NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In her short statement in the Tennessee Titans' press release announcing the hiring of Mike Mularkey as coach, controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk pointed to his history.
“He has experience as a head coach and a track record for developing young quarterbacks and dynamic offenses, and he also brings continuity for our franchise quarterback,” she said.
I see spin, spin and spin in that statement.
She said young quarterbacks, plural. Beyond Matt Ryan, whom did he develop? The other primary quarterbacks he coached were Kordell Stewart, Tommy Maddox, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb, Joey Harrington, Cleo Lemon, Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert. Which of those could be rated as having developed under Mularkey? Maddox, perhaps. But Mularkey's resume should hardly include "quarterback-developer."
Dynamic offenses also sent off a flare for me, and I have dug up numbers from Mularkey's terms as offensive coordinator of the Steelers (2001-03), head coach of the Bills (2004-05), offensive coordinator of the Falcons (2008-11) and head coach of the Jaguars (2012). Not everyone’s definition of dynamic is the same.
In those 12 seasons, Mularkey had more offenses that ranked in the bottom third of the NFL in yardage (five) than ranked in the top third (four). Although his offenses were in the top 10 in points scored five times, they were also in the bottom 10 four times.
Those offenses averaged just better than 17th in total yards, just better than 16th in points scored and just worse than 14th on third downs.
In Mularkey's last year in Pittsburgh, the Steelers ranked far worse in offense, rushing offense, points and third-down conversions than they did in his first year. In his second year in Buffalo, the Bills ranked worse in three of five major categories. The Falcons, however, did sustain some significant progress during Mularkey's four seasons in Atlanta.
As for continuity for Marcus Mariota, that is vital. The team needed to ensure Mariota is under the right coaches in the right system heading into his second year, so that can be sustained long-term.
Coaching hires can amount to a crapshoot. Maybe Mularkey, even with his 18-39 record as a coach, turns out to be the right guy. But keeping someone for the sake of continuity isn’t the sensible choice if he’s not the right person.
Change now would be far healthier for Mariota than change in 2017 or 2018.