NASHVILLE, Tenn. —**Mike Mularkey loved the progress made by the Titans in 2016.
The running game made tremendous improvement. The offensive line became a sturdy, reliable force. Quarterback Marcus Mariota made great strides, and the defense stood tall at critical times. And as a team, the Titans found ways to win close games, against good teams.
The result was a 9-7 record, a six-game improvement from the previous year.
But as Mularkey looked back at the season, a few things bothered him.
The team's results against the AFC South — the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars — still eats at him.
"It is important," Mularkey told season-ticket members at Wednesday night's "Tailgate & Tuxedos" event. "That's how you win the division, you have to beat these teams. I'll say this: This is my 23rd year coaching, and this is probably the earliest we've started looking at (the teams in the division). We are tracking them right now, basically, as a staff.
"Anything they do, we are going to know about it. We are going to know what they ate for breakfast. We have started on all three division teams as of early February."
The Titans lost both games against the Colts in 2016, and split with the Texans and Jaguars to finish with a 2-4 mark in the six games. During a season when the Titans tripled their win total from 2015, their record in the division ended up costing them a spot in the postseason. The Texans also finished 9-7, but won the tiebreaker based on their superior division mark (5-1).
In Mularkey's first full season as head coach, the Titans tied for the biggest win increase in team history.
Mularkey said he's not satisfied with the team, or himself.
"I want to coach better,'' Mularkey said. "I want my staff to coach better. I want to be more detailed. I want to be more precise. I want less mistakes, less room for error for this team. Eliminate the one or two plays in games that we've lost. I know everybody thinks the Jacksonville (loss in December) is why we didn't make the playoffs, but I can pick five plays — one play here, or one play there — in a game that changed the outcome of the game, and changed the outcome of the end of the season.
"So if we can eliminate some of the mistakes we made, then we are going to go places we want to go."
The Titans celebrate 2016 season, look ahead to 2017 with season ticket members during Tailgate & Tuxedos event at Nashville's Music City Center. (photos: Donn Jones, Gary Glenn)