The Titans seem to have found themselves a good one in new GM Ran Carthon.
That was the biggest takeaway from his introductory press conference Friday at St. Thomas Sports Park. Winning the opening presser doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of the NFL, but Carthon absolutely killed his first impression with the public.
Carthon came to speak to us in the media room before the event began, telling us he was excited to put names to faces and appreciated the jobs that we do. It was a very classy move by a very classy guy; I mean just look at the shoe game coordination with the whole family!
Carthon has a rare combination of traits that make for a fantastic executive and leader. It is immediately evident the moment he walks into the room that he’s a big presence. He exudes a calm confidence, walking with the swagger of a man in charge. But once you speak to him, it’s obvious just how real, relatable, and personable a guy he really is. He’s the kind of person you’d accidentally spend an hour talking to without realizing how much time had passed.
Once the press conference began, Titans’ controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk opened with a statement on Tennessee’s GM search. She thanked internal candidates Monti Ossenfort and Ryan Cowden, congratulating Ossenfort on his new job with the Cardinals and expressing appreciation for Ryan Cowden, who she believes wholeheartedly will be a GM one day.
Strunk reiterated that the Titans had cast a very wide net in their search for a new General Manager, and explained what it was about Carthon that won them over:
“Really what impressed me the most was his growth mindset, clear vision and ability to connect with people… In the end, Ran stood out as the clear choice to be the next General Manager of the Tennessee Titans. The feedback was unanimous.”Amy Adams Strunk, controlling owner of the Tennessee Titans
Carthon was officially introduced as the franchise’s 14th General Manager, and both he and Mike Vrabel made a statement before questions were taken.
Carthon and Vrabel were very complimentary of one another, both mentioning how their ability to talk ball was effortless and could go on for hours on end in the interview process. They seemed very comfortable with one another already, which is likely one of the biggest reasons he won the job.
The specifics of Carthon’s area of focus in the past were asked about, and he explained how he’s been primarily involved with the pro side of personnel in title only. As the Director of Pro Personnel with the 49ers and Rams for the past decade, he assured us that his experience with scouting and the draft is extensive as well.
As the first black GM in franchise history, Carthon was asked about the significance of that fact. His answer was perfect:
“It’s very significant. I understand I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, and there have been plenty of men that have come before me that have laid this foundation that allowed me to be in this spot. And it’s paramount in my mind to do the work and be successful to leave the door open for other black men who are coming behind me, because there are a lot of talented young black men who can do the job, they just need the opportunity.
I don’t go out seeking to be the first black anything. I just want to be the best me. I’m very prideful. I just wanna be the best… I don’t care if it’s black, I don’t care if it’s white, I just wanna be the best.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
Carthon was asked about the attractiveness of this position besides it being an open GM role. His response was an immediate recognition of the front row: Titans executives, owners, and employees, including Amy Adams Strunk and Mike Vrabel. It was the people that represent this organization that stood out to Carthon first, as he initially met with the team in Dallas at the NFL Accelerator Program event during league meetings in December.
“It really opened my eyes… It just confirmed to me that this is the place I wanted to be.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
Analytics was a topic of discussion, as the Titans have famously lived comfortably behind the eight ball on adopting the advanced, modern approaches many others in the league have.
Ran mentioned current Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo Mensah as somebody who headed up analytics with the 49ers during his time there, and said they used analytics quite a bit in San Francisco.
“…spent a lot of time with those guys, it definitely plays a part. We trust our eyes as scouts, but sometimes the data can drive you to a decision and help you see it from a different vantage point.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
Clearly, the Titans’ new GM thinks analytics have a place within the modern NFL, which is representative of the philosophical shift the franchise is undergoing this offseason. But Carthon seemed to be the perfect happy medium you might expect folks like Strunk and Vrabel to want: somebody willing to use ALL of the tools at their disposal to better the football team, not somebody beholden to the narrow-minded religions of analytics or old-school scouting.
