TITANS HEAD COACH MIKE MULARKEY PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT - Oct. 3, 2016
We'll start with an injury update and then talk about a little bit of what went on this morning. Like last night, Al Woods pulled a calf muscle. He should be out three to four weeks. Nate Palmer—hoping to get him back this week. He ran a little bit today. He looked much better than he has over the weekend. He should be ready for Sunday. And then (Cody) Riggs and (Da'Norris) Searcy we'll monitor, probably hold them out Wednesday and see where they are by Thursday. They are progressing very well. Searcy, especially, is doing pretty well for the injury. And then, as you all know, this morning I made a change in our special teams with Bobby April. I let Bobby go and Steve Hoffman will take his role and some of the assistants will lend their hand in that position.
(on what prompted the decision to let Bobby April go)
Again, it wasn't about a play. It wasn't even about the game. That game certainly didn't help matters, but I just felt like we have struggled here for two years special teams wise. That phase is an important phase to me. They all are, but I probably pay more attention to that phase than most head coaches do. I just felt like from early on, even in the preseason games, I did not see the progress of really anything better than what we had done the previous two years, I mean all the way up to yesterday. Really, nothing has gotten better from what we needed to improve on from '14 and '15. Yesterday certainly didn't help matters with the penalty, with the 12 men on the field. Again, and I said this to the team, I'm not going to put all the blame on Bobby April. Bobby—he's a very good coach, he's a great friend, but we all have to play better in that phase to get it going. We all have to coach better. Again, I stressed we, including me. We have got to get that unit better. If this is going to do it, we're going to try to do some things a little differently to make sure we've got the right numbers on the field, make sure we're where we're supposed to be in coverage—a lot of things. We're going to try to change up our scheme a little bit and see if we can improve. Maybe we have to take a step back to simplify it so we can get better in that phase, but we've definitely got to get better in that phase.
(on if he detected a change in Bobby April's performance this season)*
I've known Bobby (April) a long time. Bobby and I were together in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005. We were No. 1 both years in the league in special teams. Again, that was 10 years ago. I didn't see some of the things that I had seen back from that time. I mean one of them was improvement with our guys.
(on if there is a particular area of special teams that is more lacking than others)
No, I don't. The toughest area is the punt return. Especially in the range where the incident that took place yesterday—that hasn't been the first time we've had some of those problems occur, even in previous games of getting the right people out there. You know, we've worked on it. Again, it's something we've addressed. Obviously, at the time, the communication was not good, but there's no one particular unit. We need to get better really in all.
(on if the decision to relieve Bobby April of his responsibilities was his sole decision)
It was my decision, yes. My decision.
(on what Steve Hoffman brings)
Steve's (Hoffman) been in the league a long time—20-plus years. He's been a coordinator in the league. I've known Steve—actually, Steve was introduced to me by Bobby (April) when I was in Buffalo. We brought him in as a consultant for our kicking game for our kicker, punter. So I've known Steve for a while, worked together with him in Miami, so I've been with him here for, obviously, going on our third year.
(on if the transition is easier with a coach that has been with the team for a few years)
I think our intention is to change a few things to get the improvement. I think our players realize it's not just a change of coaching that needs to improve. I think it's a change of a lot of things—attitude in that phase of the game. It's very similar to my situation last year coming in the middle of it. You can't do a complete overhaul of the special teams because we've got a lot of young guys. We've got a lot of rookies playing on the special teams. I'll give you an example: Kevin Byard is a personal protector. He is very good at putting us in the right place on that unit, and you don't want to do a complete overhaul and start all over. It's really impossible to do, but we will do some things that will clean it up, especially our substitutions. It should clean it up.
(on why special teams struggles warrant an immediate change but struggles in other areas do not)
I think, again, like you just mentioned, the wide receiver play has been up and down, especially during the regular season—better early on, not very good the last two games. People look at Marcus (Mariota) when it comes to really the last two games. Our passing game has not been efficient, and we really haven't been efficient outside. We haven't been very precise. We haven't been very detailed. That starts with those guys outside. They need to carry over what they're being taught in the classroom and what they're doing on the practice field needs to carry over into games, and it will function better.
(on if they have examined Marcus Mariota's throwing mechanics)
Nothing has been changed. He's an accurate quarterback. It's not going to be always perfect, especially when you've got guys in your face or you have to move in the pocket. It's not going to be always perfect, and that's when those not-so-perfect throws have to be caught when they're catchable.
(on if there is still an adjustment process going on with the wide receivers)
No, there's nothing—I mean really you want a lot of time together. You want a lot of throws. We're going to do some things, again, in practice. We're going to create some periods again to get us better in the passing game, to create the timing, to give them more and more than we've had, just to see if we can—obviously, we've got to make it better. So we will do some things in practice to help us out. But yeah, they haven't been together for years. That was his 16th start. It's his fourth start with some of these guys. Really, they're brand new—four starts in regular season games. You're hoping you're seeing—and I think it will based on what we're going to do and based on our time today watching that film—I think it will improve. I'm almost ensuring that it will improve.
