NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans' first playoff win in 14 years was certainly big news, but just as newsworthy after the Titans rallied past the Kansas City Chiefs and into the AFC divisional playoffs, was the story of head coach Mike Mularkey's job security.
After having seemingly squelched the talk of his firing once the Titans defeated Jacksonville to reach the playoffs last week, a report from NFL Network surfaced again just hours before kickoff that Mularkey would be let go if the Titans lost to the Chiefs.
When the Titans rallied from a 21-3 halftime deficit to pull off an improbable 22-21 win, Mularkey could not hold back when asked about the report in the winning post-game press conference.
"It's ridiculous," Mularkey said. "I can say I don't think it's fair for my family. So if it has an effect on my family, it has an effect on me. So, yeah, I'd say it had a big effect on me."
Mularkey went on to blister the organization, when asked if he had felt going into the game that he would be back to fulfill the final year of his contract in 2018.
"No, I haven't had any support to say that I was (secure). I just assumed the worst," Mularkey said.
A day later, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk issued a statement to try and silence the talk of Mularkey's firing, and said that he would be back. However, the statement offered no mention of a contract extension, which means Mularkey could head into 2018 in a lame-duck situation unless things change between now and next season.
"Our mantra all season has been to take things week by week and not get ahead of ourselves and it obviously has served us well. I regret that outside rumors gained a life of their own," the owner's statement said. "No one has been a bigger supporter of Mike Mularkey than I have over the last two plus seasons. Mike and Jon (Robinson) have changed the culture of our team and organization and I am so happy we have been able to bring success on the field to our fans - winning 19 games over the last two seasons, including our first playoff win in nine years. Just to eliminate any distractions moving forward, Mike Mularkey is our head coach and will be our head coach moving forward. We still have work to be done, including this week, but I am looking forward to the journey."
Several Titans players came to Mularkey's defense, none more vocally than linebacker Brian Orakpo.
"That's crazy to me because I never heard that," Orakpo said. "That's crazy. I mean, a guy to take a team to two back-to-back winning seasons, go to the postseason, which hasn't been done in a long time, win a postseason game, I mean what the hell more do people want? It's (expletive) ridiculous to me. But what do I know? What do I know? It's (expletive) crazy. That man has put us in a great position to make us successful and I'm glad to have him as a head coach."
REPORT CARD VS. CHIEFS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- The only mistake was an interception where Corey Davis failed to clear out Chiefs CB Marcus Peters away from the play, allowing him to peel back and jump the pass intended for TE Delanie Walker. Marcus Mariota got a little lucky on his first TD pass, as it was batted back to him. But he made clutch throws down the stretch and scrambled when necessary to move the chains.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- It was the best performance of the year for the offensive line, as Derrick Henry rushed for 156 yards and a TD. In particular, the play of left tackle Taylor Lewan and left guard Quinton Spain was strong as the Titans consistently ran to their side.
--PASS DEFENSE: C -- It sure improved after the Chiefs lost TE Travis Kelce to a concussion. Once that happened, the Titans were able to play things more straight up. They did do a good job of containing the speedy Tyreek Hill for the most part.
--RUSH DEFENSE: A -- The Titans held NFL rushing leader Kareem Hunt to 42 yards on 11 carries. The run defense, which has been stout most of the season, came up big again vs. the Chiefs.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Adoree' Jackson fumbled a punt, but the Titans got lucky when the Chiefs missed a field goal out of it. Other than that, special teams played well and helped to dictate field position.
--COACHING: A-plus -- Mike Mularkey was supposedly coaching for his job, according to reports. To get his team to stay together and stick with the plan down 21-3 at halftime, and to have them rally for a win, is probably Mularkey's best coaching job of the season. The Titans should quit the games and give him a contract extension, if for no other reason than how the players respond to his message.