Plenty of NFL coaching searches begin with the end in mind, making the effort more of a process of confirmation than elimination. Few if any NFL coaching searches culminate in a public admission that the decision was made before the process had ended.
On Monday, Titans president Steve Underwood admitted that owner Amy Adams Strunk made a decision during, not after, the process of looking for a coach ended.
“Somewhere during that process I think it coalesced for Amy and she had made the decision she already knew Mike [Mularkey],” Underwood said. “She had a comfort level with Mike. But she wanted to reach out and look around to make sure there was not any other viable candidates for her, in terms of our club and where we were going.”
She didn’t reach or look very far. The Titans interviewed three other candidates: Teryl Austin, Doug Marrone, and Ray Horton. The Titans pursued no undisputed A-list candidates, ignoring completely former Eagles coach Chip Kelly, the guy who recruited quarterback Marcus Mariota to Oregon and who wanted to land him in the 2015 draft. Likewise, Adam Gase, Ben McAdoo, and Tom Coughlin, each of whom drew interest from multiple teams, were not interviewed by the Titans.
Regardless of whether this inclination made the two Rooney Rule interviews (Austin and Horton) a sham, the whole process comes off as a sham. It wasn’t a real search; it was a hollow, we’re-going-through-the-motions-because-we-have-to coronation of Mularkey.
On one hand, that’s the Titans’ right. On the other hand, the NFL contemplates something more meaningful will happen. Especially since the guy who got the job has had zero interest in his services as a head coach since being released after one season with the Jaguars three years ago.
It doesn’t mean Mularkey will fail. But it means that either the Titans either know something everyone else doesn’t or everyone else knows something they don’t.