(on if he thinks his job security is in question with his "win now" attitude)
No, look, I still think, again, we're very close. I know people are tired of hearing that. I'm tired of saying it, but it's a fact. There's a few plays—four or five plays a game—that have made a difference in the outcomes of these games. I know in the last two years, if we'd have been down 14 points in Houston, that would not have been a pretty outcome. This team is competing with every team that we've played and had a chance to win every game we've played. We've got to find a way to win them. We've got to find a way to win the close ones. We've got a young team. When we learn to do that, I think it will be a great lesson for us. We can be able to carry those over. It's focusing on the next one.
(on if he understands why people on the outside would look at the special teams coaching change as a panic move)
No, I thought based on where we were going, if I didn't make a change and if I didn't do something, then it was endorsing that it was OK. It wasn't OK. We weren't getting better. We had 10 points yesterday based on special teams. You can't continue on the same path in that area. I really haven't seen it throughout. I'm including the preseason games because they count when it comes to evaluating. I didn't see it getting better, and I needed to make a change.
(on what it says about the players not responding to Bobby April's coaching)
It wasn't about them not responding. It wasn't about that. They responded. They've responded to everything we've asked them to do. It was about lack of execution through eight weeks of games—with all the preparation that we put into it, to not have a better outcome, to not see improvement.
(on if this coaching change puts other people on the staff on notice)
No, it is what it is. Again, it's consistency. I've been talking about consistency since day one. If we cannot create something positive and keep it consistent—that's typically not my M.O. to do something like that in the middle of the season, but that's where I felt like we were at this time in the season. Something had to change. Something had to change, and it's got to change for the better. It was a tough decision to make, a very tough decision, but it's a decision I have to make for the best of this football team.
(on how he hopes players respond to this change)
I want them to see that we're trying to do something to get better, to get over the hump, to win these close ones. We're trying to do whatever we can to win these games. We're right there all the way to the end to win these games, and something—a penalty or a punt return or substitution or something—deters that. They've got to see a change. Hopefully, that's the result. I'm pretty sure it will be.
(on if Marcus Mariota's off-target throws have mostly been catchable passes)
I'd say on a couple of those, yeah, he needs to put the ball on them better. I'd also say if we run precious routes where we're supposed to be, it will certainly make it a lot easier.
(on if there will be changes in personnel on special teams coverage)
No, I think I said it after the game, we're kind of down on our special teams side with the number of inactives we had. We had three (injured) guys that are special teams players. What Jon (Robinson) and I are trying to do is if you're not a starter on this football team, eventually if you're not a starter, you have to play special teams. The roster that we have right now, that's not the case. We're looking at a tight end group—that's the older statesmen of this team. We need more production from our wide receivers on our special teams. We need to build that unit. And again, can we do it in one year or in one offseason? That's not feasible. We're trying to do that to where we have a core of special teams guys that can go out there and dominate on Sundays. We're using the personnel as best we can right now. Again, we were a little short-handed because of injuries last week.
(on if there was a player on outside coverage of the punt return that lost containment)
No, we had containment. It was Antonio (Andrews). It was a wide contain. We wish he would have squeezed it even closer. Again, I'll say this and Brett (Kern) will say it, a punt with that timing is not going to give your group a chance to get down there and cover well enough. But we had a contain player out there. He just was real wide. Antonio was out there. He was actually outside the returner, but we could do a better job of recognizing, also, where the return is coming from. But at the time, it was a quick kick. It all kind of just played off of each other not to give our guys a chance to cover it.
(on if he is disappointed the success in the run game hasn't opened up the passing game more)
Yeah, I would. Typically that's the case, especially your play-action game. We've had more success throwing the deeper ball from drop-back than we have from play-action. You wish that was the case, and again, I'll go back and say there's some routes that we had chances to hit deep that we did not. We did not run the route we're looking for. We've got to just be more precise outside, and I think you'll see a better production in the passing game.
(on why penalties have increased in recent games)
Well, I was disappointed in the pre-snap penalties yesterday. They had a good little scheme. We had issues hearing the snap. We had a silent snap count going on, so Ben (Jones) with our snap count, puts his head down to simulate what the snaps going to be, and every time he did that, their nose jumped to the other side. So our line watched two quick flashes of bodies moving. It was well-schemed against us. We know it will probably happen again now that they've seen that we'll jump on things like that. It's the pre-snap penalties that are frustrating.
(on if he has spoken to Amy Adams Strunk since the game)
Yeah, I spoke to her last night.
(on Amy Adams Strunk's thoughts on the first four games of the season)
She knows where we're at. She knows exactly where we're at. She feels the same way we do. She knows it's one quarter of the season, and thank God they don't worry about the first quarter. We've got a lot of football still to play. She sees a team competing on Sundays.
