Sunday, January 17, 2016

Titans ownership aims low and gets its man

I'm going to cut the Tennessee Titans some slack.

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in. In my previous professional life as a sports columnist for The Tennessean, I was never accused of being a slack-cutter.

But here goes:

Since the Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt as coach in early November, I'm going to assume the team's leadership group used all that time and did its due diligence in formulating a wish list of candidates. At a Jan. 4 press conference, team President/CEO Steve Underwood said the original list included 155 names.

That's casting quite a net. Although no identities were revealed at the time, I'm betting that list included some doozies. When you go 155 deep, you're probably hitting everybody from former successful NFL head coaches like Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy as well as hot assistant coaches and even some of the biggest names in college football.

So let's assume the Titans really did aim high. Again, we're cutting some slack here.

Then it came time to set up interviews. And it is at that point Titans ownership learned that hiring a coach is a two-way street. Just wanting to hire someone is only half the story. That person has to want to be hired.

And with this organization in such utter disarray and with the ownership group a running joke in NFL circles, the resulting pool of candidates was embarrassingly shallow.

Maybe this came as a surprise to the owners. As the heirs of a billionaire, the late franchise founder Bud Adams, they are accustomed to getting what they want. Their Christmas lists were never ignored by Santa Bud.

When all else failed (and what hasn't failed in the last few years where the Titans are concerned?), the owners circled back and did what many of us believed they would do all along: They hired one of their own, Mike Mularkey.

I won't bore you with a recap of Mularkey's past failures as an NFL head coach. Suffice it to say, he has struggled -- badly. With all the other opening around the NFL in the last few weeks, his name never surfaced in connection with another head coaching job. That tells you all you need to know.

But after previous failures as a head coach in Buffalo and Jacksonville, who knows? Maybe the third time's the charm.

Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk explained the hiring, in part, as an effort to maintain continuity for quarterback Marcus Mariota. As I've written before, Mularkey's greatest accomplishment as Titans interim head coach is that he didn't get Mariota bludgeoned by opposing defenses quite as much as Whisenhunt did.

As for continuity, that's a stretch. After a rookie season where he missed one-quarter of the games due to injury, it would be better for Mariota to go through a total transition now than to postpone it for a year or two.

The next challenge is for Mularkey to hire a coaching staff that can find a way to squeeze a few victories out of a weak roster. Good luck with that. If the dysfunctional ownership group wasn't enough to scare off quality head coaching candidates, the state of the roster probably sealed the deal.

Titans fans deserve better. The city of Nashville deserves better. Marcus Mariota deserves better.

Titans ownership? They deserve Mike Mularkey.

Reach David Climer on Twitter @DavidClimer.


1 comment:

  1. I'm leaning toward giving up on the Titans. I won't be a great loss as I've only been to a couple games and don't have much Titan gear. Maybe I can find a new team to root for. I was a colt fan until they bolted from Baltimore, Then the steelers, until the Titans showed up. Maybe it's time for something new, the St. Louis Rams are pretty close!