NASHVILLE, Tenn. —On the day he was introduced as head coach of the Tennessee Titans, Mike Mularkey made it clear he plans to make changes.
In his mind, that includes not only the results, but also the perception things won't be any different as a result of him getting the job.
"I understand their feelings completely,'' Mularkey said of the fans. "All I ask is they give us a chance. I think that is very important, that they give us a chance. Give (General Manager) Jon (Robinson) and I a chance to build a roster that they can be proud of, and the city can be proud of.
"There's going to be changes. It is not the same old from last year -- 2015 is over, 2012 is over, 2004 and '05 are over. I am talking about the now. I am not talking about the past. There's going to be changes for this thing to go in the right direction."
Mularkey, who served as interim coach the last nine games of the 2015 season, on Monday said his message to his players will be the same.
The Titans finished 3-13 in 2015, and have won just five games over the past two seasons.
"We are not looking back at anything. We are going to focus on the now … and where are we going from here,'' he said. "I've had a lot of responses from the players, who are already excited about starting, wishing we could get this thing going right now."
Mularkey, who served previously as head coach of the Bills (2004-05) and Jaguars (2012), said he can make changes now he couldn't make last year after stepping in for Ken Whisenhunt.
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey and GM Jon Robinson introduced to reporters at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Donn Jones Photography)
Whisenhunt was hired as head coach of the Titans prior to the 2014 season, but the team went just 2-14 in his first season, and was 1-6 before ownership elected to make a move during the 2015 season. At the time, Mularkey tinkered with the offensive line, and made some other adjustments in the lineup. The team did a better job of protecting the quarterback down the stretch, and cut down on penalties.
But Mularkey said he could only do so much.
"I am thrilled to have a fresh start with this football team. I love working for his organization. I was put I in a challenging position and I accepted it midway through last year, and tried to run with it to see if I could make a difference with the team and I feel like I did that. I learned a lot in these last nine weeks of the season, and I saw a lot. I saw things that need to be changed, but couldn't change them. I can now. You'll see that in a number of areas,'' Mularkey said.
"You will see change happen, and I am thrilled I get a chance to do that. I am ready to move forward in a positive direction."
Mularkey said alterations will come on his coaching staff. He'll hire a new offensive coordinator, although last year's coordinator, Jason Michael, will remain as quarterbacks coach. The new offensive coordinator will call the plays, Mularkey said.
While Mularkey said he expects defensive guru Dick LeBeau to remain with the team, some changes will take place on the defensive staff as well, he said. The Titans will have a new special teams coach.
Mularkey said he plans to make adjustments schematically on offense, but he plans to keep it "user friendly" for quarterback Marcus Mariota and the rest of the players. He wants the team to play faster, and more up tempo.
He feels confident he can get the job done.
In four seasons as offensive coordinator in Atlanta (2008-11), the Falcons advanced to the postseason three times. Mularkey's offense produced a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard receiver and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season in three of his four years with the team. Quarterback Matt Ryan, receiver Roddy White, running back Michael Turner and tight end Tony Gonzalez were among his star pupils.
His record as a head coach, counting his previous stops, is just 18-39, including a 2-7 record after taking over for Whisenhunt a year ago. But Mularkey doesn't hide from it, and said the record doesn't define him as a coach.
"I am very confident in myself. And I will be confident in the guys I am hiring,'' Mularkey said. "I am a good football coach, and circumstances dictate a lot of success for people, and they also dictate sometimes failure. You can't base it all on one thing. There have been a number of coaches that have been in the positon that I have been in that have had a chance to come back, and had another opportunity to be successful…. I am going to surround myself with people who have the same beliefs, same coaching styles.
"I know what changes have to be made, and I am going to change them."
Titans CEO and President Steve Underwood said the team's ownership group, including controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk, felt comfortable with Mularkey. The Titans interviewed four candidates in all before deciding on Mularkey.
"I think for me, Mike is a perfect fit for our organization,'' Underwood said. "He is a perfect with Jon, and a perfect fit for our owner. We are looking forward to having him as out head coach."
More than anything, Mularkey hopes to change the direction of the franchise, alongside Robinson.
"You will see change happen, and I am thrilled I get a chance to do that. I am ready to move forward in a positive direction,'' Mularkey said.
"We believe we can bring a championship to this city, with the same vision. We have talked about it from Day 1, what it's going to take. …. We want smart, tough, physical players, coachable and accountable."