Carthon went on to tell a story about his involvement in the selection of Elijah Mitchell in the 2020 NFL Draft. He detailed how the choice came together as a result of combining the advanced metrics with what they saw on tape. It was a draft-day audible that secured them a player who helped them tremendously on their playoff run that season.
This was one of the highlights of the presser, so if you only watch one of the embedded videos in this article, make it this one.
There was one question that wasn’t answered by Titans brass on Friday, and it wasn’t for lack of asking.
Carthon was asked multiple times about the division of power between the GM, Head Coach, and Owner moving forward. Multiple times, he avoided answering the question.
“I don’t think that matters. Because I think the word that matters here is ‘Collaborating’.
I think all that that comes down to, in my opinion, is a matter of ego. Mike and I, we’re here to work together. And we’re gonna bring the people in here that we see fit. And we’re not gonna see it the same way all the time, but we’ll have the mutual respect to work through that.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
The obfuscation from Carthon continued each time he was asked, always referring back to the buzzword that has followed him around ever since it was reported he got the job: Collaboration.
The conversation sparked by Amy Adams Strunk’s odd choice to fire Jon Robinson in the middle of the season, as well as the speculation that Mike Vrabel might be interested in more organizational power beyond his typical coaching duties, were not rendered unfounded by this press conference.
Carthon said it himself: Strunk brought him in to be a collaborator. It has become painfully clear in recent weeks just how much Jon Robinson failed to meet Strunk’s expectations on this front. The question remains, however: will Vrabel have more say in roster construction now?
Well, Vrabel used to answer to Robinson. Now, according to the Strunk, both Carthon and Vrabel will answer to her. The power dynamic has shifted. For the Tennessee Titans, Head Coach and GM are now peers; coworkers; equals. So it’s reasonable to assume that, yes, Mike Vrabel will have more say over who plays for his team in the future.
When asked about the identity of his new football team, Carthon praised the makeup and culture of the Titans:
“…how hard and how tough this team is, how hard they play… I think the team has been made in the image of our head coach. Mike is a tough guy, works hard… I think the team is build in his image and in what Mike beleives in.
And like I said before, our core fondations of football come from the same tree, and I beleive in those.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
Then came the looming question of injuries. The Titans’ new General Manager was asked for his thoughts on the unbelievable rash of injuries the Titans have suffered the past two seasons, and whether he plans to try anything new to limit that.
His response was that football is a violent sport and that at the end of the day, there is no way to keep everyone healthy. He is aware of the issues, however, and plans to explore every option.
Carthon knows a thing or two about a backbreaking number of injuries on a roster. San Francisco is among the only other teams in the league in recent years to experience seasons as injury-riddled as the Titans have.
Finally, Carthon gave an answer on his level of familiarity with the Titans roster already:
“I have a solid baseline of the team. That’s a part of the interview process, right, you can’t go in there and try to fake your way through the job because Mrs. Amy’s gonna ask the questions and she knows the answers. So I feel good about my knowledge of the roster.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
He went on to detail the importance of knowing the person as well as he knows the player, which was another highlight from the conference:
…but again, that’s tape. I want to know the people… that’s were Vrabes and I already spoke, he was giving me a little insight on the people, so I think that’s just as important.
…we all have a way of seeing these players as players twenty four hours a day, when in actuality they’re only players when they’re in the building. So I think it’s just as important to know the people just as well as you know the player.”Ran Carthon, General Manager of the Tennessee Titans
Once the conference ended, Carthon was joined by Strunk and Vrabel for photos before he and his family left. According to Vrabel, the next stop was the indoor practice field to “go play in the bubble” with Carthon’s kids.
Ran Carthon’s introductory press conference embodied everything Amy Adams Strunk and her franchise aim to represent: family, collaboration, and winning.
Easton Freeze is the Director of Published Content at Broadway Sports Media, covering the Titans and the NFL
Get more Titans coverage from Easton on Twitter @eastonfreeze