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Every year there is a team that the public at large leans on as the team that will make the leap from potential spoiler to playoff contender. Usually, these teams are easy to spot because they typically have a slew of young talent that is ready to take the next step.

Mike Mularkey was viewed as a retread hire that a young team on the precipice of great things didn’t need. His record as a head coach currently sits at 27-46 which is nothing to write home about.

Mularkey defenders could note that his record was the product of being in tough situations such as Buffalo, Jacksonville, and the first year in what was supposed to be a multi-year rebuild. There isn’t anything dynamic about him and he seems to be getting jobs because he is at best a steady set of hands on the sideline which does have inherent value.

This season is his most important as a head coach because now he has a team with talent. Marcus Mariota is being looked at as an MVP candidate and management made a ton of moves to take this team to the next level.

The AFC South is still an utter disaster and Houston remains their only rival. If Mariota can stay healthy there is no reason that the Tennessee Titans don’t make the first round of the playoffs if not further. Mariota now has solid receivers in Corey Davis, Eric Decker, and Jonnu Smith and Delanie Walker at tight end to pair with the rushing attack of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. The defense now has Logan Ryan and Adoree’ Jackson at corner. Mike Mularkey has to put it all together and not much in his career has suggested he can do that.

Mularkey has usually played it safe in his offenses. His most successful offense in Atlanta relied on running his RB Michael Turner into the ground while occasionally throwing the ball to Roddy White. They were 10th in scoring at one point but they never had the extra gear they would reach after he left.

If he can adapt his more conservative approach and air it out in creative enough ways, the Titans can do some real damage. If he’s happier running the ball on first and second down and opting for play action then they could end up being stuck in neutral.  There are no more excuses for Mularkey if the Titans fail to live up to expectations. This season isn’t about whether the Titans are ready to make the leap but if Mularkey is ready to leap with them.

Sports Al Dente 2019

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