NASHVILLE, Tenn. —Titans coach Mike Mularkey met with reporters on Monday at Saint Thomas Sports Park, one day after the team's 24-17 win over the Houston Texans in the season finale.
Here's a look at some hot topics:
Mularkey led the Titans to the biggest turnaround in franchise history.
In his first season as head coach, the Titans went 9-7 after finishing 3-13 a year ago.
On Monday, Mularkey wished his players well and thanked them in the final team meeting of the 2016 season.
"Difficult day to say goodbye to the players today,'' Mularkey said. "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 changing expectations
Following a season when the Titans beat six teams with winning records – and five teams headed to the playoffs – Mularkey acknowledged there will be heightened expectations in 2017.
He'll embrace them, and said players should, too.
"I think what they do from this point on has a lot to do with what we'll do in 2017," Mularkey said. "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."
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is expected to remain on his knee-walker for up to eight weeks, Mularkey said.
Mariota had surgery on his fractured right fibula last week, and will need 4-5 months of recovery time.
It was a very successful season for the second-year quarterback, Mularkey said.
And he expects even bigger things in Year 3.
"I thought he had a very good year, I mean a very good year,'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "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."
Mularkey praised his running backs – veteran DeMarco Murry and running back Derrick Henry.
Murray finished as the AFC's leading rusher with 1,287 yards. Henry finished the year with 490 yards.
In the locker room on Monday, Murray said he plans to play in the Pro Bowl. He said he's going to rest the foot that bothered him during the second half of the season, and mentioned the possibility of needing surgery at some point during the offseason.
"I haven't heard anything about surgery, so that's news to me," Mularkey said of Murray. "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."
As for Henry, "he was a pro about" how the distribution of carries was handled, Mularkey said.
"He was outstanding,'' Mularkey said. "I mean, just like you'd expect him, he was outstanding."
Kevin Dodd "can be a force"**
The Titans selected Clemson pass rusher Kevin Dodd in the second-round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he failed to make a big impact in his rookie season.
His health is largely to blame.
Dodd had offseason foot surgery, and missed the first part of the season. When he returned, he wasn't effective, and ended the year on Injured Reserve.
"I think it's important for him," Mularkey of his offseason. "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." Staff changes?
Mularkey said it's too early to know about the status of his coaching staff.
He was asked specifically about defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who said he's focusing on the season when asked about his future.
During the season, Mularkey parted ways with special teams coach Bobby April. Assistant special teams coach Steve Hoffman coached special teams the remainder of the season.
"There's a lot of things I'm probably going to say today we haven't had a lot of discussions on," Mularkey said.
"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. … There will be discussions about that no matter what every year."
"I'm going to sit with all the coaches here in the next couple of days."
Tim Shaw impact
The team signed former Titans linebacker Tim Shaw to a one-day contract during training camp, allowing him to retire a "Titan for Life."
Shaw, diagnosed with ALS in 2014, was a fixture around the team all season. And he will continue to be, Mularkey said.
"Tim Shaw had a huge impact for this football team," Mularkey said. "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."
A day after their season-ending victory against the Texans, Titans players clear out their lockers at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)