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Coach Mularkey's Monday Press Conference Transcript



(on how he is doing)

Doing alright. Difficult day to say goodbye to the players today in our last team meeting. I feel like we all should still be playing and we're all going home, so difficult day but a lot to be built off of from the season. I think our players understood that. I think they understood how close we were. It wasn't about one game, one loss--Jacksonville. It was about things we did in those other losses that may have been the difference, as well. But a lot of positives came from this season.

(on how he feels looking into this offseason in comparison to last year)

I mean, we're kicking it off with a win in 2017 the first day of the year against a division opponent at home. It's a nice way to go into an offseason, but the nice part is--again, I told this to the team and I really was pretty adamant about it with the rookies after the team meeting--that they know now what to expect when they come back in here. We had half of a roster that was literally a new portion of our team and really didn't know the expectations from us, and I think they know that now. It's pretty loud and clear and the message hasn't changed. They know we can win with that philosophy. Having a year--again, Jon (Robinson) and I talked earlier about what do we have to do differently to win some of these division games. Well, we get another year under our belt where we're in the same system. They've been in the systems for a number of years. Here's another chance for us to at least have a year under our belt.

(on the satisfaction he takes in the team following through on his message)

Credit the staff. The message has been very clear. The staff was right on board with me, and so they saw how important it was for us how we want to do things here. I think they saw we have a very close staff and see we want the same goals as they do. I think that's why they responded like they did.

(on how his previous coaching experiences impacted this season)

To persevere. My rookie year, we started off slow my rookie head coaching year. We started off slow here. I knew that we still could accomplish things, we still have a chance to make the playoffs, just like that year. We started 0-4 there. I started 1-3 here. We had a chance to go to the playoffs that year. In the last game of the year, we were playing to go. So I knew if we stuck with what we believed in and didn't listen to outside static and they knew we believed in them that we had a chance, even with the slow start. But again, you prefer not to start that way, just like games. You don't want slow starts. You don't want slow starts to seasons, as well.

(on if he expects any changes on the coaching staff)

There's a lot of things I'm probably going to say today we haven't had a lot of discussions on. That's not because I don't want to tell you. It's just because we have a lot of discussions to move forward. Again, the game just ended yesterday less than 24 hours ago. Those are down the line.

(on if he sees cause for any coaching changes)

There will be discussions about that no matter what every year.

(on the mindset he and Jon Robinson brought to the team that created success)

That's what we believe in. It's what we've had a history of. It's easy to preach something you believe wholeheartedly in. Jon (Robinson) and I, again, how it came about that Jon and I believe in practically everything of how we wanted to build the team--it's amazing how that came about, but it did. It certainly makes it a lot easier when you're having conversations.

(on if it seems funny that people questioned how he and Jon Robinson would work together a year ago)

It's just ironic. After one phone call, I know I stepped away and told my wife, I said, "This can work out just based on one phone call." I think he felt the same way after one conversation that we wanted the same kind of player, we wanted the same mentality when we took the field. It's very ironic.

(on if finishing with a 9-7 record exceeded his expectations for the season)

Well, unfortunately, I have big expectations every year. I mean, I do. I always have and I always will. I believe we're going to win every time we play the game. If you don't have that, you're probably not. I just felt good about us, especially after the offseason, after a good training camp with this football team, that we had a chance to obviously improve, but that was part of the plan--improve off these last two years.

(on when he knew the team believed in the message and what the coaches were preaching)

I'm going to have to say in training camp when we put the pads on. We grinded them pretty hard. I mean, it was a physical, demanding training camp. You're going to know if a team has bought in or not early on, and they did. Obviously, you need wins to support it, and that's eventually what happened.

(on if it was challenging to keep the team believing after a 1-3 start)

I'd say it is, and I can go back because I've had an experience. I can show them what the possibilities are because I've been a part of it. I think they appreciate that. They see it's real. It's not something that you're hoping for. Even using my time with Chuck (Noll) in 1989, I used that example of having to win five of the last six games to make the playoffs. I told these guys five weeks ago, if we can win four of the next five, we have a chance. And we did. We had a chance. It just wasn't the right four of the five that we won, to get down to it. But they can take experiences from what I've had playing and coaching and see that it's a possibility.

