NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Tennessee Titans installed Mike Mularkey as interim head coach, they said he’d get a look for the permanent job.
Interim president and CEO Steve Underwood said it was a chance to audition, but that the team intends to cast a wide net in searching for a new coach once the season ends.
For Mularkey to stick, Underwood said, “we would need to see measurable improvement.”
“The improvement in our business is measured in wins, he continued. “You can be competitive, you can play in close games, but at the end of the day, what people care about is wins and losses.”
So far the Titans are not on track for a measurable improvement in wins. They are 1-2 under Mularkey with six games remaining.
“I’m coaching like I coach the tight ends or as an offensive coordinator, this is how I coach,” Mularkey said. “I’m not trying to do anything more than my job. My job is obviously now to have a little bit more control over other areas. This is not for any other reason but this is how I coach.
“I’ve got plenty to do other than worry about what’s going to happen after the year. I’ve got to worry about now. Right now.”
Mularkey has made changes to the Titans with more multiple-tight end sets and more of a priority on pass protection and the run game. Friday practices don’t taper off the week as much as they did before, instead maintaining the Wednesday-Thursday tempo the coach expects on Sunday. Mularkey’s also asked guys to show up by 7:45 on a morning that may begin with an 8 a.m. meeting.
But other stuff that doesn’t relate as directly to football that were ingredients in his 2-14 season as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars -- to his credit -- have faded.
Unlike the 2012 Jaguars, the Titans aren’t getting fined $10,000 for talking about injuries, they don’t have to line up their helmets in a perfectly straight line during stretching before practice and their positioning and posture for the national anthem before games isn’t a point of emphasis.
Veteran safety Michael Griffin could hardly believe those things had been put in place by Mularkey in the past based on how things have been with the Titans, and Griffin ranked him as as good as anyone for whom he’s played.
Mularkey said he’s simply evolved.
“I think everybody learns from each experience, and that was one of them, just what was important to winning,” Mularkey said. “And I figured that wasn’t.
“It wasn’t that big a deal, it wasn’t real hard for what we were doing. But was it a path to us winning down there? I don’t know if it had anything to do with it or not -- it was important to me. So I’ve changed a couple things up and feel good about it.”
The Titans still aren't getting enough good results. Nothing about what the guy in charge for the remaining six games feels like an audition to the players I've chatted with about it, or to this close observer.