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Conflicting Reports on Ray Horton's Status With the Titans

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UPDATE (6:30 PM): A new report has surfaced, including quotes from Horton himself, which basically disputes the entirety of the report below.

“I was very happy that the Strunk family gave me the interview,” Horton said by phone. “It was a great interview. They have told me that they are going to implement some of my ideas. I’m not insulted. I’m not mad. I’m very happy they gave me opportunity to interview. Not insulted. I would love to be a head coach in this league and will keep working very hard to be a head coach.”

Horton, via Pro Football Talk, says that as far as he knows, he has not been released from his contract. The original story is below, but for now, we need to act under the assumption that Horton is still under the contract. It's possible that Horton is doing a little bit of damage control for something that Wooten completely took out of context, but there could still be some merit to Horton going from Tennessee to Cleveland.


According to Jason Wolf of the Tennessean, the Tennessee Titans are letting Ray Horton out of his contract, and he will make the lateral move to the Cleveland Browns as the team's defensive coordinator. Last Thursday, the news broke that Horton was Hue Jackson's top choice to be the team's defensive coordinator, replacing Jim O'Neil. The issue was that Horton was still under contract with the Titans.

According to John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which promotes NFL minority hiring, the Titans "insulted Horton" when they told him they didn't realize he had any interest in becoming a head coach. Wooten insinuates that Horton was also insulted by the fact that the Titans organization was "shocked that he was as prepared and knowledgeable" as other candidates were in the head coaching process. The reason that would be an insult is because you're basically saying, "we didn't think you were head coaching material."

The article, through Wooten, says that "Horton then requested to be released from his contract" and that Titans president and CEO Steve Underwood granted that request. The Titans might just have Dick LeBeau step into Horton's role. For Cleveland, I have to admit that it seems like a bit of manipulation. Jackson wanted his guy, and then all of a sudden, Horton got a last-second interview (which he had to know he wouldn't be hired at that point in the process), and used the "being disrespected" mentality as fuel to be let out of his contract. The Titans could've kept him there, but the bridge was already burned.

Horton was with the Browns during the 2013 season, as he and then-offensive coordinator Norv Turner were paired with one-year-head-coach Rob Chudzinski under the Jimmy Haslam regime. Horton had a tremendous reputation coming over from the Arizona Cardinals, but drew mixed reviews from fans.

In terms of total yards, the Browns were solid in 2013, ranking 9th in the NFL on defense, including 18th against the run and 9th against the pass. The team's atrocious third-down defense and their performance in the red zone were sore spots on his resume, though -- Cleveland ranked 31st on third down that year and 29th in the red zone, and Horton never had an answer for it. The club also suffered a couple of late-game collapses due to their defense.

Horton had been the Titans' defensive coordinator for the past two years. Tennessee's defense was not very good in 2014, but they made great strides in 2015, ranking 12th in the NFL in total defense, 18th against the run, and 7th against the pass. On third downs, the Titans ranked 25th, and in the red zone, they ranked 26th, which was comparable to his only year in Cleveland.

Horton is familiar with the following players from the Browns' 2013 team: DL John Hughes, OLB Armonty Bryant, ILB Tank Carder, OLB Paul Kruger, OLB Barkevious Mingo, ILB Craig Robertson, CB Johnson Bademosi, FS Tashaun Gipson, CB Joe Haden, S Jordan Poyer, and DE Desmond Bryant. Some of those players might walk as free agents.