In 2016, Ray Horton told me he was happy about the interview he now views as a sham

HortonNASHVILLE, Tenn. – Former Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton has joined Brian Flores’ suit against the NFL claiming racism in hiring practices.

Horton joined the Titans in 2014 as defensive coordinator under Ken Whisenhunt and remained the play-caller in 2015 even as his mentor, Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, joined the staff.

But when Mike Mularkey took over in 2016 he wanted LeBeau to call the defense and Horton asked out to take a job in Cleveland. [Unlocked]

Horton alleges that when the Titans interviewed him when Mularkey was interim coach before he was elevated that it was a sham to fulfill the Rooney Rule and that Mularkey said as much in a podcast.

The day after Mularkey was officially named coach, John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance told The Tennessean that Horton felt “overshadowed” and “insulted” for not being initially consulted for the head job.

In response to that Horton searched me out at ESPN and told me something entirely different.

"I'm not insulted," Horton said. "I was very happy Mrs. [Amy Adams] Strunk gave me an interview. I think she was very impressed with me. I was told some ideas I gave are going to be implemented. I'm still under contract. I'm talking about a contract extension. The insulted comment is not true. I'm very happy. I was very happy to be interviewed."

Horton now may claim Wooten was accurate and he was merely trying to smooth things over. And employing survival instincts.

But that comment will clearly be raised in the Titans' and NFL's defense. 

“Our 2016 head coach search was a thoughtful and competitive process fully in keeping with NFL guidelines and our own organizational values," the team said in a statement. "We conducted detailed, in-person interviews with four talented individuals, two of whom were diverse candidates. No decision was made, and no decision was communicated, prior to the completion of all interviews. While we are proud of Our Commitment to Diversity, we are dedicated to continued growth as an organization to foster diversity and inclusion in our workplace and community.”

The 2020 podcast in which Mularkey took off-the-record presumptions very much on-the-record may have shed new light and/or re-ignited strong feelings for Horton.

Strunk's feelings for Mularkey were well known in 2015 when she made him interim coach when she fired Whisenhunt and in 2016 when she promoted him.

apple icon 144x144 precomposedNo one connected to or around the team was surprised by the promotion so it's hard to imagine one of his assistants was.  

That doesn't make the team's process right under the rules.

Two years later her tastes changed and she fired Mularkey after a playoff season.

The promotion of an interim coach is always going to be a sticky situation with regard to the Rooney Rule, which now requires two minority candidates to be interviewed.

Strunk was a new owner and she really liked Mularkey. No matter to what degree the Titans took interviewing a minority candidate seriously, the team had its man already. 

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