Back in college, they called Ran Carthon “The Mayor.”
Seemed like he knew everybody.
That’s what former University of Florida teammate Ingle Martin remembers about the Tennessee Titans’ new general manager.
“He’s got a very magnetic personality. He gets people,” said Martin, a former NFL quarterback who is now head coach and athletics director at Nashville’s Christ Presbyterian Academy. “… As easily as he’s a GM, he could be running a Fortune 500 company. He was one of those guys that was going to be in a leadership role in whatever avenue he decided to pursue.
“Ran has a gift of just being able to connect with people.”
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On Tuesday night, news leaked that the Titans had selected Carthon, the director of player personnel for the San Francisco 49ers, as their new GM. The Titans announced it Wednesday morning, ending team owner Amy Adams Strunk’s search to replace Jon Robinson.
‘I was impressed with his natural leadership qualities and his ability to connect with people,’ Adams Strunk said. ‘With talent evaluation being critical to this role, the roster they have built in San Francisco stands out.’
At first glance, I liked the hire.
For a lot of reasons.
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From the start, Carthon checks a lot of boxes. He’s the first minority GM or head coach in Titans history. He’s a long-time NFL front-office man and a football lifer whose father was a player and coach. He worked under two successful GMs in Les Snead – last season’s Super Bowl winner – and John Lynch, helping build what might be the NFL’s best and deepest roster in the 49ers.
I’ll admit I don’t know much else yet about Carthon. That, however, might be what I liked most about his hire.
I liked that the Titans weren’t afraid to go outside their comfort zone. They interviewed two internal candidates, including interim GM Ryan Cowden, and instead opted for a fresh direction and perspective after backsliding in 2022. Carthon represents a clear and needed step away from the stern-faced New England Patriots playbook to success that Robinson – and to a lesser extent, coach Mike Vrabel – embodied with the Titans.
I liked, too, that the hire wasn’t Vrabel. Not that the coach’s hand wasn’t evident in the decision to hire a former player as the new GM.
We’ll get to that in a minute.
First, more good stuff about the new guy:
‘One of the most fun teammates I’ve ever had,” Martin said. “Just a great teammate, great to be around. One of the guys that you could tell loved the team aspect.’
OK, who does that sound like?
Vrabel. Go ask former teammates and coaches, and they’ll say the same sort of thing about the Titans’ coach. It could make Carthon a uniquely ideal fit for this job, considering its top objective: Working alongside the Titans’ coach.
Not my words. That’s what the Titans’ owner has said.
No matter who was the GM, Vrabel’s having a larger say in personnel matters has seemed like a given in this post-Robinson era. Also obvious is that there was clearly discord along the way between Vrabel and Robinson.
The clear implication was Vrabel and the new GM would be on equal footing, and some GMs might recoil at a setup in which they could be easily overruled on major decisions.
And there are plenty of tough decisions to be made before next season. Carthon inherits a franchise in decline, with a bruised and depleted roster that’ll need a reset, if not a total rebuild. You can see help-wanted signs at wide receiver, maybe left tackle and center, cornerback and elsewhere. There might be even bigger fish to fry at quarterback or running back once the Titans start shifting away from the ground-and-pound approach of leaning heavily on an aging Derrick Henry.
The Titans needed a lot in this hire. They needed new ideas and a new identity. They also needed a GM personable and adept at selling that new vision in a building that had grown too comfortable with the way things had been.
They may have found that someone, sounds like.
“I’m really excited for the Titans,” Martin said. “I think they are getting a great guy.”