Just when Texas football coach Mack Brown thought he had stabilized his staff heading into the start of spring drills on Feb. 24, he is back in the market for a new defensive backs coach.
Jerry Gray, a former Longhorns’ All-American (1983-84) and four-time Pro Bowl selection in his NFL career, was announced Saturday night as the new defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. The move comes with an increase in salary and responsibility for Gray, who served as the Buffalo Bills’ defensive coordinator from 2001-2005 and was an NFL teammate of new Titans’ coach Mike Munchak.
Although it makes sense, Gray _ who joined the Texas staff in January _ acknowledged the timing of his departure from his alma mater was awkward. And it leaves Brown with another vacancy to fill.
Among the potential candidates include three longtime college or NFL assistants who played DB at Texas: Willie Mack Garza, Van Malone and Vance Bedford. Any of the three would be solid choices and probably would be interested in a gig that was slated to pay Gray $425,000 next season.
Another possibility: Nebraska secondary coach Marvin Sanders resigned on Feb. 3, with Cornhuskers’ coach Bo Pelini issuing a statement that Sanders’ departure was because of “personal and family reasons.” If personal issues remain a challenge in Sanders’ life, don’t look for him to surface in Austin.
If Sanders’ departure simply was part of the Huskers’ ongoing staff tweaks and he is looking to coach elsewhere in 2011, he is worth a look. Nebraska’s secondary has ranked among the nation’s best for the past two years.
Without question, Brown can also find candidates from existing NFL staffs if the position will continue to pay the type of money that Gray accepted in January before his brief return to Austin.
_ Jimmy Burch