(on what it's like for him to address the team the last time knowing the personnel will be different next time)

It's difficult to say goodbye, it is, to these guys. It's difficult because you can't even talk to them literally about anything once today's over with. The dead period starts immediately. It's disappointing, I think, for these guys. I told them this morning that there are 20 teams in team meetings right now having to say goodbye and move on to the next season. It may be a little more difficult for us because we beat five of the teams that are still playing. That's the hard part about it, so a little tougher on us, I think.

(on his message to the team about expectations and mentality moving forward)

I think what they do from this point on has a lot to do with what we'll do in 2017. We don't want any distractions. That's one thing I think this team did very well. We had one player this season that was suspended for taking an illegal substance. That's what we want. We want to start the offseason, we want these guys to get away, obviously, catch their breath, get their bodies feeling good about themselves, but if they come back in April and they're not in the shape they know they need to be in now or they haven't done anything football-wise, looked at anything, if they haven't done anything, then we're going to be starting from behind. This is an important time, these next four months.

(on the importance of this offseason for Kevin Dodd)

I think it's important for him. I just had a conversation with him this morning, he and I. He feels like he let us down because of the expectations that were on him. I said, "Look, that's the nature of the business. When you're picked where you were, people are expecting things, and then you put more pressure on yourself and then all of a sudden that doesn't happen." We're not disappointed in him. He is excited to come back, wants to come back, wants to come back and be the player that we all think he can be--a force from coming off the edge.

(on why Kendall Wright's season fell short of expectations and his future with the team)

Again, it's not for every player the way we do things here. Again, we haven't talked about Kendall (Wright), Jon (Robinson) and I or anybody. We haven't even done player evaluations yet. There's going to be some guys that are back, and there's going to be some guys that are not for some reason or another. Again, those are discussions that are coming.

(on what he means by saying "it's not for every player")

Just consistency. We're looking for consistency on and off the field.

(on if Taylor Lewan is an example of a player that has bought in and found success)

I think Taylor (Lewan) has matured as a player, I really do. I think he's come a long way. I think he has seen, by doing things the right way, he's got a good future. He's done a lot of things right, on and off the field. You've seen the growth of watching him. It's been impressive to watch him, and now he's been rewarded for it.

(on the significance of the team's improvement in the run game)

I think it helps win games. It was difficult because I was a large part of that run game the last two years, really. I was a large part of that and could not get it going for a number of reasons. But to turn it around--obviously, to add some guys up front, obviously the two backs that were not here the last two years made a significant difference. Again, I think that phase has a lot to do with winning games. You'll see that as the playoffs continue to go on.

(on if the team's improvement in the run game is the biggest jump he has seen as a coach)

I'd have to look back. I don't know exactly how much it's improved. To be honest with you, I haven't looked at that.

(on when Marcus Mariota can expect to be off his scooter)

I think it's a couple months. I think he's got eight weeks of non-weight bearing, from what I understand.

(on how to improve in division games and why the team improved in close games this year)

I think I said it earlier, I think another year. These guys have now had a year in our system. We're playing teams that have been in their systems for four years. Again, some of those games, we've done a much better job. I think we were 4-0 in games three points or less and 2-7 the last two years, so we have learned how to win some of those closer games. We had chances to win some of those division games earlier in the year that we did not do. Hopefully, we've learned, as of late, we can do that.

(on how adding speed on the outside would help the offense)

I think it will help any offense if you can add more speed. Again, we're looking at all positions across the board in all phases. Speed would be a help.

(on the strides Marcus Mariota made in his second year)

I thought he had a very good year, I mean a very good year. He did a lot of good things for us, especially in the red zone. You guys all know his red zone stats. I think that's why we were as successful in the red zone with him. I think taking a step back with some of the things we did offensively in regards to, like I said, making it user friendly, play calling, taking some of the things off his protection, I think that helped him immensely. I thought he played faster, made quicker decisions, got the ball out quicker, made some really good decisions to throw it away. I thought he got better with his ball security. That's something we'll always be working on, there's no question about that, because that had an effect on some of our losses, but he did a lot of good things for this football team.

