Mike Mularkey

Coaching Notes: Vikings, Browns, Dolphins, Jets

Right after the biggest coaching news of the cycle dropped with the Packers’ hiring of Matt Lafleur, we have a fresh batch of coaching rumors ready.

One of the most prominent coordinator openings is the Vikings’ offensive coordinator position. The team fired John DeFilippo midseason, and promoted Kevin Stefanski to that role. Although many initially thought Stefanski would be back in Minnesota, he is “unlikely to return”, according to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), who notes the team is “looking for depth of experience.” Robinson writes that former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey is a candidate for the job, and he thinks recently fired Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is a candidate as well.

Koetter is indeed a candidate for the job, confirms Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune. A source told Goessling that Koetter is a strong candidate for the job. Interestingly both Koetter and Mularkey have interviewed for the Falcons’ OC job in recent days. Koetter was Atlanta’s playcaller before landing the job in Tampa Bay. Robinson writes that Koetter has been “presumed across the league to be a lock for the Falcons OC job”, but that Minnesota is “in play” for him as well.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Mike McCarthy has been linked to the Browns job ever since he was fired by Green Bay, but things appear to be cooling off between the two sides. Cleveland “talked with either Mike McCarthy or his reps today, but things are on hold for now while the Browns talk to other candidates”, sources told Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. While it sounds like the Browns have put McCarthy on the back-burner, Demovsky notes he is still “very much in play for the Jets.”
  • Speaking of the Browns, the team completed their interview with interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens today, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. It’s unclear if Kitchens has a real shot at landing the head coaching job, as the back half of this season was his only experience even calling plays after he was promoted from quarterbacks coach, but he received a ton of praise for his work for Baker Mayfield. If he doesn’t get the job it’s highly possible he’s retained as OC by whoever takes over in Cleveland.
  • Pittsburgh’s offensive line coach Mike Munchak has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to leave the Steelers, and a source told Aditi Kinkhabwala of ESPN.com that he turned down an interview request from the Dolphins (Twitter link). Munchak has been very selective over who he’ll talk to in recent years, and it seems like the only way he’ll be on the move this cycle is if he lands the Broncos’ job. Recent reports have him as the “early favorite” for that gig.
  • We heard yesterday that the Jets were looking to set something up with Baylor coach Matt Rhule, and that meeting has apparently already taken place. The Jets “have discussed their head coaching vacancy” with Rhule, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports (Twitter link). Rhule has been buzzed about in NFL circles in recent years, as he’s done a great job turning around the programs at Temple and Baylor. He was considered for the Colts’ opening last year, but ended up removing his name from consideration.
  • The Dolphins were originally supposed to interview their special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi for their head coaching vacancy today, but the interview has been rescheduled for later in the week, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Rizzi is an outside the box candidate, but numerous former and current Dolphins players have lobbied for him to receive consideration. So far the Dolphins have interviewed Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, and Cowboys’ defensive playcaller Kris Richard in their search to replace Adam Gase. Whoever gets the job in Miami will likely have a new quarterback under center, as the team is expected

Falcons Interview Mike Mularkey For OC Job

The Falcons’ offensive coordinator search now brings the opportunity for two reunions. After the team scheduled an interview with former OC Dirk Koetter, it is now interested in Koetter’s predecessor’s 2019 fit.

Mike Mularkey interviewed for the Falcons’ OC position, Alex Marvez of Sirius XM Radio reports (on Twitter). The former head coach was Matt Ryan‘s first NFL offensive coordinator, holding Atlanta’s play-calling job from 2008-11. Teams have been eyeing the 57-year-old coach for OC jobs or position-coaching gigs, per Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (on Twitter), who adds the Falcons meeting occurred Wednesday.

While Koetter presided over one of the Falcons’ playoff-qualifying offenses, Mularkey was there for three, using it as a springboard to land the Jaguars’ HC job in 2012. Though, Mularkey has now been given three shots at being a head coach — in Buffalo, Jacksonville and Tennessee.

The Titans took a step back on offense under Mularkey in 2017, but he coached three top-10 Falcon attacks in his four years in Georgia. Those teams did not win a playoff game, however, the 2010 team being a one-and-done with a No. 1 seed.

