The Tennessee Titans are back in the NFL playoffs for the first time in the past nine seasons. But unless they defeat the Kansas City Chiefs in Saturday’s AFC wild-card playoff game, head coach Mike Mularkey might be out of a job.
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Titans are considering making a change if the team loses on Saturday — possibly directly after the game. The top choice to replace Mularkey would be New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Dissatisfaction with the development of quarterback Marcus Mariota is cited as the primary reason why Mularkey would be dismissed. The No. 2 overall pick in 2015 and former Heisman Trophy winner regressed in his third season, compiling a quarterback rating of 79.3 after notching a 95.6 mark the previous season. Mariota also threw for fewer yards, half as many touchdowns (dropping from 26 to 13) and almost twice as many interceptions (from nine to 15).
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 6, 2018
Besides Mariota’s lack of progress, the Titans’ front office also believes that the talent on the current roster is far better than the team’s 9-7 record (Tennessee’s second consecutive season with that mark) indicated. The offense has two skilled running backs in DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, one of the NFL’s best tight ends with Delanie Walker and a capable trio of receivers in Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker and Corey Davis. (Davis, however, had a very disappointing rookie season, catching only 34 passes fro 375 yards and no touchdowns.
Defensively, the Titans ranked No. 13 in total yards and yards allowed per game. Against the run, Tennessee allowed the fourth-lowest total rushing yards and yards per game. But the defense was terrible against the pass, ranking 25th in total yards and yards per game categories. And that was despite safety Kevin Byard tying for the league lead with eight interceptions.
But if McDaniels is the team’s target, it’s clear that the priority is fixing Mariota and getting more out of an offense that averaged fewer than 21 points per game. Among playoff teams, only the Buffalo Bills were worse this season.
Barely qualifying for the playoffs, while suffering embarrassing blowout losses to the Steelers and Texans (and also losing to the Dolphins), obviously isn’t what general manager Jon Robinson and ownership had in mind. The team might also see the progress that the Jacksonville Jaguars are making and believe changes need to be made to stay competitive in the AFC South.
If Mularkey is fired, his Titans head coaching tenure will end with a 20-21 regular season record (and one playoff loss) and two second-place division finishes.