HEAD COACH MIKE MULARKEY PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT - Sunday, January 14, 2018* *
Just to start out, I'll talk a little bit about the season. I thought our team took another step again, like we did last year when we went to 9-7, didn't win the tiebreaker to get into the playoffs. This year we won enough games to go, and to me, that's a step in the right direction. Obviously, we still have work to do to take the next one. But, very proud of this football team. They've done a lot of things over these last two years based on where we were the year before, with the first pick in the draft. I give these guys a lot of credit for believing in the process and trusting it, and getting us to the point we got to yesterday. I know they're all disappointed with the loss and season being over, but they have a lot to be proud of for what they've done for this franchise, this organization. They have a lot to be proud of and I'm extremely proud of this football team. In regards to injuries, Jack Conklin tore his ACL. He will have surgery in the next two weeks. He'll be a possible PUP candidate once we get through training camp, just based on the timing of the injury which is unfortunate. Jonnu (Smith) tore his MCL and he should be fine in the next six weeks. He should be ready by OTAs. Other than that, we should be pretty healthy.
(on the challenge of tackle Jack Conklin beginning the offseason with an injury that will require a long rehab)
That's not how you want to go into the offseason. That's a lot of work. Jack (Conklin) will have no problem doing that, that's the kind of player he is and person he is. It's disappointing for him. He had a good year and to end it that way – nobody wants to see anybody get hurt. It's disappointing because he's got a long rehab to go.
(on how much quarterback Marcus Mariota's health limited him throughout the year and if he will require additional offseason surgery)
That hasn't been in any of our discussions, any further procedures. He had some things that – again, it's the wear and tear of the season, especially some of the things we do with him. A lot of the dings were from just sacks, pocket plays. Yeah, there was things in there that limited him for a good portion of the season, it really did. He is such a threat with his legs and his arm obviously, and when that's limited, that limits some of the things we can do offensively.
(on if there is a 'Plan B' in place if Marcus Mariota hypothetically gets injured and can't fulfill the entire game plan)
Yeah, your Plan B is you should have enough in there, in your arsenal to carry on. We didn't have as much in yesterday than we've had in prior games. Wasn't the plan.
(on if Marcus Mariota's injuries make him consider making changes going forward)
Yeah, I mean, we could not throw it and protect him from being in the pocket. That's where he's had his most – I mean, the broken leg was a sack. Yesterday was scrambling from a sack. He is a threat, I think what we do offensively when we do design a run, unlike a lot of the quarterbacks that run in this league, we have a design to somehow block all the guys that they have. That takes a pretty good design by our offensive staff to do that, so we feel really good about it.
(on if there is any concern about Marcus Mariota's overall durability)
No. I mean, he's had injuries each year. You'd have to say is there a concern that he's had injuries. Hopefully it's not next year, but it has been the three years that he's been here.
(on if he's satisfied with backup quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Brandon Weeden or if he plans to seek a quarterback with a skill set more similar to Marcus Mariota's)
Obviously we're pleased, we had them for the year. Kept Brandon (Weeden) on the roster. Again, the roster will change somehow, some way. We're less than 24 hours removed from the game, we haven't talked through the roster yet.
(on how much he anticipates Marcus Mariota's quad injury lingering into the offseason)
I don't think it will be anything extensive.
(on how much the offseason will benefit Marcus Mariota in terms of working on improving instead of rehabbing)
I think it will be very instrumental. To not have him in the training room, to not have Corey Davis in the training room, to have these guys into football, into all football, and focusing on football. That will be instrumental (for) both those guys.
(on if not having the full offseason healthy together hindered the chemistry between Marcus Mariota and wide receiver Corey Davis)
It doesn't help. It certainly doesn't help that you can't have that time together. All those reps – to me, that's where your foundation is started is when we come back in here in April.
(on if he feels the offense was tailored to allow Marcus Mariota's strengths to best be utilized)
Yeah, I think you have to do that for everybody, again, starting at the quarterback. I think you play to what their strengths are. If you don't do that – you don't force feed things on guys that they can't do. That's any position. If a tight end can't block a defensive end, don't put a play in there that he's got to block a defensive end. Hopefully everybody does it, but I know that's how this is built here with all three phases. We're going to play to the players' strengths and do what they do best. It's always been that way.
