NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Tennessee owner Amy Adams Strunk shot down speculation that Mike Mularkey’s job is at risk, saying her coach is going nowhere after helping change the Titans’ culture and getting their first playoff victory in 14 years.
National reports first had Mularkey potentially fired if the Titans lost their regular-season finale and again if Tennessee lost its AFC wild-card game at Kansas City. Instead, the Titans pulled off a major comeback after trailing 21-3 at halftime.
Strunk tried to stop all the talk with her statement on Mularkey’s job security Sunday .
“I regret that outside rumors gained a life of their own,” Strunk said. “No one has been a bigger supporter of Mike Mularkey than I have over the last two-plus seasons. … Just to eliminate any distractions moving forward, Mike Mularkey is our head coach and will be our head coach moving forward.”
Strunk made Mularkey interim head coach in November 2015 after firing Ken Whisenhunt who went 3-20 in his short tenure. Mularkey went 2-7 before Strunk gave him a three-year contract as head coach in January 2016, two days after hiring Jon Robinson as general manager.
Mularkey addressed the national reports that his job was on the line after the Titans beat Kansas City 22-21 on Saturday.
“No,” Mularkey said. “I haven’t had any support to say that I was (secure). No. I just assumed the worst.”
Hours after his owner’s statement of support, Mularkey said that the Titans “absolutely” are on the same page together. He also called Strunk’s statement nice and that he had only wanted to talk about the Titans beating a good team in their own backyard after the game.
Asked if the statement has put his mind at ease, Mularkey said he’s addressed the situation with his staff and won’t talk about it anymore.
“I’m already onto New England,” Mularkey said. “It’s been addressed, and I’m full-speed ahead getting ready for New England with our staff.”
Strunk credited Mularkey and Robinson with changing the culture of the organization and said she’s so happy they’ve been able to win 19 games over the past two seasons, including the first playoff victory since Jan. 3, 2004. She said the Titans have plenty of work ahead starting with the AFC divisional round, visiting No. 1 seed New England (13-3) on Saturday night.
“I am looking forward to the journey,” Strunk said.
With the win over the Chiefs, Mularkey now has a victory in his first postseason game. He also is 21-21 since taking over the Titans. Their latest win needed an amazing comeback from a 21-3 halftime deficit, tying for the second-largest rally by a road team in the playoffs. They tied Dallas’ comeback from an 18-point deficit in 1972 in the divisional round to beat San Francisco.
Only Detroit’s rally from 20 points down in 1957 to beat the 49ers in the divisional round was bigger than Tennessee’s comeback.
Tennessee rallied by sticking with the run. The Titans set a postseason franchise record by running for 202 yards against the Chiefs. Derrick Henry ran for a career-high 156 yards, while Marcus Mariota added 46.
Cornerback Logan Ryan, a free agent signee this past offseason, says the Titans have done a lot with the first playoff appearance since 2008 and first playoff win in 14 years.
“That’s a pretty good coach to me,” Ryan said.
NOTES: Mularkey says RB DeMarco Murray, who has missed the past two games with an injured right knee, will be day to day this week and might have a limited role. Mularkey says having an extra day would have helped. The coach also needs to see Murray run.
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