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Titans Head Coach Rumors: Josh McDaniels 'A Favorite' After Mike Mularkey's Exit

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2018

New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels watches from the sideline during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

It appears the Josh McDaniels race is coming down to a battle of AFC South rivals.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported McDaniels is a "favorite" to land the Tennessee Titans' job after Mike Mularkey's firing Monday. The New England Patriots offensive coordinator has also been linked to the Indianapolis Colts' vacancy.

Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero of NFL Network later reported the Colts have "held strong" in their pursuit of McDaniels and he is "expected" to take the job in Indianapolis when an offer comes in.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported the Titans will interview Houston Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel as part of their search. Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will also be interviewed, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

Los Angeles Rams OC Matt LaFleur will be interviewed on Thursday, according to Rapoport.

The Titans fired Mularkey two days after losing to the Patriots in the divisional round after failing to agree on a new contract.

"I want to thank Mike Mularkey for his contributions to our franchise over his tenure with our organization," Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk said in a statement. "He took over our team during a low moment and together with [general manager] Jon [Robinson] built a solid foundation for our franchise. I appreciated that Mike devoted himself to this team and the community."

McDaniels, 41, has been the Patriots' offensive coordinator since 2012—his second stint with the team. His first ended when he took the Denver Broncos' head coaching job, going 11-17 in parts of two seasons.

While that tenure was ridiculed for McDaniels being in over his head as a head coach in his early 30s, he has emerged as perhaps the premier assistant coach in football under Bill Belichick.

Teams have been attempting to bring McDaniels back to the sideline as a head coach for years, but he's been selective with opportunities. Schefter's report said McDaniels is finally expected to leave New England for a head coaching job this offseason.

The Titans and Colts jobs both come with their inherent advantages and concerns.

Tennessee is coming off its first playoff appearance since the 2008 season, but Mularkey is departing in part because of his inability to develop Marcus Mariota. The third-year quarterback regressed in nearly every statistical category in 2017, throwing for a career-low 13 touchdowns and tossing a career-high 15 picks.

Mariota has still yet throw for 3,500 yards as an NFL quarterback, and the Titans also made the postseason despite a minus-22 point differential.

The Colts already have a franchise quarterback in place—albeit one with an uncertain future. Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season after recovering slowly from shoulder surgery last offseason. He spent time in Europe late last year to undergo treatment not available in the United States.

The Colts have been publicly optimistic about Luck's future, but his slow recovery and history of injuries is a concern moving forward.

Indianapolis went just 4-12 without Luck this season.

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