(on if he has asked Marcus Mariota to do things he cannot do)
I don't think so, no.
(on if he has asked Marcus Mariota to do everything he can do)
(on if the reason he doesn't call for more spread offense is to keep Marcus Mariota at a lower risk for injury)
No, that has nothing to do with it.
(on his primary concerns heading into the offseason)
Right now, I don't see any primary concerns. I know we have a lot of work to do, we have a lot of work to do if we want to take the next step. We're just going to do a self-analysis like we always do, take a look at everything we do. See how we can get better in everything we do and get ready for the draft, get ready for free agency. Same thing we do and it's a lot of work. We'll put a lot of time into it.
(on how he'll 'close the gap' from this season compared to where the team was at the end of last season)
How we close the gap? Well, we've made a focus on winning more division games, which we did. Obviously we didn't win the division where you get a home game, that's another box we've got to check off. But yeah, I think we – like I said, we took some steps. That was one of them, win more division games.
(on how he feels about the job Offensive Coordinator Terry Robiskie did play-calling this season)
I think Terry (Robiskie) did a very good job, very good job. Being a play-caller, that's not easy. I thought he did a very good job.
(on if he anticipates any changes to the coaching staff going forward)
(on if he anticipates an extension for himself)
Again, I'll never talk about my contract or extensions. I never have, I never will.
(on if he's spoken with Controlling Owner and Co-Chairman Amy Adams Strunk about this season)
Yeah, we're moving forward full speed ahead. Going to give the coaches off this week and get us into the Senior Bowl next week. Got a lot of work to do with two weeks into the offseason already.
(on if the fact he expects to keep his staff fully intact indicates that he is happy with Marcus Mariota's development)
(on how he summarizes Marcus Mariota's third year in the NFL and his numbers declining this season)
I think he again, he had to work through some injuries that had a lot to do with why those numbers were (where) they were. Again, just like I said, we're going to look back at everything, do a self-scout. I can promise you all the interceptions did not fall on Marcus (Mariota). I can tell you the last one did not fall on Marcus. Everybody is involved when it comes to turnovers and unfortunately he's the guy that gets pegged for it. He gets that number attached to him but everybody is involved.
(on if Marcus Mariota's health hindered the offense from having an identity this year)
No. You're talking about some of the strengths, not being able to use some of the strengths that you had. Does that take away from the identity? No, I don't think so. I didn't feel that at all.
(on if assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has indicated that he wants to continue coaching next year)
I have not talked to him about that. I have not talked to those guys as of yet.
(on if he anticipates Dick LeBeau wanting to continue coaching and him still being energized)
Yeah, he is. He's an amazing man.
(on the fans not being satisfied with this season and wondering where the team is headed)
I don't pay any attention to that. All I'm focusing on is the next opponent. Whatever that is, I don't know.
(on what has to happen in this offense to try and help the offense become better in a division that's getting better)
Yeah, I think you saw glimpses. That's the problem, we didn't have really a complete game, consistently a complete game. We had spurts. That's what we're going to do, we're going to go back and study and see why.
(on how he liked how running back Derrick Henry did with his opportunities late in the season and how he anticipates the run game looking next year)
I thought he took advantage of it. I thought he got better, even yesterday, just trying to move the pile. Every carry to him was invaluable to me for his development. We've got two of the better backs in the league. Pretty happy with it.
(on if it's his responsibility to find the reason for the team's inconsistency)
Yeah, it starts with me. Everything starts with me, that's why I have a staff. We'll find out how we can get better. We do that, I've done that just about every year that I've been coaching.
(on how serious running back DeMarco Murray's injury was)
It was serious enough not to play, because he's going to play if he can play. He's going to play. Yeah, he was hampered as well with just little things here and there. For him, and you know him, he can go the distance when he touches it. He was hampered, and that had a little bit to do with the run game.
