Tennessee Titans: Mularkey’s shadow will loom large in 2018

To the large contingent of Tennessee Titans fans that wanted head coach Mike Mularkey fired…I have some good news and bad news.

The good news: you got your wish, obviously.

The bad news: Mularkey may be gone, but his shadow will still loom large over the franchise in 2018…and possibly beyond.

Don’t get me wrong, Mularkey forced the hand of the front office when he defiantly stated that the entire coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, would return next season even though the offense regressed in just about every statistical category in 2017.

Yet and still, the team managed to advance to the divisional round of the playoffs by playing together, believing in one another, and never giving up. Mariota himself admitted this was the closest team he had ever been apart of, and that speaks to culture.

Like him or not, Mularkey and his staff deserves a boatload of credit for that.

Was he the type of coach that could eventually turn the Titans into Super Bowl contenders by staying the course? The emotional answer is probably not, but we will never know the answer to that question for sure.

What we do know is the new coach will have some huge shoes to fill when he arrives in Nashville.

General manager Jon Robinson, who will head the search for Tennessee’s next head coach, used the word “maximize” six times in Monday’s press conference to lay out the team’s plans for the future.

That was no accident, and the recurring theme of his message was Mularkey’s inability to maximize the talent on the roster….namely quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Speaking of talent, did anyone notice the game-changing playmakers in the other three divisional round games? How many current Titans players would you trade straight up for them?

I digress.

Ugly, and often hard to watch, the Titans still accomplished something that hasn’t been done in these parts in 14 years, and that’s where the bar is set for the new coaching staff in 2018.

AFC championship game or bust…a tall task for what could be a first-time head coach.

The new coaching staff could lead the Titans to the number one overall offense in the league next season, but if they fail to advance any further in the playoffs then was the season a success?

And heaven forbid if Tennessee misses the playoffs all together, all hell would break loose….no pun intended.

The same people clamoring for change would be at the front of the picket line with their pitch forks and signs raised high.

Because it’s happened before….

Remember when Ken Whisenhunt, the offensive guru, was bought in to replace the offensively challenged Mike Munchak? It took a 2-14 season for fans to realize that offensive stats aren’t everything. Coach Whiz was a culture-killer, and the team went into the tank while under his leadership because he couldn’t galvanize them.

Granted, Jon Robinson is no Ruston Webster (former GM), but history could repeat itself if the coach doesn’t fit the close-knit culture that was implemented and fostered by Mularkey and his staff.

Again, I am not advocating for Mularkey, nor am I suggesting that he got a raw deal. 99% of us live in the “real world” workforce, and we do what our bosses tell us regardless of how we feel about it.

Personally, I would have replaced staff members to not only keep my job, but to retain the jobs of the other staff members that will be affected by my decision.

That’s water under the bridge now, but the new coaching staff will not only have huge expectations heaped upon them by taking the job, but they will also have Mularkey’s playoff shadow looming over their head until they improve upon the progress that was made under his leadership.

Hopefully that happens sooner rather than later….

I’m sure that Titans fans would agree that another 14 years without a playoff win would be a death sentence to this franchise.

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