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Coaching Profile: Ray Horton

What do we know about the leading candidate for Tennessee's DC job?

Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Horton is considered one of the best DC's in the business, and coached alongside Whisenhunt as Arizona's DC in 2011-2012. Though still under contract in Cleveland, the Browns have given Horton the go-ahead to interview with other employers. The Titans have already scheduled an interview, and are the front-runners to land the lauded DC as their second off-season hire.

Horton has a background dating 1983 when he was a CB for the Bengals. He played in Super Bowl XXIII with Cincinnati,  and actually won a Super Bowl with the Cowboys in 1993, his final season. Horton began coaching with the Redskins, and was attached at the hip with Norv Turner for a long while. He went on to coach defensive backs from 1997-2003 with both the Bengals and the Lions, before moving to coach with the Steelers. He was then lured to Arizona in 2011 to be the DC. Horton took a lot of what he learned there under Dick Lebeau when forming his own defensive scheme.

His work as the Arizona Cardinals DC was nothing short of impressive, and he was actually considered a top candidate to take over for Whisenhunt at HC before Bruce Arians was brought in instead. He took a struggling unit and turned it around into a leading corps that continues to this day.

His efforts last year in Cleveland were disappointing, but he had little to work with outside of CB Joe Hayden and a stout D line. That said, the group did improve to 9th in yards allowed. It did, however; also struggle in defending the red zone and on 3rd down, where the Titans actually impressed this past season. If Horton does indeed become the DC in Tennessee, will his 3-4 scheme bring the Titans back to relevance?

He certainly has ambition, which is ideal. This is what he had to say when interviewed for the Rams HC job before it was filled by Jeff Fisher:

Horton said, “but one of the things burning inside of me is, as a player I have won a Super Bowl, as an (assistant) coach I have won a Super Bowl, I’d like to win one as a coordinator and I’d like to win one as a head coach. No one has ever done that. I think it will happen. My only regret is we didn’t win an NCAA championship (when he played at Washington). We were close.”

The tools are there: two excellent corners, a pair of hard-hitting safeties, athletic linebackers on the outsides, and an elite DT. Tennessee has been playing the 4-3 under in recent years, but has never been a true 3-4. In the end, it is likely to remain a hybrid of the two. With Whisenhunt intending to invigorate the offense, the defense needs to keep pace, and Horton gives them the best chance to do so.