From a Comet to a Titan
John McNulty’s family is used to his constant changes of address as the 1986 Abington Heights graduate pursues his dream of coaching football.
Even his four-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, understands what her father is looking for in a coaching position.
“The youngest one says we should go to San Francisco, because they win all the time,” McNulty said. “I was in the National Football Conference (NFC) West [with Arizona] when they got on this run.”
Kaitlyn, like his wife and three other children, will have to pack once again as McNulty has been hired as the quarterback coach for the Tennessee Titans.
The Titans are the fifth NFL team the 45-year-old McNulty has coached for. Over the course of his career, McNulty has been a part of eight different programs, including his three college positions.
That has meant buying and selling houses in five different states, as he rattled off the names of cities after cities that are ingrained in his mind and on his resume.
“I should go into real estate, make money both ways,” McNulty said with a laugh.
For all the prestige of being a coach, McNulty knows there are sacrifices to be made, especially those made by his family.
“Four kids, it’s crazy busy. That’s pulling four kids in and out of schools, after they’ve made friends. It’s pretty stressful on the whole family,” McNulty said. “As the kids get older, it gets harder, but you do what you have to do. It’s not like you can get another [coaching] job just down the street.”
McNulty understands that being on the merry-go-round is necessary in his profession, hoping that past relationships will assist him with getting his next job, wherever or whenever that might be. This time, after one year in Tampa as quarterback coach, he has been reunited with Ken Whisenhunt, who was the head coach for the Arizona Cardinals where McNulty was wide receiver coach for three years and quarterback coach for one year in 2012. Whisenhunt, who was fired by the Cardinals after the 2012 season, was the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers this season before he was hired as the Titans’ head coach.
“He played 11 years — he’s coached quarterbacks, and he’s learned from them as much as they’ve learned from him,” McNulty said. “We’ll assess the situation, work through their strengths and weaknesses to our best advantage.”
As the quarterbacks coach, McNulty will work with Jake Locker, a former first-round pick who has battled injuries during his time in the National Football League (NFL). The promise of working with Locker, plus an atmosphere that McNulty has seen in the past from the Titans’ fans, has the Penn State graduate eager to embrace the upcoming challenge.
“When I worked in Jacksonville, they were winning the American Football Conference (AFC) title,” McNulty said. “It was a hard place to play. I saw what was possible, and this is a team that’s ready to take off with Jake Locker at quarterback. We could be ready to make a long run.”
Long runs are getting rarer and rarer in the league, with teams seemingly unwilling to be patient with their coaching staffs. Cleveland fired its head coach after just one season, which got the attention of everybody in the profession. With all the coaching changes that happened this year,
including seven teams seeking replacements since November, McNulty understands how hard a long run is. But having been in the league for 12 years now, he also understands what it takes to chase after his dreams of coaching in the NFL, just like many others.
“It’s probably getting worse. The owners or whoever makes the decision to change,” McNulty said. “I hope we can stay for awhile. I hope we can go on a long run in Nashville.”
Even though he had just one year in Tampa, McNulty felt he made progress as the quarterback coach for the Buccaneers.
“Mike Glennon made it enjoyable,” McNulty said of the rookie quarterback who assumed the starting job by the fourth game of the season. “I was pleased with the third-round pick; he got better and better every week. He made the all-rookie team.”
Glennon started the final 13 games of the season, including a stretch of four wins in five games for the Buccaneers. He completed 247 of 416 passes for 2,608 yards, 19 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, not bad statistics for a rookie quarterback, but the team managed just a 4-12 record.
“We just had a hard time closing out games. We were up 21-0 at Seattle, and lost the game,” McNulty said.
When the Buccaneers fired head coach Greg Schiano, McNulty was looking for another job and got back on the coaching carousel. As much as he enjoyed his time at the college level, highlighted by a five-year stint at Rutgers, McNulty seems to believe his future belongs to the NFL.
“I’ve had a number of opportunities, but it would have to be in the right place,” McNulty said. “There is more stability, more time to build your program.”
“I enjoy coaching in this league,” he continued. “It’s my 12th season and I know a majority of the people involved; I know the rhythm of the league. Being in the pros is the place for me to be.”
For now, the merry-go-round has stopped in Nashville for McNulty, who will likely look to buy yet another house, in the hopes that the Titans position will lead to a Super Bowl or an offensive coordinator position, which could be a springboard to a head coaching job.
Kaitlyn, like the rest of the McNulty family, hopes her dad can continue to have his dream fulfilled, no matter how many different address labels it may take.
John McNulty’s Coaching Path
The Abington Heights graduate has had many jobs in his coaching career, including three colleges and five NFL teams, with the latest stop being hired by the Tennessee Titans.
2014: Quarterbacks coach
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2013: Quarterbacks coach
2012: Quarterbacks coach
2009-11: Wide receivers coach
2007-08: Offensive coordinator/
2006: Assistant offensive coordinator
2004-05: Wide receivers coach
2003: Quarterbacks coach
2000-02: Wide receivers coach
1998-99: Offensive quality control coach
University of Connecticut
1995-97 – Wide receivers coach
University of Michigan
1991-94 – Graduate assistant/Wide