As it should be, Mike Mularkey said his focus is on Sunday’s game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In some ways, Sunday’s season finale could be a referendum on Mularkey and his staff.
The Titans were sitting pretty at 8-4 three weeks ago, but now three straight losses have them needing to win against Jacksonville in order to reach the playoffs.
A win on Sunday and all appears well enough with the Titans, who would finish with the same 9-7 mark as a year ago and would earn the franchise’s first playoff berth in nine years.
Chances are, Mularkey, who signed a three-year deal as head coach when he took over last season, might even merit an extension.
“A win would always make everything better,” Mularkey said.
On the other hand, however, a loss would mean no postseason (barring losses by both the Bills and Chargers) and would put Mularkey, who has gone 17-14 since a 2-7 interim stint in 2015, at the very least be affixed to the hot seat for 2018. .
For his part, he says he has not discussed his long-term situation with anyone in the organization, pointing out that Sunday’s game is the only concern for him.
“No. We’ve just talked about the Jaguars,” he said.
Asked about whether he thought the outcome of Sunday’s game might affect his long-term status as the Titans head coach, Mularkey was philosophical.
“I don’t know. There’s a plan for everyone, and I’m just following the plan, if you know what I mean,” Mularkey said.
To his credit, Mularkey has been a part of a culture change around the Titans that has the team knocking on the door of the postseason for a second straight year after going 5-27 in 2014-15 combined.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has noticed the improvements in the team since Mularkey took over.
“From when I stepped in the building day one to now, just to see the transformation, what Jon (Robinson) has done, what Coach Mularkey has done, it’s been impressive” Mariota said. “It’s fun to be a part of and like I said, hopefully we can continue this year in and year out.”
The Titans are discussing whether or not they need to add another running back to the roster given DeMarco Murray’s right knee injury and the fact that he might not be available against the Jaguars. The Titans are holding out hope that Murray might be available in a limited role, but that is no guarantee.
Derrick Henry would become the lead back, and special teamer David Fluellen would serve as the backup.
At this late juncture, if the Titans added a third back, their options would seem limited. They could re-sign fullback Jalston Fowler, who was released three weeks ago. Or perhaps promote rookie Khalfani Muhammad, who has been on the practice squad all year. Either way, those players would only seem to be emergency options for such an important game Sunday.
Logan Ryan sat out practice again Wednesday with his injured ankle. Mularkey is hopeful he could practice by the end of the week. He missed last week’s game against the Rams after sustaining the injury vs. the 49ers.