Koetter, Mularkey and former Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell are in the mix for this job, though Koetter may be the favorite.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Ravens, Bengals

The Browns have again landed the No. 1 pick, and after years of stalling, the franchise is expected to try its hand at a first-round quarterback again. But a third name might be creeping into the race alongside Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projects (Insider link) Josh Allen to be the name called to go to Cleveland at No. 1, and a “high-level personnel executive” concurs. The NFL exec told Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com he expects John Dorsey to take Allen at No. 1 overall, and this anonymous decision-maker likens the Wyoming product to a young Ben Roethlisberger. Although, Rosen and Darnold — prior to the workout season — are viewed as readier prospects to run an NFL offense. Cabot notes the same exec told her two years ago the Browns would be set up for 15 years if they were to take Carson Wentz. A three-quarterback pursuit for said No. 1 pick, coupled with the anticipated plethora of available passers on the free agency and trade markets, would make this one of the more interesting offseasons in modern NFL history.

Here’s the latest out of the AFC North:

  • Ben McAdoo remains in the running for the Browns’ OC position, Cabot reports. Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan also interviewed for the post, but Cabot reports Ryan wants to call plays. She adds the Browns might not give him that opportunity due to a lack of experience doing so but notes McAdoo may get that chance since he’s done so previously. Mike Mularkey remains on the radar for this job as well, but Cabot notes he has yet to interview. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported McAdoo is taking his time in making a decision about where he lands.
  • The Browns finishing the process of hiring an OC without meeting with ex-Steelers play-caller Todd Haley would make for a big surprise, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports tweets. Haley’s also been connected to the Jets’ OC job.
  • Ravens officials believe the team has the makings of forming a “special” offensive line in the near future, and Jeff Zreibec of the Baltimore Sun expects the team to target a right tackle in the draft to round out the group. Zreibec writes a Round 1 choice on a tackle to complement 2016 first-rounder Ronnie Stanley shouldn’t be dismissed. The Ravens lost Marshal Yanda, Nico Siragusa and Alex Lewis to season-ending injuries, but Austin Howard graded out well at right tackle. Howard is under contract for the 2018 season, what would be his age-31 campaign, and it would cost the Ravens $2MM in dead money to jettison him.
  • The Ravens are no stranger to accumulating compensatory picks, and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap expects the team to receive a third-rounder for Ricky Wagner‘s departure. The Bengals are also expected to collect a third-round pick after Kevin Zeitler‘s trip across Ohio. Interestingly, the Broncos‘ one-year rental of Russell Okung stands to earn them a third-round choice in Fitzgerald’s view.
  • Speculation swirled about a Hines Ward hire to run the Steelers‘ wide receivers group, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes. But the Steelers instead hired Darryl Drake, a 14-season NFL coaching veteran who coached Ward at Georgia. Ward worked with the Steelers as a coaching intern last summer.

North Notes: Browns, Mularkey, Steelers

The Browns are “in discussions” with former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey regarding their offensive coordinator vacancy, according to Pat McManamon of ESPN.com. Mularkey, who was fired by Tennessee on Monday, was loosely connected to Cleveland yesterday, with reports indicating Hue Jackson & Co. would be interested in Mularkey if he were to come available. As of yet, the Browns have not set up a formal interview with Mularkey, but such a meeting could soon occur. Mularkey would become the third definitive candidate for Cleveland’s OC job, joining Texans quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan and former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo. A three-time head coach, Mularkey has coordinated offenses for the Steelers, Dolphins, and Falcons.

Here’s more from the 2018 coaching carousel:

