Ran Carthon received a big welcome upon his arrival in Tennessee, but the Titans' new general manager will soon have big decisions to make.
At Friday's introductory press conference, Carthon was asked about the future of the quarterback position, specifically Ryan Tannehill's status.
"I don't think that's fair at this point," Carthon told reporters. "We're still evaluating the roster. Ryan has been great here. He's won a lot of football games. I look forward to us winning football games. But I still need more time to evaluate and make those decisions."
Tannehill's fourth season in Tennessee was hindered by ankle injuries that cost him five starts in 2022, including the Titans' Week 18 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South crown. The 11-year veteran threw for 2,536 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions with a 94.6 passer rating when healthy. Tennessee was 6-6 in games Tannehill started.
Following a year where the offense held back the Titans' playoff-ready defense (league-best 76.8 rushing yards allowed per game), a QB change has been a point of contention after the team's first losing season since 2015. Approaching his 35th birthday this summer, Tannehill enters the final year of a $118 million contract he signed in 2020 with the Titans. He's set to make $27 million in base salary with a cap hit of $36.6 million on Tennessee's books, per Over The Cap.
The importance of having a stabilized QB was not lost on Carthon despite having no specific answer Friday on Tannehill.
"This is a quarterback-driven league," Carthon said. "People are hired and fired every day over that position. I want to spend more time evaluating that position so I will have my own opinion. Then, Mike (Vrabel) and I will confer and we'll figure it out."
Titans head coach Mike Vrabel acknowledged there would be changes during his season-ending press conference two weeks ago. Later that day, Vrabel fired offensive coordinator Todd Downing along with three other coaches, which came at the heels of Tennessee parting ways with GM Jon Robinson midway through the season.
In regards to Tannehill, however, Vrabel labeled Tannehill as the team's starter looking ahead so long as the QB was fully healthy. Protecting the quarterback and acquiring speed on offense were among other upgrades sought after by Vrabel entering the offseason.
"The same thing I've always wanted it to be -- smart, tough, and fast," Vrabel said then of his team's identity. "(I want it to be) physical. I still think there is a degree of physicality that is required in this game at every level. Fundamentally sound, play with technique. But we have to get faster. We have to be a faster football team. Rarely are we the fastest team out there."
Carthon, as part of his mission statement for the Titans, said he will be working in concert with Vrabel on accomplishing that vision in 2023.
"Mike Vrabel is at the top of my to-do list," Carthon said. "Us working together and forging a relationship and coming up with a plan on how to build this roster. There are a multitude of things we need to do, that we need to fix, to make this organization better, but my No.1 priority is spending more time with Mike Vrabel and learning the systems that are here in place and how I can help improve upon them, which will help us building a championship team."
Vrabel's brand of football has provided consistent success up until an injury-riddled 2022 season, which ended streaks of consecutive 11-plus win seasons and three straight playoff appearances. Carthon, who had spent the past seven years with the 49ers, was hired to give a refreshing take on the Titans' roster strategy going forward and add upgrades to Vrabel's successful concept.
"I can be the greatest talent evaluator of all time, but if I can't bring Mike the players that he needs to fit his system, then it is not going to work," declared Carthon. "We are not here to collect talent -- we are here to build a team."