Mike Mularkey

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.

Rapoport’s Latest: Mularkey, Arians, Rodgers

It’s a busy day in the NFL, as some teams fight for the playoffs while others prepare for the offseason and their next head coach. Let’s take a look at some of the latest reports from NFL.com scribe Ian Rapoport on the eve of Black Monday:

  • Despite the fact that the Titans could clinch a playoff spot today, Rapoport says that head coach Mike Mularkey is in trouble, and if Tennessee loses to Jacksonville this afternoon, Mularkey could be fired. Indeed, he could be canned even if the Titans make the playoffs but lose in the wildcard round. Apparently, ownership is frustrated with the development of Marcus Mariota, and if the Titans dismiss Mularkey, they could go hard after Patriots OC Josh McDaniels.
  • Rapoport tweets that the Cardinals have not given up hope of enticing head coach Bruce Arians to return, though ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Arians is likely to step away from coaching after Arizona’s season finale today.
  • The Packers recently extended Davante Adams, and Rapoport tweets that the team will make an extension for Aaron Rodgers its top priority this offseason.
  • There are expected to be two head coaching openings in the NFC North, with the Bears and Lions preparing to look for their next sideline general this offseason. Rapoport names Patriots DC Matt Patricia as a top choice for Detroit, while the Bears could look hard at a QB guru for young signal-caller Mitch Trubisky. Rapoport tweets that the SaintsPete Carmichael, the longest-tenured OC in the league, could get a look for the Chicago job.
  • Both Cowboys coordinators (DC Rod Marinelli and OC Scott Linehan) are on the hot seat and will be thoroughly evaluated, per Rapoport (video link).

Breer’s Latest: Black Monday Preview

With the final week of the NFL’s regular season approaching, that only means two things; 12 teams will soon be focusing on reaching the Super Bowl, while the rest will start to look ahead to next season. One major part of looking forward is addressing who on the coaching staff will be returning in 2018. Many of these coaching questions are answered on the day following Week’s 17 conclusion, conveniently called “Black Monday”.

Veteran reporter Albert of Breer of Sports Illustrated, gave a preview of the coaches he expects to stay and the ones that will likely be shown the door in his most recent column. Breer ranked the potential firings as “Likely/Done”, “We’ll See”, and “It’s Complicated”. In total, there were 15 head coaches mentioned who could see their situations change starting next week.

Here’s a quick look at Breer’s takes on some of the league’s hottest coaching questions:

  • There were five head coaches included in the “likely/done” category including: BearsJohn Fox, BengalsMarvin Lewis, LionsJim Caldwell, ColtsChuck Pagano and and the Giants‘ interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. The four full-time head coaches on this list have all had their fair share of success in the league. In fact, three of them led their current teams to multiple playoff appearances during their tenure. However, Caldwell and Lewis have been unable to win a postseason game with Pagano and Fox having failed at continuing the past success they have shown during their careers in football. Breer notes that while the “expectation is that Fox will be gone”, the decision on the fate of general manager Ryan Pace is true question facing the franchise this offseason. There’s been rapid speculation about Lewis, Caldwell and Pagano throughout the year, so their inclusion on this list is no surprise. Finally, the Giants are currently interviewing general manager candidates who will almost certainly be looking to lead their own head coaching search once hired.
  • Breer puts six current head coaches in the ‘we’ll see” part of the list. This portion mentions the CardinalsBruce Arians, BroncosVance Joseph, RaidersJack Del Rio, BuccaneersDirk Koetter, TitansMike Mularkey and the RedskinsJay Gruden. There’s a variety of situations going on here with Breer noting that Arizona could see Arians retire, which could lead them to other current NFL head coaches: Todd Bowles and Bill O’Brien. Del Rio and Gruden have had their fair share of success because of quality quarterback play, but both have managed to decrease confidence because of an inconsistent 2017 season. However, Breer points out that both are signed long-term so their owners would have to eat the remaining years of their current deals. Mularkey and Koetter were rewarded for the relationships they formed with their QB’s, but there’s been disappointment with how this season has unfolded for their teams. Breer notes that should Mularkey lose this Sunday, he could be on the chopping block come Monday morning with the team looking to hire an offensive-minded coach like Josh McDaniels. Finally, Joseph has forced himself to the hot seat even in his first year of coaching the Broncos, though Breer says himself that this situation is “unpredictable” given that team president John Elway is just “not pleased with how the season’s gone”.
  • Browns head coach Hue Jackson, and the two previously mentioned O’Brien and Bowles of the Texans and Jets, find themselves on the “it’s complicated” section of Breer’s roundup largely because of just the many factors are at play in regards to their situations. Jackson got a vote of confidence from owner Jimmy Haslam himself, but new general manager John Dorsey could have his sights on implementing his own guy after a winless season. O’Brien has made the playoffs before, but has struggled committing to a QB even after the team selected Deshaun Watson in the first round. Bowles has done a lot with a little in New York this season, but ownership could go in a different direction with a new starting signal caller likely walking into the building next year. Also, there is the potential that all three coaches could move onto new head coaching gigs with the number of openings that could be available this offseason. The final and definitely most surprising inclusion on this list was Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who Breer mentions could retire at age 66 with a roster about to see major turnover in the next few years. Although, I would venture that nothing he’s said this season would indicate that being the case.