Titans notebook: Byner in mix for coach role

Friday, February 22, 2008 at 12:33am

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Cleveland Browns running back Earnest Byner will interview on Friday for the Tennessee Titans’ running backs coach position.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher confirmed the interview on Thursday.

The Titans are looking for a replacement for Sherman Smith, who left after 13 seasons with the team to become the Washington Redskins’ offensive coordinator.

“There is the potential that I’ll interview one, maybe two college running backs coaches, and a couple of guys that have a lot of experience [in the NFL]. I am going to interview Earnest Byner on Friday,” Fisher said.

Byner, 45, coached with the Baltimore Ravens from 1998-2003 and has spent the past three seasons with the Redskins as running backs coach. He was left without a job there once new coach Jim Zorn was hired and brought in Stump Mitchell to coach running backs.

Byner played 14 seasons in the NFL with the Browns, Redskins and Ravens, rushing for 8,261 yards and 56 touchdowns.

CRUMPLER UPDATE: The Titans have been very open in their pursuit of former Falcon Alge Crumpler, even as a number of teams pursue the recently released tight end.

“We’re one of a number of clubs that has expressed interest. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Fisher said. “If the timing is right, and the interest is there and it’s a good deal for both parties, we could get something done.”

If the Titans could broker such a deal before the opening of free agency, it could help cross one need off Tennessee’s free agent/draft list.

“That would be significant for us,” Fisher said of being able to fill the need at tight end.

FREE AGENCY: Fisher indicated that the Titans appear to have a realistic shot at keeping several key unrestricted free agents. With Albert Haynesworth franchised, the players at the top of Tennessee’s list now are defensive ends Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy, receiver Justin Gage, guard Jacob Bell and perhaps tight end Ben Hartsock.

“Our desire is to keep most, if not all of our own, from becoming unrestricted. We do feel good with where we are. We still have some time, and feel like for the most part, things have gone very well,” Fisher said.

FREE TO GO: The two top free agent wide receivers were not hit with the franchise tag by Thursday’s deadline.

New England chose not to franchise Randy Moss, who enjoyed a record-setting season with 23 touchdowns, but a long-term agreement with the Patriots is still probable.

Meanwhile, Chicago elected not to franchise Bernard Berrian, who caught 71 passes for the Bears this past season.

The Titans could get in the mix for Berrian, whom the Bears would like to keep in Chicago, according to coach Lovie Smith on Thursday.

MCCAREINS OUT?: Former Titans receiver Justin McCareins didn’t exactly receive a glowing endorsement when Jets coach Eric Mangini was asked about his role with the New York Jets this season.

McCareins has a $1.08 million base salary for 2008, and Mangini was asked specifically what role McCareins might fit for the coming season, if at all. Mangini did not mention McCareins by name in his answer.

“It’s like any other player on the team. He will be evaluated, and we’ll look at it and see what happens, where the competition unfolds. We’re very open, and it’s something we believe in, playing the best players and giving the best guys a chance to play,” Mangini said.

McCareins’ production dipped to just 19 catches for 232 yards in 2007.

SPYGATE UPDATE: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell briefed the league’s competition regarding the New England Patriots taping of defensive signals and explained why the evidence was destroyed.

Fisher, the committee’s co-chairman, was asked why teams weren’t just allowed to tape other teams' signals since teams dissect game tape of opponents regularly and do advance scouting work.

“The genesis of the rule is that we all are going to stay in the same competitive situation from this standpoint,” Fisher said. “We’re going to have a sideline tape, we’re going to have an end zone tape. We’re going to have Polaroids of which we’re going to have a couple of shots.

“That’s the only electronic devices we’re going to allow on the sidelines. We can allow as a committee to let things unfold, and we’d be in a Star Wars age of football, and we don’t want to do that. We have rules we abide by, and when the rules are violated, you’re going to suffer the consequences.”

Fisher said to his knowledge no other team has done any illegal videoing of signals or games.

“I don’t think they have been unfairly singled out. They have been punished for it, and we have moved on,” Fisher said.

“Not everybody does it. That’s a misunderstanding. There is not a by-law against sitting up in a press box and taking notes with binoculars as fast as you can. But there is a bylaw against taping signals on the sideline, and that was the issue.”

PLAYOFF RESEEDING: An issue being considered by the competition committee that could be voted on in April is the possible reseeding of playoff teams to try and keep end-of-season games competitive. Last year, the Titans sneaked in to the playoffs with a win over the Indianapolis Colts here that had no bearing for Indy’s playoff seeding, but did keep Cleveland out.

Fisher is still listening to discussion before he says one way or the other which he is in favor of.

“You have to place an emphasis on winning the division,” Fisher said. “How would you feel if you were a division winner, and you had to go on the road and play a wild-card team at home? The other side of that is how would you feel if you were a 12-4 wild-card team and you had to go play a 10-6 division winner? There’s a lot of things that need to be examined. At this point without having discussed it, I really can’t give you my opinion.”

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