After a six-day flirtation with the Tennessee Titans, including nearly 24 hours spent in Nashville with Mike Munchak, former Texas defensive backs coach Jerry Gray, who was on the job for less than a month in Austin, accepted the Titans defensive coordinator position.
Since that time, the Titans released a statement, but it included little about Texas, with Gray merely thanking the university and and noting that the timing was not ideal. No kidding. Losing a position coach the day before the biggest recruiting event of the season and weeks before the start of spring practice is not ideal timing.
On Monday, Gray felt that it was necessary to clarify some things, releasing a statement through the Texas SID office:
This was the hardest decision I've ever had to make, and I want to thank Coach Brown, DeLoss Dodds and everyone at Texas for all of their support during the process. There's no way I could have ever imagined that two jobs that mean so much to me would come up at the same time. Working for Coach Brown and Texas, and Mike (Munchak) and the Titans are opportunities of a lifetime. At the end of the day, a defensive coordinator's job with Mike and in the NFL was just too much to pass up.
That said, there has been some misinformation out there that I do want to clarify. Money had nothing to do with this. I wouldn't have come to Texas if that was an issue, and I wasn't at all concerned about what anyone else was making. I wanted to be at Texas and there's no reason I left other than a great job opportunity, period. I hope the fans and everyone at Texas can understand and appreciate my decision and realize how difficult it was.
I have a great relationship with Coach Brown and the Texas football program and am excited about their future. I had some really good conversations with Coach Brown before I left and appreciate all of his support. We will remain friends and supporters of one another. I texted every one of the players when I made the decision and encouraged them to keep working hard and continue the great things they're doing to get ready for the season. This is a program with outstanding kids and coaches and they're going to have a lot of success, and that made the decision even tougher. I'll be in Tennessee, but I'll still be pulling for the Longhorns as hard as I ever have.
Several key parts in there, one of which is the firm statement that money had nothing to do with him leaving. Some Texas fans may not buy that, but Gray terming both jobs "opportunities of a lifetime" sheds some light on just how much each meant to him. Gray also noted that he still has a relationship with Mack Brown and while Gray likely won't ever have a chance to coach in Austin again, it's possible that he didn't completely burn all his bridges with Brown.
Returning to the statement about money, though: the press release seems like a direct response to an article published on Sunday evening by Kirk Bohls at the Statesman. Here's the important text:
Jerry Gray is the new defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans for several reasons, not the least of which is much more money and a title. But he also left his position as Longhorns secondary coach because he and boss Mack Brown never thoroughly vetted each other or felt comfortable together.
No one made Gray leave the Seattle Seahawks and accept the Texas job. Gray truly wanted to come back to his alma mater and help it win another national championship, but he didn't know his $425,000 salary would be so low on the current staff — tied for fourth with offensive line coach Stacy Searels — and that he would make $200K less than defensive coordinatordespite being more qualified.
Gray also worried privately that Brown is still trying to bring back his football ops director Cleve Bryant, who has earned about $80,000 from the university since he took paid leave in October during the school's internal investigation of accusations made by a former female employee.
Gray is a terrific coach, and I think if Brown had made him defensive coordinator, Gray would still be in Austin today. But he started to have misgivings about the Texas program and began talking to new Titans head coach Mike Munchak two weeks ago, even before Munchak had the job.
While it's possible that Gray did have misgivings about the job, he did realize he was going to take a paycut when he left Seattle and reportedly turned down the raise offered to him by Pete Carroll before he left. As far as bringing back Cleve Bryant, it's hard to see how that would impact Gray at all and it doesn't seem like something that would drive him from Texas.
From this perspective, what is clear is that after being a defensive coordinator in the NFL, being a position coach in college, even at his alma mater, for any length of time was always a fairy tale. Like all fairy tales, it was simply too good to be true. Had Gray stayed, this type of saga would likely have happened nearly as often as it did with Will Muschamp during his three years in Austin. It would have been stressful and it would have been a constant distraction. Are there other NFL jobs that would have been "too good to pass up?" It's hard to say, of course, but that doesn't mean that Gray wouldn't feel compelled to look into them.
In the end, the reality at Texas for Gray is that it probably would have been difficult for him to realize aspirations to become the DC or head coach after Mack Brown. In fact, in the excitement of finally being able to return to Austin, Gray probably didn't have a strong handle on the true realities of the situation when he accepted the job.
Here's the bottom line: whether or not Gray and Brown got along well at Texas, Gray didn't have a relationship with Brown prior to accepting the job and he did have a relationship with Mike Munchak and the Titans organization having coached there before. In a lot of ways, it wouldn't have made sense for Gray to turn down the job, simply because of the possibility that it could vault him into consideration for NFL head coaching jobs again.
And with the news of Duane Akina returning to Austin, maybe those hard-line Texas fans who turned their venom on Gray like a spurned lover can admit that he made a sound business decision and that everything ultimately worked out well in the end, especially since Akina isn't wildly overqualified for his current position.