Legacy Of Titans GM Robinson Could Be Defined By Coaching Hire After Mularkey Firing
The Titans parted ways with coach Mike Mularkey yesterday following a divisional round playoff exit, and Exec VP & GM Jon Robinson's "truth will come" with Mularkey's replacement, according to a front-page piece by Joe Rexrode of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. Mularkey went 19-15 in his two seasons as full-time coach after the Titans’ went 5-27 in '14 and '15, so starting over now is "awfully risky." Especially "considering the affection and respect many Titans players have expressed" for Mularkey. Robinson said, "There's nothing more that I want for our fans than to bring a championship here. I feel like it's my charge to put the team in the best position to do that" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/16). Rexrode writes, "I'm not sure this was a smart move. ... It's certainly a risk." However, Robinson "didn't choose Mularkey, Mularkey was chosen for him, and now he gets his shot to shape everything" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/16). In Nashville, David Ammenheuser writes an open letter to Robinson and Titans Controlling Owner Amy Adams Strunk. Ammenheuser writes, "This may be the biggest decision in Nashville professional sports history. You see, Amy and Jon, you simply cannot screw this one up." It is "imperative that the right person is hired." It is a decision that "needs to motivate the fans enough that Nissan Stadium is again filled" for Titans games (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/16).
WHAT WENT WRONG? In Nashville, Jason Wolf in a front-page piece cites sources as saying that behind closed doors, Mularkey "received assurance, separately," from both Robinson and Titans President & CEO Steve Underwood that he would "return" for the '18 season, the final year of his contract, prior to the team's loss over the weekend. Mularkey also was "told the team was open to negotiating a contract extension." But talks "were not substantive." Details about the length of an extension, or any stipulations of a deal "had yet to be discussed." He "proclaimed he was happy" with QB Marcus Mariota’s development and that he "anticipated making no changes to his coaching staff heading into next season." Robinson "listened intently to Mularkey’s public comments -- there was a clear disconnect -- and the stubbornness and absurdity of those notions ensured his dismissal." Robinson and Underwood, after consulting with Strunk, "fired Mularkey in person" yesterday morning. Robinson said, "In any organization -- not to speak for other teams -- but its ownership, the head coach and the general manager, they all have to be on the same page" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/16). ESPN's Louis Riddick noted Robinson probably "had his ideas" about what he wanted in a coach when he arrived, and Mularkey "wasn't his guy." It is "natural that these kinds of things come about, it's just not natural necessarily for ownership to come out and start talking about an extension ... and then circling back and going, 'Well, we couldn't quite get it done'" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 1/15).