Mularkey Faces Uphill Battle With Titans, Fans

Posted at 10:56 PM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-17 00:04:14-05

The Tennessee Titans have named Mike Mularkey their new head coach. Color everyone underwhelmed.

Even the team itself buried the announcement in the second half of a divisional round playoff game.

Judging by fan reaction following the announcement, Mularkey may have an even harder time winning over the fanbase than winning games with a team that's won just five times in two years.

And winning is the only thing that will help Mularkey's popularity in Nashville.

But isn't that the case with any hire?


The Titans were almost universally praised two years ago for their hire of Ken Whisenhunt, a coach that had led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl.

How did that turn out?

Whisenhunt's teams went an awful 3-20 and his unwillingness to adjust prompted controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk to fire him seven games into this season amid overwhelming fan disapproval.

Her direction to Mularkey as interim coach was to make players accountable and, by all means, protect rookie Quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mularkey did his best. He changed blocking protections, placed an emphasis on running the ball and then sat the franchise QB for the final two games of the season to avoid the risk of further injury to his sprained right knee.

He also instilled a discipline that made the Titans one of the least penalized teams in the NFL over the last half of the season and showed a willingness to adapt and work with the players, coaches and front office he inherited.

Mularkey was already a finalist for the Titans' head coaching job in 2011 when Mike Munchak was hired, and his support from within the building only grew with his on the job tryout this fall.


The biggest argument against Mularkey is his 18-39 record as an NFL head coach over three and a half seasons with the Bills, Jaguars and Titans.

It's not pretty, but neither were the situations he inherited in Buffalo, Jacksonville, or as the interim coach in Tennessee.

And it's not like there's a bunch of slam dunk candidates just hanging around waiting for a call.

As the Titans announced the Mularkey hire, many were watching the Patriots and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels roll past the Chiefs 27-20 and into another AFC Championship.

McDaniels went 11-17 as Broncos head coach and ruffled feathers throughout the organization before he was fired with four games left in 2010.

My personal favorites entering the search were Bengals Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson and Bears Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase.

Jackson was hired as the new head coach of the Browns despite being fired after going 8-8 in his only season as a head coach in Oakland in 2011. Miami made Gase the youngest head coach in the NFL at age 37.

Hiring a head coach is difficult. The best coaches already have jobs.

Remember Whisenhunt? He was the can't miss hire of the 2014 coaching carousel.

He missed.

Whether you're hiring Mularkey, McDaniels, Jackson or Gase you're really just guessing and hoping.

The Titans at least had experience with Mularkey and liked what they saw. That's why it's his job now.


Mularkey faces an uphill climb with a Titans team that went 3-13 this season and holds the no. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

But it's now his team. With the full support of the organization behind him, he can hire his staff, put in his system and, along with new general manager Jon Robinson, put together his roster.

Maybe the third time is the charm for Mularkey.

No one believes he can win with the Titans. But if he does, fans won't care he wasn't their first choice.