Recently, there was an article on NFL.com written by Bucky Brooks, ranking the top 5 candidates for NFL coach of the year. The article list these 5 coaches (in order):
- Andy Reid, Chiefs
- Jason Garrett, Cowboys
- Jim Caldwell, Lions
- Jack Del Rio, Raiders
- Bill Belichick, Patriots
After seeing this list, I have some definite opinions on where Coach Mularkey fits into this list, and even why some of them are on the list at all. Let's take these candidates one at a time.
Andy Reid, as the article states, has won 20 out of the last 23 regular season games. However, if this is supposed to be about this season I'm not sure it's fair to consider those prior 10 games. Therefore, let's just give him the 10 out of the last 13. That's still a fair comparison, and I think he definitely deserves to be on this list. He has dealt with injuries in key positions, but still had crucial victories over the Broncos, Raiders (twice), and Falcons.
Jason Garrett, although I'm sure he is a capable coach, I've always thought of him more lucky than a true coaching genius. Yes, he is dealing with 2 rookies in key positions, but at least in one of those positions it wasn't a stretch to get a quality player. Ezekiel Elliott was a high first-round pick and most likely going to have an easier time behind the great offensive line of the Cowboys. Also with this line, Dak Prescott was going to have plenty of time to throw the ball. To be quite honest, I can't see why Garrett is on this list.
Jim Caldwell is a surprising choice for the list and on the surface he may actually be worthy, but when you look deeper he seems like a bag full of confusion. With early losses to the Packers, Titans, and Bears, and wins over very shaky teams like the Eagles, Redskins, and Jaguars. He seems to be a coach that squanders the talent he has more than focus them. Yes, the Lions are currently in the lead of the NFC North, but I forecast that this Lions team won't be there much longer.
Jack Del Rio is a coach I believe that mirrors Mike Mularkey. He has had coaching opportunities in the past without success, but now has found a home where he is thriving. He has taken a young QB in Carr and WR in Cooper, and turned this offense into a potent weapon. Also, even though the Raiders have some issues on defense, they are coming together nicely.
Finally, Bill Belichick, I hate to admit it, is one of the best coaches in history. This season he started with his biggest crutch (Brady) suspended. He came out of the first 4 weeks with a 3-1 record. Now he continues to win without his 2nd best player (Gronkowski). Admittedly, he is one of my least favorite people on one of my least favorite teams, but you cannot deny that he wins.
Seeing how I would eliminate both Caldwell and Garrett from his list, that means I need to add 2 more. So, let me make the pitch for a couple of coaches here. The first one is obvious. I think Mike Mularkey is extremely deserving to be in this list. This Titans team has been a screwed up mess over the last couple of seasons, and even before that was heading into chronic mediocrity. Granted, he has been given much better players to work with by Jon Robinson. Although Ken Wisenhunt had many of these players, he showed that he was absolutely not a match for this franchise. So, Mularkey was able to build this group of players into a true team. That is harder to do at the NFL level than any other. He has also put together a fantastic staff with the additions of Russ Grimm as the offensive line coach, Terry Robiskie as offensive coordinator, and moving Dick LeBeau to full-time defensive coordinator. He truly should be in this list.
The other coach to consider is Dirk Koetter of the Buccaneers. Many of the same issues the Titans possessed also belonged to the Bucs. However, Koetter has harnessed Jameis Winston to take this team to a tie for 1st in the NFC South (yet another Titans similarity).
So, here is my list in order. I'm trying not to be "homer", but I'll let you make that judgement.
- Jack Del Rio
- Mike Mularkey
- Bill Belichick
- Andy Reid
- Dirk Koetter
At this point I believe the Coach of the Year is still up for grabs. Coach Mularkey could very well end up being at the top of this list with a successful playoff run. This has been a truly impressive coaching job by a man that has been minimalized over his career. All I can say is well done, Coach Mularkey, well done.
Let me start out by saying this article will probably have you shaking your head and maybe even cursing my name under your breath, but please continue to read to fully go on the ride with me.
Q. Are Titans fans spoiled brats that throw tantrums after every play that doesn't go their way?
A. There is quite possibly a large number of fans that scream at the coaches, players, management, etc. after every failed play and especially after every loss. At every game I attend at Nissan Stadium there is a large contingent of the fan-base that screams at the coaching staff for their play calling. If the team is winning or losing, it doesn't seem to matter, there are fans screaming, "That's the worst play I've seen in my entire life!" or "I hate <insert coaches name here>! He's the worst coach in the league!" These are usually screamed in the 1st quarter when the game is still very much in doubt. As the game progresses, these same people (after a few alcoholic beverages) have become even more belligerent. They have added more colorful language to their rhetoric without considering the potential for younger ears nearby. On the comical side I have even seen a fan scream that the coaching staff should throw the ball downfield more and the play-calling is too conservative, only to have the coach do the very thing they desired and fail. The fan then turns around and screams "What kind of call was that?!" The funny thing is you expect that type of fanatic at the game, but with local sports talk radio and Internet team sites (like this one), you get a fan that can't stop being angry even when faced with overwhelming facts and logic. Admittedly, as my wife can attest, I am TV screamer. When sitting at home watching the Titans play away games I have been called out for yelling at the team for poor play. My wife can name each one of my canned howls... "Unbelievable!", "Horrible call!", or her personal favorite, "You gotta be kiddin' me!" So, does this make me a "closeted" bad fan?