  • Mularkey isn’t the only coach in whom the Browns are interested, as Cleveland has also interviewed TCU co-offensive coordinator Curtis Luper for their running backs coach position, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. If hired, Luper would replace Kirby Wilson, who was fired last week after two seasons with the Browns. Luper, 56, has never coached at the NFL level, but has worked in NCAA roles since 1995, with stops including New Mexico, Oklahoma State, and Auburn. He’s been at TCU since 2013, and was promoted from RBs coach to co-offensive coordinator in 2017.
  • Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann is planning to retire, as Alex Marvez of the Sporting News writes. The 70-year-old Mann has enjoyed a long career in coaching, and has especially thrived since joining Pittsburgh’s staff in 2013. His arrival coincided with Antonio Brown‘s ascension to the league’s best wideout, while Mann has also helped guide young pass-catchers such as Martavis Bryant and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Mann, a long-time collegiate coach, entered the NFL ranks in 1985.
  • The Vikings have yet to decide whether Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater will be quarterback Case Keenum‘s backup in the NFC Championship game, head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters, including Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Minnesota, which rarely keeps three quarterbacks active, used Bradford as Keenum’s No. 2 in the former’s first game since being activated off injured reserve.

Fallout From Titans’ Mike Mularkey Firing

Mike Mularkey‘s season-ending press conference played a role in his firing. The Titans had announced their two-year head coach would be back in 2018 and given him a contract extension, but reversed course and fired him on Monday morning.

Jon Robinson said that decision was made Monday morning and added Mularkey’s comments Sunday played a role in this ouster (Twitter links via Jim Wyatt of Titans.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Mularkey did not appear ready to make changes to his offensive staff, and it’s clear Robinson felt they were probably necessary.

Tennessee’s GM made clear Marcus Mariota‘s development will be the “highest priority,” per longtime NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Mariota regressed from 2016-17 despite steering the Titans to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and giving the franchise its first postseason win since the 2003 campaign. The former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick threw for a career-low 13 touchdown passes — after firing 26 in 2016 — and a career-high 15 interceptions. DeMarco Murray‘s yards-per-carry figure also plummeted by nearly a yard for a Titans offense that ranked 18th in DVOA.

While Robinson made it clear all of Mularkey’s assistants were under contract (Twitter link via Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com) it’s likely some (if not most) will be searching for new jobs soon. Kuharsky tweets Robinson and team president Steve Underwood informed Mularkey of his firing, not controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

Mularkey’s stubbornness regarding tailoring his scheme to Mariota’s talents helped do him in as Titans HC, Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com writes. Mularkey wanted to bring back his offensive staff, Wolfe reports.

The Titans are planning to interview Mike Vrabel and Steve Wilks, and hiring a defensive coach would represent a first since Jeff Fisher. A Josh McDaniels pursuit may have broken down in part because of timing, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets.

Browns Interested In Mike Mularkey?

Mike Mularkey is out of a job, but he should have plenty of employment options for the coming season. One possibility could be in Cleveland. This offseason, the Browns had interest in bringing Mularkey in as their new offensive coordinator if he ever became available, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweetsMike Mularkey (vertical)

Under Mularkey’s guidance, the Titans went 9-7 in back-to-back seasons and reached the playoffs in 2017. Whether that’s enough to put him in the conversation for the league’s remaining head coaching vacancies, however, remains to be seen. If Mularkey cannot put himself in the mix for the Cardinals, Lions, or Giants jobs, his best bet might be to take an OC position for at least one season and try his luck next winter.

At first glance, the Browns OC job seems unappealing given that the team has gone 1-31 over the last two seasons. However, the Browns offer potential on a number of levels. With the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks plus tons of cap room at their disposal, the Browns and new GM John Dorsey could position themselves as a winning team in 2018. Conversely, if the Browns get off to another slow start, someone like Mularkey could theoretically get a crack at the interim head coaching job with the potential to take over the post.

In December, Jackson admitted that he held off on hiring an OC because he did not want to saddle someone with a talent-poor offense. Now that the Browns are in (seemingly) capable hands, it sounds like he intends to bring one on staff.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans, Mike Mularkey Part Ways

So much for that extension. The Titans are parting ways with head coach Mike Mularkey, controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk announced on Monday morning: Mike Mularkey (vertical)

I want to thank Mike Mularkey for his contributions to our franchise over his tenure with our organization. He took over our team during a low moment and together with Jon built a solid foundation for our franchise. I appreciated that Mike devoted himself to this team and the community. In fact, we did discuss extending his future with our team over the past week, but in those discussions about the direction of the team, it became evident that we saw different paths to achieve greater success. It is certainly unfortunate that we couldn’t find enough common ground. I generally believe that continuity is the best path for success, but I also view this as an important moment for our football team as we try to make that next step to sustained success on the field. Jon will begin the search immediately to identify that person.”