(on who will step up in Al Woods' absence)
(Angelo) Blackson should move over there, and we're going to need to get Austin Johnson up and crank him up and he needs to play at a high level.
(on Austin Johnson's development)
I'd like just a little more nastiness in his play, a little more violence in his play, and I think he'll be fine.
(on if Austin Johnson needs a mindset change to play more aggressive)
Oh, we're going to be around. We're going to be right there with him.
(on if they had DeMarco Murray play the majority of snaps because they felt he was running well)
Yeah, that was the case. We just felt like he was running, making some runs. There were some things there—really holes that weren't there, he made plays off of them. A couple carries that Derrick (Henry) got, really there was space to make some more yards. (We) just felt like with DeMarco (Murray), the more he's gotten, the better he's gotten. It's hard to take out a guy that's as much of a threat as he is in the game when he's rolling.
(on if the defense's focus on opposing team's No. 1 offensive weapon has left them vulnerable to other players)
Well, the tight ends yesterday are a good example. You can take away something, but you can't take it all away. That's true in a lot of things. Protection wise, you can take one guy away. It's hard to take both ends away. You can take a receiver out. Unless you've got two shut-down corners, it's pretty hard to take them all out, but the tight ends had production yesterday because of that.
(on if the receiver issues are due to inexperienced players or veteran players that have not been precise)
I think it's probably both. Tajae (Sharpe) is seeing a lot for a rookie. He's playing a lot of snaps for a rookie. He was on a roll there. He was on pace, but again, he's taken a little bit of a step back. It's not that he does anything different in practice or his study habits, he's just rushing a lot of things. But we're going to clean that up, there's no doubt. We're going to clean that up.
(on Rishard Matthews' play)
Again, he made some plays for us yesterday, but again, there was enough in there that he could have had more chances for more plays if he was more precise. I think they understand that. The key is—and a lot of it is with the timing of Marcus (Mariota), because Marcus is a guy that will unload it with their backs still turned to him—if he understands and trusts that they're going to be where they're supposed to be, that ball will come out quicker and there won't be the hesitation that you're seeing. They need to be where they're supposed to be.
(on if Marcus Mariota's numbers have been down because the connection with the wide receivers is lacking)
I think that's a little bit of it—the timing with them. But I think, again, I think it's just being better out there, playing better outside.
(on if Kendall Wright provided something new with his return)
Kendall (Wright) did a couple things good, but there's some things Kendall looked like he hadn't been on the field for nine months. I mean there's things—really his depth on his routes was very short, very quick, hurried up a lot of things. Again, it all goes with timing. It all goes with the quarterback's drop. It all goes with the routes that are complementing those. It all plays in hand together. He was part of that.
(on Kendall Wright's fitness level)
Better than—now he hasn't been in a two-minute drill where he's had to go 10 plays, 12 plays. I think it's better than I thought it was. I didn't see anything yesterday that concerned me.
(on if he anticipates that Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker's snap count will increase)
I would anticipate, yeah, getting them on the field more. But again, a lot of it is based on the number of third downs, number of personnel groupings that we'll have with those two in it.
(on how Delanie Walker came out of the game)
He came out good. I was pleased to see him back.
(on if the pass to Andre Johnson on fourth down, if complete, would have been a first down)
I would think you're hoping it's going to get a first down with his momentum going.
(on if the throw was behind Andre Johnson)
Actually, it kind of sailed right over. It's hard to say in the position he was when he went down. It's hard to say exactly where the throw would have been.
(on if Andre Johnson tripped on that play)
(on if he feels strongly that the team is improving, despite a 1-3 start)
I would say if you don't see it, then you really don't have any idea about football, about the NFL. I think it's different.
(on the biggest challenges going into Miami)
Well, they're similar to our situation. Obviously, they're 1-3 and they've won the one game at home. They've had some injuries. Again, this is another game where they get the longer week of preparation, and really I think the biggest key they get is time to recover. Their offensive line has had some injuries, and they should be getting some of those guys back. The tight end's been out this last game, so they should get back their main arsenal of players. You know, they've got a four-game home stretch with a bye somewhere in between there. They need this game. They think this is a good chance now for them to get out of the hole, and we feel the same way.
(on if he feels the Titans were shortchanged facing two teams coming off Thursday night games)
It's interesting how it worked out, but that's the NFL. There's nothing you can do about it.
(on if the defense needs to get more sacks)
(on if more depth at linebacker should increase sack totals)
Yeah, I think we all thought that. I think it's certainly not for a lack of effort. They're giving it all. I know you've seen this, but they've got linemen in there now, even on third down, blocking extra, trying to keep the protection. They're trying to keep us away from them, so there are things that offenses are doing to control our rush. I know they're concerned about our rush the way they're protecting.
The Tennessee Titans take on the Houston Texans in Week 4 action at NRG Stadium. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)