(on if Marcus Mariota will work with someone this season on his habits and footwork)
Yeah. Have I talked to him about that? No, I haven't talked to him about it. He does some things when he's not here. He's got people he trains with and that will probably continue every year.
(on if Marcus Mariota came back at the right weight)
Yeah, he was fine with his weight.
(on if he's OK with Marcus Mariota coming back at the same weight next year)
(on if he feels like the offensive line took a step back this year in terms of their overall performance)
I'll tell you that after I take a look at all the plays and each lineman on every play. I'll let you know that after I watch everything.
(on if he has a sense that the offensive line took a step back)
Yeah, obviously we weren't as productive. A lot of that goes into a lot of things, so I'll let you know.
(on if Derrick Henry will be the lead running back next season)
I'll let you know that too when we get going into next season.
(on how he assesses the high number of hamstring injuries that the team suffered this year)
You know what, they're isolated. There's nothing in particular that pinpoints this is what they're having these injuries from. We have definitely looked into that and there is not one thing or another that can say we can't do this or we can't do that. It's like last year, we had feet, we had a bunch of foot injuries. I can't tell you why it was more predominate this year.
(on how he would grade the overall production of the rookie class)
Pretty happy with them, pretty happy with that class. Played a lot of plays, played in some pressure games, pressure situations. Pretty happy with it. That was great experience for them to play in the postseason, get a postseason win, go on the road in these environments that they had to go in. Pretty happy with them.
(on where he thinks that rookie wide receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor are in their development)
I'd like to see Corey (Davis) start football from day one when he gets back in here in April, not be in the training room rehabbing. That was the case with him even through training camp. I'd like to see him get in the weight room and get a good year of NFL weight room. Taywan (Taylor), same thing, be around it for a year. The development from year one to year two is pretty amazing what happens to these guys, their bodies. They're much more confident when they come back in here and it's not too big for them, they're not bright-eyed. Things are going to be good for both these guys when they get back in here.
(on how much of Marcus Mariota's development is contingent on getting new players or letting the ones they have continue to develop)
I think every year you're looking, you're adding. It's a different team than I spoke to this morning, it's going to be different. That's why you can't go, 'just because we did this this year, it's going to be this next year.' It's starting over, the process starting over. We will have different goals this year than we had last year. We took a step, we want to take another step, but it's going to be with different people. So we've got to go back and start building that foundation again when they come back here in April.
(on how hard it is to continue to improve each year)
It's hard, but good teams do that.**
(on if assistant coaches talking to media would be violating his policy)
If that's a true statement, yeah, but I question it.
(on pending free agent defensive lineman DaQuan Jones figures into the team's plans for the future)
That's something Jon (Robinson) and I will talk about when we get to that day. Yeah, DaQuan (Jones) was no question having his best year. It was disappointing because leading up to that injury, (he was) playing as well as he's played since he's been here.
(on the challenge that the improved AFC South presents moving forward)
You had two AFC South teams in the final eight - I don't think it's going to be talked about as the weak division anymore. You've got two quarterbacks that are going to be coming back. It's going to be a strong division.
(on where they stack up with the rest of the AFC South)
Right there with all of them.
(on if the offense lived up to preseason expectations)
Probably not, no.
(on what the cause of not living up to offensive expectations was)
Just inconsistency. Once I do a full study of everything I'll let you know.
(on how they solve core issues of inconsistency and making mistakes)
Well, you've got to work at it. If it was consistent, you find a new player.
(on if he and his staff have done a good enough job in season of correcting mistake)
Yeah, I do. We won 10 games. We lost a playoff game yesterday in the second round. I think we've done a pretty good job.
(on if they can take the mindset moving forward that this is not the team's plateau)
We have other boxes we need to check off, so no. We got a little taste of the playoffs, we got a little taste of winning, we got a little taste of going on the road and playing in a tough environment, but we have other plans that we're going to work for.
Titans players clear out their lockers at Saint Thomas Sports Park, signaling the start of the 2018 offseason. (Photos: Gary Glenn)