Who Will Replace the Newly-Departed Mike Mularkey in Tennessee
In a move shocking to some, Tennessee
agreed to part ways with fired head coach Mike Mularkey. Mularkey coached the Titans to a record of 20-21 after taking over seven games into the 2015/16 season.
Of late, Mularkey had been a polarizing figure to fans of the Tennessee Titans. Emotions toward him and opinions about him varied from person to person.
Some felt indebted to him and thankful for him because he stabilized the Titans with back to back winning seasons in 2016 and 2017, with a playoff appearance in 2018.
On the other hand, many felt that Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie were hamstringing the development of rising star Marcus Mariota and the Titans offense.
According to Jim Wyatt of Titans Online, controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk acknowledged recent contract extension discussions, but she claimed it was “evident that we saw different paths to achieve greater success.”
You can read into that any which way you choose, I know what I think it means – fire Robiskie and stay, or don’t and you get fired too.
Favorite to Replace Mularkey
So with Mularkey gone, who will replace him? The rumored favorite is Josh McDaniel’s, the New England offensive coordinator.
On Monday, Ian Rapaport of NFL.com reported that McDaniels would regard the Titans opening as being the best job available. Rapaport cited “the health of Andrew Luck, as well as the high ceiling of Marcus Mariota” as primary reasons for McDaniels to spurn the Colts in favor of their division rival.
While McDaniels is a wonderful offensive mind, he would be another case of the NFL recycling head coaches. McDaniels coached the Broncos to an 11-17 record from 2009-201, but, in his defense, he did not have a quarterback with the skillset of Marcus Mariota.
Personally, I feel that McDaniels is one of the few cases where recycling a former coach might be a good idea. Upon being fired by the Broncos, he returned to New England so he could hone his craft, and pick a more desirable head coaching job than Denver was when he accepted the position.
However, coaching signings are never a done deal until you see the official team announcement. Just ask Mularkey who was reportedly getting an extension until this morning. So, who are other names I would take a long, hard look at if I was the Titans?
Among those I woud consider is a couple of college coaches in David Shaw, Pat Fitzgerald, and Jim Harbaugh. Shaw and Fitzgerald have led successful programs that run modern, but pro-style offenses at traditional academic schools in Stanford and Northwestern. Harbaugh, however, built the monster that is Stanford before leaving for the 49ers. He then lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, before being let go due to in-fighting with a general manager. It is my personal opinion that Harbaugh is a better NFL coach than a college coach. Getting any of these coaches will be a task, but it would be worth the look.
As far as NFL coaches not named Josh McDaniels, I would look to Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter or Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. Cooter (33) and Vrabel (42) are both young coaches who rose quickly through the coaching ranks.
Jim Bob Cooter would be my preference if I was making the decision. Cooter has helped elevate Matthew Stafford’s performances in astonishing fashion. Stafford’s completion percentage, yards per attempt and quarterback rating have all seen impressive increases, while his interceptions have decreases. Since Cooter took over as Lions offensive coordinator, Stafford has been a top-half of the league quarterback. Before Cooter, Stafford was in the bottom-half of the league. Also, I think there are more capable defensive coordinators out there than offensive, so it’s best to wrap up the offensive guys when you can.
Vrabel would not be a bad hire, however. His rapid rise through the coaching ranks is impressive. I would be worried about his ability to develop Marcus Mariota, so his offensive coordinator hire would be crucial.
Tennessee has a uniquely desirable coaching job, which is not usually the case for teams who are coach hunting. Because of this, Tennessee should treat the job as such and shoot for the stars. The worst that they can do is say no.