VOL. 9 | NO. 5 | Saturday, January 30, 2016
Titans Coaching Staff Turns a Grayer Shade of Blue
By Terry McCormick | Special to The Memphis News
If experience is the best teacher, the Tennessee Titans’ young roster is headed to school – old school, that is.
Head coach Mike Mularky’s offensive and defensive coordinators – Terry Robiskie and Dick LeBeau – have a combined 80 years of coaching experience, Robiskie starting with the Oakland Raiders in 1977 and LeBeau with Philadelphia in 1973.
Terry Robiskie, Tennessee’s new offensive coordinator, is being called upon to simplify the Titans’ offense foir second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota.
(AP File Photo/Kevin Terrell)
In addition, Mularkey has added Hall of Famer Russ Grimm as offensive line coach – he began coaching 23 years ago – and special teams coach Bobby April, who began working his way through the high school, college and professional coaching ranks 39 years ago.
When Mularkey had the interim tag removed from his title last week, he was asked why things would be different in his third watch as a head coach than they were in stops with Buffalo and Jacksonville before his interim stint in Tennessee.
“I am very confident in myself and I will be confident in the guys that I’m hiring. I’m going through that process right now,” Mularkey said.
Judging from the first few hires made by Mularkey, there appears to be little doubt in which direction his staff is heading. There is a definite “back to the future” feel to it, with age and experience being key elements of the staff being assembled.
“I am going to surround myself with people that have the same feelings as I do, the same beliefs, same coaching style,” Mularkey said. “These guys know what they are getting, the players know, they saw me for nine weeks. They know what they are getting, this organization knows what they are getting. It is not like starting brand new. I know what changes need to be made, and fortunately, I get a chance to change them.”
In making those changes, one of his first big moves, however, was to keep the status quo when it came to running the defense. Mularkey elected to hang on to LeBeau, his long-time coaching friend, while allowing Ray Horton to return to Cleveland rather than staying second fiddle in Tennessee.
LeBeau’s Hall of Fame resume speaks for itself, and after 57 years in professional football as a player and a coach, he commands plenty of respect, even with a younger generation of players, like the Titans.
Even at age 78, LeBeau had no troubles getting the players to buy into his system and coaching style.
On offense, Mularkey opted for some change but is being careful not to make drastic scheme alterations.
While Jason Michael may have been too green for what Mularkey wants in an offensive coordinator, the coach is keeping him around as quarterbacks coach to help with continuity in the development of Marcus Mariota.
Robiskie comes over from the Falcons and is getting his third crack at being an offensive coordinator. The 61-year-old worked for Mularkey in Atlanta as a receivers coach and has been an offensive coordinator for both the Browns and the Los Angeles Raiders.
Yes, the LA Raiders. That’s how long ago he scored his first offensive coordinator job. That was 1989, four years before Mariota was born.
Mularkey promises Robiskie will simplify the Titans’ offense and make it better for Mariota, rather than change all the verbiage and force the second-year QB to learn a new offense.
While Robiskie has been with a number of teams, and twice has been an interim coach, he hasn’t called plays since the 2004 season in Cleveland.
Titans fans had better hope the game hasn’t passed him by.
Mularkey has continued to add to the graybeard staff with his offensive line coach hire.
Grimm has been out of the game since 2012 when he was fired by the Arizona Cardinals.
But don’t hold being on Ken Whisenhunt’s Cardinals staff again Grimm. The Hall of Famer was once one of the most revered offensive line coaches in the game, right alongside former Titans coach Mike Munchak.
Grimm coached that position for the Steelers’ 2005 Super Bowl champion team and won three rings as a player as one of the Washington Redskins legendary “Hogs.”
If he can provide the toughness that has been missing from the Titans line since Munchak gave up coaching the group, the Titans may have taken a large step toward solving a chronic line problem.
April is a journeyman’s journeyman in the NFL coaching ranks, having coached pro football since 1991. The Titans are his ninth team.
Twice he has been named special teams coach of the year, the last time in 2008, and the Titans could certainly use a jolt on special teams.
As Mularkey reaches back into his past to form his first coaching staff in Tennessee, the Titans have to hope that these older coaches might teach these younger Titans a few new tricks, tricks that might just turn things around in Tennessee.
Pro Bowl worth watching?
How do you know you’re a hard-core football fan? You have nothing better to do with your Sunday evening than watch the Pro Bowl.
While the NFL’s annual all-star game is nothing more than an intra-squad scrimmage involving many of the game’s top players, there will actually be a couple of players for Titans fans to follow now. Because the Carolina Panthers made the Super Bowl, removing all their selected players from the Pro Bowl, alternates have been added to fill in. Titans Delanie Walker and Jurrell Casey are among them.
Walker had a banner year with 94 catches for 1,088 yards receiving with six touchdowns, while Casey tied for the team lead with seven sacks and had 28 quarterback pressures.
Their selection marks the first Titans players to go to the game since Alterraun Verner was chosen after the 2013 season. It is the first time since 2010 that multiple Titans players have been selected for the game.
So, if you need a football fix before the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl is scheduled for Sunday at 6 p.m., on ESPN. You’ll see some two-tone blue represented, for a change.
Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com