NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans have received permission to talk with Mike Mularkey, Gregg Williams and Perry Fewell as coaching candidates to replace Jeff Fisher, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The person spoke Wednesday to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Titans have not yet interviewed any of the three candidates.
Mularkey is Atlanta's offensive coordinator, Williams is the defensive coordinator at New Orleans and Fewell, an African-American, is the Giants' defensive coordinator. The Titans would satisfy the NFL's Rooney Rule of considering a minority by interviewing Fewell, who interviewed with Cleveland and Denver earlier this year.
After the Titans received permission to talk with Williams, he later withdrew his name from consideration.
"The timing is just not right," Williams told ESPN.com. "I love the organization, I love the city of Nashville. It's just not the right timing this time."
The Titans have confirmed that they have interviewed offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and offensive line coach Mike Munchak, and this step takes their search outside the building.
General manager Mike Reinfeldt had said he thought prior head coaching experience would be good in a candidate, and both Mularkey and Williams have that in Buffalo. Even Fewell was interim head coach with the Bills in 2009.
Williams spent 11 seasons with the then-Houston Oilers, starting as a defensive quality control assistant and working his way up to defensive coordinator before being hired by Buffalo as head coach after the 2000 season. He coached the Bills through 2003 before going to Washington. He spent 2008 with Jacksonville and the past two seasons with the Saints.
He was seen as a top candidate for Fisher to bring Williams back as his defensive coordinator in 2009. But Williams wanted to bring his son, Blake, with him, and Titans owner Bud Adams has a policy against nepotism for his team.
Mularkey went 14-18 with Buffalo between 2004 and 2005 before resigning in 2006 over philosophical differences with the front office. He went 9-7 in 2004, the Bills' first winning season in five years. He interviewed earlier with Cleveland about the Browns' head coaching job before Pat Shurmur was hired but canceled an interview with Denver.
In his past three seasons in Atlanta, Mularkey has groomed quarterback Matt Ryan. He also spent eight seasons in Pittsburgh with Bill Cowher, including three years as offensive coordinator.
Fewell also was interim head coach of the Bills in 2009, going 3-4 over the final seven games. Fewell started his coaching career in college, including a stint at Vanderbilt in Nashville. He joined the NFL in Jacksonville working for Tom Coughlin, and he also has coached at St. Louis, Chicago and was defensive coordinator at Buffalo.
Coughlin hired him as his defensive coordinator in January 2010.