Titans interim coach: Too busy working to worry about future

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Mike Mularkey has two games left as interim head coach of the Tennessee Titans, not that he's changed his style or approach in an attempt to win himself the job past this season.

He said he's too busy coaching, trying only to win the next game.

That leaves no time to worry about his future.

''Days are so full of things, I have to get ready for the games, and I don't have a lot of time to sit and ponder and wonder,'' Mularkey said Wednesday. ''Again, I'm trying to get this team to win these last two games. Whatever happens at the end happens. We'll see then.''

When the Titans Ken Whisenhunt on Nov. 3, Mularkey found himself in his third stint as a head coach, this with the franchise that didn't hire him for this job in 2011. After two seasons in Buffalo, a lone year in Jacksonville and now seven games in Tennessee, Mularkey is 18-37. He's 2-5 since taking over the Titans - a win shy of matching his friend's victory total in 23 games.

Mularkey certainly is coaching his way.

One of his first moves involved stripping left tackle Taylor Lewan of a captaincy, allowing the second-year lineman to concentrate on playing better. Mularkey has switched around offensive linemen and schemed differently to better protect rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Titans have allowed seven fewer sacks (21) under Mularkey compared to their first seven games under Whisenhunt (28).

When David Cobb was activated off injured reserve, Mularkey said he talked with the rookie and reminded him that plenty of people and families - not just teammates - were relying on the running back to do his best.

Mularkey also has discarded some tactics from other stops like lining up helmets as he did in Jacksonville. He mandated helmets be lined up neatly as players stretched, and admonished any player if a helmet was even a few inches out of line.

''I think everybody learns from each experience, and that was one of them,'' Mularkey said recently when asked about that change. ''Just what was important, and I figured that wasn't.''

He's also tried to stir up competition during practice and to ensure the Titans are ready for games by checking up on players. Mularkey has checked the notes taken by practice squad players and given pop quizzes during position meetings. Defensive back Coty Sensabaugh said he was one of the first to receive one of Mularkey's pop quizzes - and he answered correctly.

''He keeps us on our toes and keeps us loose,'' Sensabaugh said. ''We just have to execute.''

The Titans (3-11), in position to draft No. 1 overall in 2016, host Houston (7-7) on Sunday. Texans coach Bill O'Brien said he has noticed a lot of changes since Mularkey took over.

''Mike has done a great job,'' O'Brien said. ''I think they're playing very tough at home. That's number one, it's going to be a big challenge at home. I think scheme-wise, there have been some changes. They're doing some different things in the running game, in the passing game. We've got to be ready for all of that.''

Wide receiver Harry Douglas worked with Mularkey when the coach was offensive coordinator with Atlanta between 2008 and 2011. Douglas said earlier this month that Mularkey has done a great job of keeping the Titans together and changing things up inside the building to give them a boost of energy.

''You see it in practice, you see it in games,'' Douglas said. ''We just got to finish game and win them.''

Amy Adams Strunk, who took over as controlling owner in March, talks regularly with Mularkey. She hasn't given any hint of her plans for the future for a franchise that has had one winning season since 2008 and three head coaches in as many years.

''We're definitely headed in the right direction, and I think he's the guy for the job,'' Sensabaugh said.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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