and will be able to talk to them again the week of Jan. 20 if Seattle has advanced to the Super Bowl.
The Titans did not talk to Quinn during that weekend, which means they cannot talk to him until the Seahawks' season is complete.
If he’s the top target for Tennessee, the Titans are 49ers fans hoping that San Francisco wins the NFC and Quinn becomes free to talk to anyone on Jan. 20.
Would the Titans wait two weeks longer?
I’d expect Quinn will be far more prepared than Munchak was in terms of having guys lined up for his staff, so a February hire might be less of an issue than it was last time. (Mike Mularkey was quickly reported to be the likely offensive coordinator for Quinn as a head coach. I've since heard if it's not Mularkey it could be Kyle Shanahan.)
Webster and Quinn, who worked together in Seattle in 2009, could have some sort of backchannel communication that could offer the Titans assurances he'll take the job.
It’s not ideal. But if he’s the right guy, then a long stretch as a good head coach will more than offset a couple-week wait for him to get started.
If Quinn is the direction the Titans are heading, they need the Vikings and Browns to hire someone else before he is officially free.
Erase the chance he could go somewhere else and Tennessee’s confidence about waiting could skyrocket.