Posted on January 7, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
All it took was for Mike Mularkey to secure his job as head coach of the Tennessee Titans was an 18-point comeback win in a playoff game. One day after the Titans beat the Kansas City Chiefs 22-21 to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs, team ownership publicly stated that Mularkey’s job wasn’t in jeopardy and that he would be back with the Titans next year whether they win or lose next week.
“Mike and (GM) 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,” Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement Sunday. “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.”
Late in the regular season, there were whispers that Mularkey’s job could be in trouble. The Titans were 8-4 heading down the stretch, only to lose three in a row. That losing streak nearly cost the Titans a spot in the playoffs. But with a win over the Jaguars in Week 17, the Titans avoided a complete collapse and earned a playoff spot. That was followed on Saturday by Tennessee’s first playoff win since 2003.
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Despite the vote of confidence from ownership, Mularkey was not pleased with the recent rumors about his job security. After all, he led the Titans to back-to-back 9-7 seasons in his first two full seasons as head coach.
“I haven’t had any support to say I was (safe),” Mularkey said after Saturday’s win over the Chiefs. “I just assumed the worst. I don’t think it’s fair to my family. When it has an effect on my family, it has an effect on me. So it had a big effect on me.”
If it matters, Strunk was apologetic on Sunday. He expressed his regret that Mularkey had to listen to rumors about his job heading into the most important games of the season.
“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,” said Strunk. “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.”
For what it’s worth, several of the Titans veteran players have come to the defense of Mularkey, praising him for the job he’s done in getting the team to the playoffs.
“I always had faith in Mike,” said tight end Delanie Walker after Saturday’s game. “When he was trying to get the job, I was the one that had his back. I wanted him here. I knew his philosophy. I knew what he was going to bring to this team, and you can see it.”
“We’ve had back-to-back winning seasons,” added linebacker Brian Orakpo. “We made the playoffs. We won a playoff game. What more do people want.”
Now that Mularkey has finally received a vote of confidence about his job status from Titans ownership, he can give his full attention to the task at hand. Tennessee will be heavy underdogs against the Patriots on Saturday. Nevertheless, after all the speculation about his job, Mularkey has the Titans one game away from the AFC Championship Game.