Mike Mularkey lasted one season as coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. It’s uncertain how long he’ll be in charge of the Tennessee Titans.
Coming off his first loss with the Titans, Mularkey faces the host Jags as a head coach Thursday night for the first time since they fired him following the 2012 season.
After going 2-14 with Jacksonville three years ago, Mularkey was let go when the team decided it needed “an immediate and clean restart.”
‘I wasn’t sure I’d ever get another one after what happened in Jacksonville,” he said.
“It’s very hard to create a culture. You are coming in there, and everything is new. It was a situation where a new owner came in, hired a new GM, and they wanted to go in a different direction. But I just wish we would have had more time.”
In his second season as a Tennessee assistant, Mularkey got that chance after Ken Whisenhunt was fired Nov. 3. Five days later, the Titans (2-7) snapped their six-game skid with a 34-28 overtime win at New Orleans.
The Titans lost 27-10 to undefeated Carolina on Sunday, but were competitive before the Panthers scored the only 10 points of the fourth quarter.
‘We went out there and gave it our all, and we’re going to keep our heads up,” linebacker Avery Williamson told the Titans’ official website.
With the team seemingly responding well to the change, the rest of this season represents a chance for Mularkey to earn the Titans’ job full-time.
“We’ll get an opportunity to see him perform as a head coach,” team president Steve Underwood, also serving on an interim basis, said earlier this month. “But we’ll cast a wide loop looking for candidates for a successor head coach. We’ve made that clear to Mike, he understands that, but it’s a great chance for him to have an audition.”
Mularkey doesn’t want Thursday’s matchup to be about him.
“I just want these guys to win,’ Mularkey said. ‘That’s important to me. It has nothing to do with who we’re playing. It’s just a matter of winning.’
Doing that won’t be easy without a better offensive performance, as Tennessee managed 242 yards and a season-low 11 first downs against the Panthers’ top-10 defense. A week after throwing four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Saints’ struggling defense, Marcus Mariota was picked off once and didn’t have a TD.
Mariota, however, has been sacked once in two games under Mularkey after being dropped 19 times in his first five.
Mariota won’t have Justin Hunter available after the third-year receiver suffered a season-ending ankle injury Sunday. He had 22 catches for 264 yards and a TD.
Rookie running back David Cobb could make his debut after he was inactive against Carolina, having been eligible for that game following his activation from the injured reserve/eligible to return list. Tennessee was held to 64 rushing yards after gaining 112 against the Saints.
Jacksonville (3-6) yielded 89 rushing yards against Baltimore and snapped a 13-game road skid with Sunday’s 22-20 victory. It looked as if the Jaguars’ road woes would continue when Blake Bortles was brought down by Elvis Dumervil as time expired. However, Dumervil was called for a facemask penalty and Jason Myers followed with a winning 53-yard field goal.