(on what steps Marcus Mariota needs to make when he returns to the field)

Again, let us take a look at the self-scout, let's go back and let us look at ourselves, which I said we watch every play, we watch every player on every play and we see what they need to do better. Maybe there's a guy who can't do it better, but we look at every play and decide was it the player, was it the play called, was it the defense, what was it? We put a grading system on the players after the season. Then we come back after we've done all of our study and we grade them again. It's really interesting to see how much difference there is after you've sat down and you have time to sit in a meeting and study these guys. It's interesting to see how they grade out after you've done all that film work.

(on if he is concerned DeMarco Murray will need surgery)

I haven't heard anything about surgery, so that's news to me. I think rest will be good for a lot of these guys. I mean, a lot of guys played with things that were banged up on them. I wasn't concerned about him. He's about as competitive of a player as I've ever been around and maybe one of the tops in wanting to win worse than anybody. I knew I was going to get everything from him every time we handed him the ball, every time we asked for him to protect. You were going to get the best. Whatever he had, he was going to give it to you.

(on how much DeMarco Murray's foot injury limited him)

I think it got better. I think after that initial injury, there were things I saw that he had tough times, but I still saw a productive back.

(on if Rishard Matthews exceeded his expectations this year)

Rishard (Matthews) did a lot of good things, especially as the year went on. He was much more productive. He was splitting time with Andre (Johnson) early in the season, so his production wasn't as high then. With the retirement, I think him having more opportunities, he showed he could make some plays when this team needed to make plays and very productive, yeah. Hopefully, when you're signing a guy like that, you're hoping for that kind of production.

(on the rookie class)

Pretty impressive, very impressive. I'm not sure I've been around a rookie class--when I asked the rookies to stay after the team meeting, when you see how many we had, really we had two guys that didn't play in a game, two rookies of 15 guys sitting in this room. That's pretty impressive (when) you have that many guys contribute to your season, some more than others, but it says good things ahead that we've got a class like that that we need to add to.

(on the message to the rookies after the final team meeting)

I wanted them to understand that when they come back, it's going to be a little bit of a different feeling. They're not going to be wide-eyed and shocked that they're in the NFL. Now they know what's expected from them. They know the message that they've been hearing is clear, so they don't have to come in here and wonder what's going to take place. They know what's going to take place and that expectations on them will be much higher when they come back in here.

(on if the rotation between DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry played out as expected this season)

Today I feel that way. Let me look at all the film and look at everything, and I can answer that better when we come back.

(on if Derrick Henry handled his situation as DeMarco Murray's backup well)

He was a pro about it. He was outstanding. I mean, just like you'd expect him, he was outstanding.

(on if he expected better numbers in pass coverage this season)

We have high expectations in everything, but if you look at it, we had a number of changes in our secondary. I thought our safeties played well. Our corners, there was a rotation there all the way up through yesterday. We've struggled, there's no question about that, but yeah, we had bigger expectations than ending like we did.

(on if he thinks LeShaun Sims will be a starter next season)

Again, let me take some time, but he did a lot of good things, there's no question about it. I felt good watching him. When I see him line up against (DeAndre) Hopkins, that's pretty impressive. Here's this rookie against this guy that can wreck a game. I felt good about him. He is going to compete, but he did a lot of good things for us.

(on if he thinks the secondary is an area that needs attention in the offseason)

I'm sure we'll look at that area, yes, but again, I'll confirm it after I get a chance to watch it.

(on summing up the past year)

Well, the season, I can tell you, flew by. It flew by. Like I said yesterday, I wish it wasn't over. It doesn't feel like it should be over. I was looking at my notes for my Saturday night meetings, I went back to Minnesota and some of the things I said in that meeting room, I felt like I had just said it, not that it was four months ago when I said it. It just went by fast.

