(DeMarco Murray photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles)
(Mike Mularkey photo courtesy of the Tennessee Titans)
Talk of Fame Network
In Mike Mularkey, the Tennessee Titans have a head coach who likes to run the ball. In DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry they have two backs who CAN run the ball. So the obvious question: How do you split the work between the NFL’s 2014 rushing leader and last year’s Heisman Trophy winner?
Glad you asked. Because we posed it to Mularkey on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast, and his response might surprise you.
“I don’t plan to split up the work at all with those two,” he said. “DeMarco Murray is our guy, and we have an answer if, for some reason, he’s not.
“There’s no plans of specific numbers of carries for either one. We’re going to run DeMarco until he needs a blow, and then we’re going to bring in somebody just as fresh and powerful and go with it. That’s the plan. DeMarco knows that. He’s known it since five minutes after we drafted Derrick in my conversation with him.”
Murray and Henry are key figures in Mularkey’s plan to restore the Titans as a rushing power and to protect second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota. The Titans a year ago surrendered a league-high 54 sacks, and one way you change that is by strengthening your offensive line … which the Titans have.
But another is to strengthen your running game, and that’s where Murray and Henry come in.
“I think that will help (Mariota) immensely in what we’re trying to do here play-action wise,” Mularkey said. “Very similar terminology but different philosophy and scheme with what we’re doing this year compared to last.
“We’ve done some things protection-wise differently. We understand some of the things that took place (in 2015). We led the league with sacks, and I think that comes from a lot of areas, including coaching, that we subjected our quarterbacks to that situation. But we know what we need to get better at, and we’ve been practicing it for this offseason.”
But the NFL is supposed to be a quarterback’s league, with rushing de-emphasized to such a degree that only seven backs a year ago eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing. You don’t win, some opinion makers believe, without throwing the ball … and throwing it a lot ... which, they also believe, minimizes the importance of the running game.
“I know people say that,” said Mularkey, “but if you watch the Super Bowls the teams that have been capable of running the football have been the playoff teams … the teams that have won the Super Bowl.
“I disagree with it. I think that balance is really important in this league, both the run and the pass. I think the run helps the passing game. It’s been successful since I’ve been in coaching as a coordinator. It’s what we believe in, and it’s what we’re going to do. And that hasn’t changed since my days early as a coach.”