Just eight days ago, Strunk told fans that “Mularkey is our head coach and will be our head coach moving forward.” For one reason or another, the Titans and Mularkey are now moving in different directions. Mularkey appeared to save his job with the Titans’ opening round win over the Chiefs, but the team’s divisional round loss to the Patriots has altered the club’s plans.

Wanderlust may have also played a role here with Mularkey having his eye on another job. Meanwhile, the Titans know that several hot coaching candidates are still floating out there now that Josh McDaniels is reportedly headed to the Colts and Pat Shurmur is (possibly) in line for the Giants gig.

The Titans have been frustrated Marcus Mariota‘s development, so they’ll presumably look for a coach who can get the young QB back on the right track. McDaniels could be the best man for that task, but it’s unclear he would go back on his verbal agreement with the Colts, assuming there is one in place.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans Offer HC Mike Mularkey Extension

It sounds like Mike Mularkey will be sticking around Tennessee after all. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the Titans have offered their head coach an extension. Mularkey was already under contract for the 2018 season, so we can assume that a new deal would keep him at the helm for several more years.

Mike Mularkey (vertical)We heard last weekend that Mularkey was on the heat seat, and there were rumblings that the coach could be fired if the Titans lost in their wild card matchup against the Chiefs. Tennessee pulled off the victory, and subsequent reports indicated that Mularkey would ultimately be retained for 2018.

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk issued a statement at the time regarding the matter:

“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. 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 [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. 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.”

Following underwhelming stints in Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the Titans head coach midway through the 2015 season. He went 2-7 during the remainder of that campaign, but he’s led his team to 9-7 records over the past two seasons. The Titans beat Kansas City in their first-round matchup, but they fell to the Patriots in the divisional round last night.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Mike Mularkey To Return To Titans In 2018

After guiding his team to a thrilling playoff win over the Chiefs yesterday, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey received assurance that he will be back in Tennessee next season, as Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com writes.

Mike Mularkey (vertical)

Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk issued the following statement on the matter:

“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. 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 [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. 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.”

Mularkey, of course, was rumored to be on the hot seat even though the Titans made the playoffs this year. If his team had lost yesterday, he may have been fired, as the team was reportedly frustrated with the way QB Marcus Mariota was progressing. Mariota did indeed take a step backwards in 2017 after an excellent 2016, but he played well yesterday in guiding the Titans to a comeback victory. Had Mularkey been fired, Patriots OC Josh McDaniels was said to be Tennessee’s top choice to replace him.

Following underwhelming stints in Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the Titans head coach midway through the 2015 season. He went 2-7 during the remainder of that campaign, but he’s led his team to 9-7 records over the past two seasons. He faces exceedingly long odds to take Tennessee back to the Super Bowl, but even if he cannot achieve that goal this year, he will get another shot next season.

ESPN’s Field Yates tweets that the Titans’ players immensely respect and appreciate Mularkey, which certainly helped secure his return.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Titans HC Mike Mularkey On The Hot Seat?

Despite leading his team to consecutive nine-win seasons, Titans head coach Mike Mularkey could be on the hot seat. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the coach’s job “is not safe,” and a loss to the Chiefs today could end his tenure in Tennessee. There were reports last week that Mularkey could be fired if the Titans lost their season finale.

Mike Mularkey (vertical)Following underwhelming stints in Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey replaced Ken Whisenhunt as the Titans head coach midway through the 2015 season. He went 2-7 during the remainder of that campaign, but he’s led his team to 9-7 records over the past two seasons. The Titans will play Kansas City today in the wild card round, their first playoff appearance since 2008.

However, Rapoport tweets that ownership has spent the past week discussing the coach’s future. Specifically, there has been “frustration with the lack of development for Marcus Mariota.” The former second-overall pick had a breakout campaign in 2016, but he took a step back in 2017, completing 62-percent of his passes for 3,232 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.

According to Rapoport, the Titans front office is also preparing to pursue Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. The former Broncos head coach has already generated a whole lot of interest, as he’s been connected to the Bears, Giants and Colts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.