The Tennessee Titans hired former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan as their new head coach on Monday evening. Callahan was the first candidate interviewed, and the first to advance to the second round of in-person interviews. Callahan is an offensive-minded leader that will prioritize Will Levis’ development.
Callahan is now tasked with assembling a coaching staff. Who his defensive coordinator will be imperative to his success, because Callahan will likely trust the DC to have near full autonomy of the defense. Callahan has worked with a bunch of outstanding defensive coaches. We’ve identified three potential DC candidates:
CORY UNDLIN, TEXANS DEF. PASS GAME COORDINATOR
Callahan could look to poach Cory Undlin away from their AFC South rival Houston Texans. There are obvious ties between Undlin, Callahan, and general manager Ran Carthon. Undlin and Callahan worked together for three seasons (2012-14) with the Denver Broncos. Undlin later worked with Carthon in San Francisco for two seasons (2021-22) as Kyle Shanahan’s pass game specialist and secondary coach. Undlin then followed DeMeco Ryans to Houston, where he helped the Texans win the AFC South this year. Undlin is a bright defensive mind that got his first NFL job under Bill Belichick in 2004.
JAMES BETTCHER, BENGALS LB COACH
Mike Vrabel actually interviewed James Bettcher for the defensive coordinator position in 2018. Bettcher previously worked as the DC with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants. He earned a quality reputation throughout those two stints. Last season, he worked alongside Callahan as Zac Taylor’s linebackers coach in Cincinnati. In 2021, Bettcher worked with Carthon as San Francisco’s senior defensive assistant. Getting the DC job in Tennessee would be a clear upgrade over his current post as a position coach.
DON “WINK” MARTINDALE
Don “Wink” Martindale is widely regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the league. He recently departed the Giants after an alleged blow-up with head coach Brian Daboll. Martindale recently interviewed for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ DC opening, but they hired Ryan Nielsen instead. Callahan was a coaching assistant with the Broncos when Martindale was their defensive coordinator.
BONUS: JIM LEONHARD
Former NFL safety Jim Leonhard played a decade in the league after going undrafted in 2005. He’s since earned a reputation as one of college football’s best-defensive minded coaches. Leonhard has worked at Wisconsin and Illinois and has often fended off NFL interest. Leonhard was simply a football analyst in 2023, and could be looking to get back into a full-time gig. Leonhard played for the Broncos in 2012 when Callahan was an offensive assistant.