NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' decision to hire Mike Mularkey as their head coach qualifies as uninspired. The organization opted for familiarity and missed out on an opportunity to take advantage of its position as the last team in search of a head coach.
The move suggests several things:
The team's ownership put too much of a premium on their comfort with the familiar. Mularkey is a likable guy with a sensible plan. That shouldn't outweigh an 18-39 record as a head coach with three teams, including 2-7 as the Titans interim coach after Ken Whisenhunt was fired on Nov. 3, 2015.
The team is offsetting roughly $15 million (minus his salary from the Chargers) still due to Whisenhunt. Late owner Bud Adams and his heirs who are running the team have too often been accused of being cheap. They have been willing to pay plenty of players, and they've eaten $4 million for Jeff Fisher not to coach as well as salaries for both Fisher's coordinators after he and his staff were out. The team also paid about $5 million for Mike Reinfeldt not to be the team's president in 2013 and 2014 and about $3 million for Mike Munchak not to coach in 2014. In this instance, it's hard not to think the price of Mularkey helped make him attractive.
New general manager Jon Robinson doesn't start off with sufficient power. He was hired in time to be part of the Titans' four interviews for head coach. The pool of candidates was insufficient, making the “search” a charade and making it clear that while Mularkey may have not been Robinson's favorite selection, the new head of personnel was OK with the old when he accepted the job.
The four-person panel that formulated the list and conducted the interviews seemed uninterested in meeting with the best-available candidates. That's controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, co-owner Kennth Adams IV, CEO and president Steve Underwood and VP of football operations Vin Marino. None of the three other people they interviewed will be a head coach in the NFL this season. They did not want to talk with hot offensive coordinator candidates who went to Cleveland (Hue Jackson), Miami (Adam Gase) or Tampa Bay (Dirk Koetter). They didn't have to hire one of them, but not talking with one of them or waiting to talk to New England's Josh McDaniels suggests they have a different feel for the candidate pool than the rest of the league. Maybe that proves right. But a different feel than the rest of the league over the past two seasons has produced a 5-27 record.
They lack a feel for the timing of the hire. At this point, while making the last head-coaching hire in the NFL, there was no reason to move forward with Mularkey without waiting to interview the best candidates still in the playoffs, starting with McDaniels (who Robinson worked with). No other team in the league was going to hire Mularkey. They could have still had him later after doing more thorough work.