When the annual list of NFL coaches most likely to be fired was compiled, Tennessee Titans Coach Mike Mularkey was a visible occupant of a very unsettling spot.
His Titans were in the playoffs with a 9-7 record, but they’d gone 2-3 over December and no one was feeling confident of their chances of winning a wild-card playoff game against the Chiefs in Kansas City. But on Saturday the improbable happened as the Titans rallied from a 21-3 deficit for a 22-21 victory and suddenly Mularkey’s future looks a lot more secure. Still, he was unusually open and somber after the game about being on the hot seat, admitting it had “a big effect” on him.
“No, I haven’t had any support to say that I was [safe no matter what the wild-card result]. No, I just assumed the worst,” a straightforward Mularkey told reporters.
On Sunday, Mularkey learned that he will be back for the 2018 season when Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk announced that he “will be our head coach moving forward.”
“Our mantra all season has been to take things week by week and not get ahead of ourselves and it obviously has served us well,” Strunk said in a statement. “I regret that outside rumors gained a life of their own. No one has been a bigger supporter of Mike Mularkey than I have over the last two plus seasons. Mike and [general manager] Jon [Robinson] have changed the culture of our team and organization and I am so happy we have been able to bring success on the field to our fans — winning 19 games over the last two seasons, including our first playoff win in nine years. Just to eliminate any distractions moving forward, Mike Mularkey is our head coach and will be our head coach moving forward. We still have work to be done, including this week, but I am looking forward to the journey.”
Never mind that Mularkey, whose record is 18-14 over the last two seasons, got the team into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Next up is a game next weekend in either Pittsburgh or New England.
“We’ve had back-to-back winning seasons,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said (via ESPN). “We made the playoffs. We won a playoff game. What more do people want? It’s [expletive] ridiculous.”
And it’s worse on a coach’s loved ones.
“I don’t think it’s fair to my family,” Mularkey said. “When it has an effect on my family, it has an effect on me. So it had a big effect on me.”
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