NASHVILLE, Tenn. —** When Mike Mularkey was named head coach of the Tennessee Titans last month, he asked fans to give him a chance.
On Thursday, he was greeted with applause at an event for season ticket members as he laid out his plan moving forward.
It involves winning.
"This is different than my first two opportunities,'' said Mularkey, referring to his previous head-coaching jobs with the Bills and Jaguars. "The circumstances are different, the situation is different, and certainly the quarterback is different. There's a lot going on that is very good here.
"This is a very good organization, and this is a great city. The fans are great. … We want to get back to where opposing fans are not filling in the bottom level of our stadium – that's got to go. I know it is going to take winning to do that."
Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, head coach Mike Mularkey, GM Jon Robinson, Titans players, alumni and cheerleaders were among those greeting season ticket members at Nashville's Music City Center. (Photos: Gary Glenn)
Mularkey, general manager Jon Robinson and controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk all spoke to fans in a Q&A session with Titans radio play-by-play man Mike Keith at an exclusive event for Titans season ticket members. Roughly 3,000 fans turned out for the event in the Grand Ballroom at the Music City Center in downtown Nashville.
Another event was held Thursday night. At both events, Mularkey seemed relaxed, and excited.
"There's more guys, coming off a 3-13 season, that are (at the facility) working out getting ready for the 2016 season,'' Mularkey said. "There's more guys in there now working out than there has been in years. If they were not excited about what's about to take place in 2016, they wouldn't be in there."
Mularkey, hired last month on a permanent basis after serving as interim coach during the last nine games of the 2015 season, addressed a number of topics on Thursday.
Mularkey made one thing especially clear – he wants a tough, hard-nosed football team.
"This place was a tough place to play, and that's we want,'' he said. "We want this place to be a place where when people come in here they better have their big boy pads on."
Mularkey received cheers on several occasions as he delivered his message.
At one point, when discussing his veteran coaching staff, he generated some laughter.
"We have a lot of experience. All the coaches, if you add up the years of experience, we have 369 years of NFL coaching experience. Of course, Dick LeBeau is 1/3 of that,'' Mularkey, with a smile, said of the team's long-time defensive coordinator.
Then he got serious.
"It is a little bit of old school,'' Mularkey continued. "And I think that is what we need right now. We need a little bit of old-school coaching to hold players accountable.
"I hired guys who like to win, and they like to win by beating the hell out of people. That's why I hired them."
Mularkey said the defense will be different in 2016 with LeBeau, who worked alongside Ray Horton a year ago. Horton won't be back this fall.
The offense will be simplified to help players play faster, he said. It should benefit quarterback Marcus Mariota, among others.
The offense was described as "exotic smashmouth" when he coached in Pittsburgh, he said.
"(Opponents) are going to know we are going to be very hard to defend, and it is going to be a physical football game,'' he said. "When it is all said and done they are going to know they have been in a fight."
As for Mariota, Mularkey said: "He would be perfect in any style of offense. He's a special player, and even with him, there's things we have to do to make sure he is in the right position to have success every play.
"I believe in balance. Whatever it takes to win on Sunday, that's what we're going to do."