(on how the culture of the team has improved in his first season as head coach)

It's different. It's changed. A lot of people made that happen, I mean a lot of people, starting from Amy (Adams Strunk) on down has changed this culture here. Again, we've still got work to do. I'm not saying we don't. We do, but this is a different team in here this morning than it was a year ago.

(on if the players having fun this season is a product of winning or a changing culture)

I think it's the way we did things. Again, I'll have a hard time thinking anybody can out-work us and what we did in training camp, but I think the way we do things, the way it was structured, it was a fun environment to come to work to. You guys know, if you like what you're doing and you like what's going on, you like coming in that front door and you're going to get production when they step out on the field.

(on his favorite moment of the season)

A favorite moment? It just ended, so I'm trying to think. There's a lot of memorable moments in this season. This is a disappointing one that it's over, but there's a lot of good to reflect on.

(on the special teams improvement throughout the year and if a greater improvement is needed moving forward)

You're right, our special teams improved throughout the year, probably to their best game of the season yesterday. What we did yesterday is a good example of what we need to do every game. I give a lot of that credit to Steve Hoffman. He had a difficult situation he had to step into, and I thought he did an outstanding job of getting these guys, especially this last game, to play at the level that they played at. But yeah, there's things we can do, again, that we can improve that area that can maybe change the game.

(on the impact Tim Shaw had on the team this season)

Tim Shaw had a huge impact for this football team. When I brought him in here in training camp and he spoke to this team, I thought that day this season was going to be different. I thought that day that something special was going to happen with this football team. I know he had a huge impact on my life. He made me different. To have him involved again, to have him around here, which he hasn't been for a couple years--he's been out of football and I knew he missed it--to have him involved, and actually, to have him help us special teams-wise when we needed help and come in here and to do some of the reports that he did, the passion that he still has, the love of the game and then how his teammates surrounded him, especially yesterday, there's that moment. That might have been my favorite moment, pregame with Tim Shaw. 

(on if Tim Shaw will continue to a part of the team)

He will continue as long as I'm here.

(on the amount of money raised for the ALS Association)

I thought it was around $63,000.

(on if there are any medical issues with players going into the offseason)

If there are, they're minor things. Nothing that should keep anybody out of training camp.

(on if he will discuss Dick LeBeau's future with him)

Yeah, I'm going to sit with all the coaches here in the next couple of days.

(on how he feels about the team's overall speed)

I think we can improve on that in all areas. Definitely, we can improve on that.

(on how the roster can be improved with two first-round picks in the draft)

Again, that's something we're going to talk about. We'd like to duplicate what happened last year with how the rookies, some of them, produced significantly. We'd like that happen again. That's the plan.

(on if the offensive run production and the defensive control of the run game is the type of smashmouth football he envisions)

That gives you a chance to win if you can do that. If you can stop it and you can run the ball, that gives you a chance. That is what we believe as a staff. 

(on how they were able to create an offensive identity and the importance of continuing it)

I think they get it now. I certainly think they get where we're coming from in regards to how we want to attack people and our belief in it. Again, I'm sure it's been questioned sometimes when we've been down. There's a reason because it helps win games. It helps keep the other team's offense off the field if you can run the ball. There's a lot of things positive about it. They definitely get the message of what kind of team we want to be.

(on how he feels about the defensive line depth and Antwaun Woods' production in his first game)

He did good. I mean, he made a big play. That was neat to watch. We loved his emotion. That was really fun to watch in that game. I think we have depth there. We have since I've been here, but again, that will be another area we address when we're looking at all these positions.

(on if Jack Conklin was what they thought he would be)

Quietly really good. He did his job, didn't say a whole lot, but he did an outstanding job to be, really, put in there earlier than we had anticipated. He did a great job for us.

(on what the offensive line's success says about the job Russ Grimm did this season)

Russ (Grimm) did an outstanding job, and I knew that about Russ. That's the beauty of being able to hire a guy I've been with before. We had some moving parts in there and even Dennis Kelly coming in there, when he was in there, played well. I think they understand Russ has been there, done it and they like his coaching style.

A day after their season-ending victory against the Texans, Titans players clear out their lockers at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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