Can the Titans' management team and coaching staff really be that pathetic? Are they just "taking the paycheck" and "mailing it in"? Are we as fans the patsies of the NFL and the Tennessee Titans franchise for continuing to support such incompetence? Well, to be honest, these questions are not as sarcastic as they may first appear? We have all experienced that player that "took plays off" or that coach that seemed to be in way over their head or even an ownership group that wasn't around to answer these very questions.
Fans, by their very nature, are deeply passionate about their team, and Titans' fans are no different. However, I think there might be some that have been fans from the beginning (Titans' franchise beginning not historic Oilers) who were spoiled by playoff and even Super Bowl visits, and demand this organization continue to deliver exceptional seasons without exception. Your question might be, are the fans wrong for this? Absolutely not. However, when the only thing you have to say about the team, to whom you express deepest devotion, is a couple of seasons of tirades then bailing out by selling your tickets to opposing fans, maybe you have a loyalty problem.
Have the Titans had several seasons where the team put a less than mediocre product on the field? Yes. However, count yourself lucky you're not a Browns fan, or a Bengals fan of the late 80's and 90's, or a Buccaneers or Saints fan of the 20th century... I could keep going. There are very few teams that say they are untouchable when it comes to putting a stinker of a team together. Let's just look at a few you might think are truly great franchises the Titans need to be: Admittedly, the New England Patriots could probably be called the "team of the 21st century" to this point (and a true thorn in my side for most of my life). However, in the late 1980's and early 1990's the Patriots were a team that couldn't get out of their own way. They posted records of 5-11 in 1989, 1-15 in 1990, 6-10 in 1991, 2-14 in 1992, and 5-11 in 1993. From 1989 to 1999 they had a record of 73-103. This isn't spectacular by any measurement. There is also "America's Team" (I just threw up in my mouth a little), the Dallas Cowboys. From 1986 to 1990 they were 25-54 and again from 2000-2005 they were 40-56. They were the epitome of mediocrity. Finally, let's consider the team that has won the most Super Bowls, the Pittsburgh Steelers (quite possibly the most obnoxious fan-base in the NFL). They missed the playoffs 11 times from 1980 to 2000 (52%). What do all of these numbers tell us? Almost nothing except, if you are to call yourself a fan of any team, no matter what the team, then you need to expect the good times with the bad. What makes you a good representative of that team is how you react during both.
Am I saying that as a fan you shouldn't yell at your team? Absolutely not. I'm just saying that you need to remember while you are "letting your freak fan flag fly", you need to keep your brain engaged and realize that for better or worse you have fallen head-over-heels in love with a team that you know in your heart is great. Keep yelling (within reason), just keep lovin' that flaming thumbtack. However, if you are one of the ones that demands the team win every home game before you decide to leave your cave once again, then maybe you have just discovered you are not the true fan you considered yourself to be. You might want to consider a franchise that doesn't lose. Oh wait, as I pointed out earlier, there isn't one.
Before the Titans drafted Marcus Mariota there was so much hype whether he could play under center after playing in shotgun his entire career, and whether he had the "leadership personality" needed to guide men at this level. His first season was a struggle to stay upright and a struggle in an inept offense, but now he appears to be one of the hottest QBs in the league. This gave me an idea, I need to compare his first 24 regular season starts against some of the NFL's greatest QBs (in the modern era). After some deliberating I decided to compare him against the following QBs (past and present):
- Dan Marino
- John Elway
- Tom Brady
- Joe Montana
- Brett Favre
- Aaron Rodgers
- Steve Young
- Peyton Manning
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Marcus Mariota is destined for Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but these numbers do show very good news for the Titans faithful that have had very little to remain faithful about over the last several seasons.
The 3 statistics that I really find interestingly positive are the completion percentage (63.24%), the touchdown-to-interception ratio (2.44), and touchdowns (44). The completion percentage tells me that he is more accurate than most or that the coaching staff has worked extra hard to assimilate his particular skills into an NFL offense. Either way, he has very healthy relationships with his receivers that should prove a continuation of his improving numbers.
His 44 touchdowns and 2.44 touchdown-to-interception ratio shows me that he will continue to drive this offense to higher and higher scores. The number of times he has been sacked is a huge concern that I believe has already been successfully addressed with the reworking of the offensive line this season.
There are a few other numbers that are not shown here. On the positive side, Mariota is quite possibly the fastest QB in the league and has shown he is a real threat as a runner. On the negative side, he has shown an unfortunate lack of ball protection, fumbling on many inopportune occasions. He has worked very hard as of late on protecting the ball.
Again, these numbers comparisons are just an interesting way to prove where you've been as a team and not a true measurement of where you might go. That being said, Marcus Mariota is in very good company amongst the QB historical elite.