Former Titans HC Mike Mularkey Said He Was Hired by TEN Before Ray Horton Interview

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 7, 2022

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 24: Head Coach Mike Mularkey of the Tennessee Titans in a game against the Los Angeles Rams at Nissan Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Longtime NFL assistant coach Ray Horton used comments made by former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey on a podcast as evidence the organization's interview with him during its 2016 hiring search was a sham.

ESPN's Kevin Van Valkenburg reported Thursday that Horton, along with former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks, joined Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores' lawsuit against the NFL and its teams alleging racial discrimination in the league's hiring and firing practices.

Horton released a statement to ESPN through his lawyers that said he was "devastated and humiliated" after hearing Mularkey's comments.

In September 2020, Mularkey explained on the Steelers Realm podcast the Titans informed him he'd be hired before starting a "fake hiring process" and he apologized for not coming forward with the information, per Van Valkenburg:

"I've always prided myself on doing the right thing in this business and I can't say that's true about everybody in this business. It's a very cutthroat business and a lot of guys will tell you that. ... I allowed myself at one point when I was in Tennessee to get caught up in something I regret it and I still regret it. But the ownership there, Amy Adams Strunk and her family, came in and told me I was going be the head coach in 2016 before they went through the Rooney Rule. And so, I sat there knowing I was the head coach in '16 as they went through this fake hiring process. Knowing a lot of the coaches they were interviewing, knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that everything they could do and they had no chance of getting that job. Actually, the GM, Jon Robinson, he was in on the interview with me. He had no idea why he was interviewing me—that I had the job already. I regret. I'm sorry I did that. It was not the way to go about it."

Mularkey, who'd served as the Titans' interim head coach at the end of the 2015 season, spent two years as Tennessee's full-time head coach before parting ways with the organization.

He provided Van Valkenburg with a statement as his comments garnered newfound attention: "I believe you have the truth and what you need. Prefer not to comment any further."

The Titans later issued a statement denying the allegations made by Mularkey, via Turron Davenport of ESPN:


Statement from the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Titans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Titans</a> regarding Mike Mularkey, Ray Horton and their HC search on 2016. <a href="https://t.co/IeGWST4l7E">pic.twitter.com/IeGWST4l7E</a>

NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league was never made aware of Mularkey's comments when they were originally made two years ago.

"I've done a lot of internal research and it never reached the NFL," McCarthy told ESPN. "We were not aware of this as an issue."

Horton, who spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons as the Titans' defensive coordinator, left to fill the same role with the Cleveland Browns in 2016.

The 61-year-old former NFL cornerback most recently served as the Washington Commanders' defensive backs coach in 2019.

Flores' lawsuit, which was amended to include the other coaches' allegations, seeks "increased transparency in NFL hiring, incentives for hiring Black coaches and increased visibility for Black assistant coaches," per ESPN.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in February they are reviewing policies and bringing in outside voices to help "make sure we are an inclusive league" in wake of the lawsuit.