Titans Ahead Of Schedule Under Mularkey

Posted at 10:29 PM, Dec 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-13 23:29:37-05

Tennessee's decision to hire Mike Mularkey as their head coach last January was widely criticized, both in Nashville and around the NFL. With the Titans sitting in first place with three games left, how do you like the hire now?

Mularkey would be within his rights to remind his critics of just how far this team's come in one year under his guidance, but he's too busy preparing the Titans for a December playoff push.

So let me run down the accomplishments.

The Titans 7-6 record is their best through 13 games since 2011 and they have a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2008. This from a franchise that fielded the worst team in the NFL the past two seasons with five combined wins.

Offensively, Mularkey and new offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie have guided the Titans from 30th in the league in total offense a year ago to eighth, averaging nearly a touchdown more per game.

Marcus Mariota has become a bonafide star, throwing for 25 touchdowns and a passer rating that sits right at 100 in the second year of his career. In the month of November, Mariota was the best quarterback in football, throwing over 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns en route to being named the AFC Player of the Month.

The Titans have turned a non-existant running game under Ken Whisenhunt into one of the best rushing attacks in football. Behind a re-tooled offensive line, prize free agent acquisition DeMarco Murray has looked like the running back that was the NFL's rushing champ in 2014. As a team, the Titans have rushed for 144.5 yards per game, ranking third in the league.

The numbers defensively aren't great, but while the Titans' defense has bent plenty this season they haven't broken. Brian Orakpo (10.0 sacks) and Derrick Morgan (9.0) have become one of the NFL's top pass rushing duos, leading a pressuring defense that has piled up 33 sacks.

So while the secondary has been victimized from time to time, defensive mastermind Dick LeBeau has been able to apply enough pressure for the Titans to rank in the top half of the NFL in third down defense and, ultimately, in scoring defense.

It's a stunning turnaround when you consider the state of the roster and the franchise one year ago, and the credit belongs to Mularkey and new general manager Jon Robinson.

There was reasonable concern when Amy Adams Strunk decided to hire a first time G.M. and a coach with a 15-39 career record to try to turn her downtrodden franchise around. But through 13 games together, Robinson and Mularkey appear to be the perfect fit.

They have created a new culture with a focus on tough, physical, team first professionals in the locker room, and it's paid off.

The bottom line is the NFL is a results driven league and the Titans haven't accomplished anything yet.

But even if they don't win the AFC South and end the playoff drought this season, the rebuild is ahead of schedule.

And the hire of Mularkey is looking better and better.