NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Rich Gannon has been associated with the NFL for nearly 30 years, first as an All-Pro quarterback, and now as an analyst.
He thinks the Titans got it right by sticking with Mike Mularkey, for two big reasons. One of them involves quarterback Marcus Mariota, who just wrapped up his rookie season.
The Titans on Saturday named Mularkey the team's permanent head coach.
TitansOnline.com looks back at Titans head coach Mike Mularkey's 2015 season. (AP Photos)
"So you already pulled the rug out from Marcus in the first year by firing (Ken Whisenhunt), and really taking away his play-caller. Now he has a little bit of continuity because they kept things somewhat familiar to him. So now do you pull the rug out from him again with a completely new guy with a new system? I can go down the line with quarterbacks who have taken a step back in year 2 and year 3 because they are never able to build off of what they did the first year,'' said Gannon, a four-time Pro Bowler.
"They'd have to start all over again. It is like learning Spanish one year and then I hand you German and the next year you have to learn French. And you are asking these guys to do that at the most important position in the organization. … You have to have continuity around the quarterback, and is even more important with a young quarterback. It's big for Marcus to have Mike."
Mularkey replaced Whisenhunt as the team's interim head coach in November, and served the final nine weeks in that capacity. After conducting four interviews for the position, the Titans opted to stick with Mularkey, who served two seasons as head coach of the Bills (2004-05) and one season as head coach of the Jaguars (2012). He also has eight years of experience as an offensive coordinator, with stops in Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
Gannon, an analyst with CBS and SIRIUS XM, played 17 NFL seasons (1987-2004), with the Vikings, Redskins, Chiefs, and Raiders. He was teammates with Mularkey for two seasons in Minnesota.
"I would really like to see what Mike could do with real opportunity. I have played with Mike, I know how tough a guy he is, how much football is important to him and how passionate he is about it. I also know he is a very intelligent guy,'' Gannon said.
"And in fairness to Mike, I'd like to see him get a real opportunity. I think the situation in Buffalo was bad, and yet he made the most of it. He went to Jacksonville and it was a place that was so dysfunctional, and he only got a chance to be there for 11-12 months, and without a quarterback. It's hard to judge him based off of that."
Gannon called the Titans-Saints game for CBS, the first game Mularkey served as interim coach.
He's kept up with the Titans all season, as well as the team's moves since, including the decision to part ways with general manager Ruston Webster after the season ended. Earlier this week, the team hired Jon Robinson as its new general manager.
Gannon believes Mularkey is capable of putting the team back on the right track.
"The job that he did (as interim coach), making changes on the offensive line and cleaning up the protection. Let's be honest, and they've moved on from Ruston Webster, which is probably a good thing, because look at the team,'' Gannon said. "You have to ask yourself, who are the 10 best players on the team? Look at the offense, and the team has a rookie quarterback, inexperience at the running back position, an offensive line that needs a makeover, and at receiver there's not a lot of production there. The best thing they have going for them is at tight end.
"All these (young coaching candidates) are inexperienced guys. I think the fact that Mike went through it in Buffalo, and he went through it in Jacksonville, I think it has hardened him. And I think it has helped me in terms of the oversight of the entire, building, the owner, general manager, the draft, free agency, offense, defense, special teams.
"He knows how things work, and how he wants them to work. Give him a chance and he'll do a terrific job."