Mike Mularkey was not the fans choice to become the full-time head coach of the Tennessee Titans when it was announced last month that he had indeed been given the job to lead the Titans into the 2016 NFL season.
All Mularkey wanted was a chance to be a head coach in the league again, and Titans controlling owner Amy Adams-Strunk granted that wish. Now Mularkey hopes the fans will also give him a chance to prove he is the right man to turn around the fortunes of the floundering franchise.
"This is different than my first two (head coaching) opportunities,'' said Mularkey, "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."
In his previous tow stops in Buffalo and Jacksonville, Mularkey had a true franchise quarterback just one season- Drew Bledsoe in Buffalo- and he won that season. The others when his teams were searching for the guy to lead their team on the field, his results were expectedly poor.
He has that quarterback in Marcus Mariota, and Mularkey feels this team can win at the same level it did just a few short seasons ago.
"This is a very good organization, and this is a great city. The fans are great," said Mularkey. "We want to get back to where opposing fans are not filling in the bottom level of our stadium - that's got to go. It know it is going to take winning to do that."
"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's message to those in attendance was clear. He expects and intends to make the Titans a physical football team one again, and the rest of the organization shares those intentions.
During his comments, Mularkey received several round sof applause and even some laughter at some of the comments he made regarding his time on the Steelers staff when the tw franchises were in the same division and faced each other yearly.
It was a side of Mularkey that has not been seen so far during his tenure at the top of the Titans. It was also the first time that he was in a position to do so as he took over mid-season for his friend and former boss Ken Whisenhunt, who hired him to coach the teams tight ends.
Mularkey admitted that there were changes that he wanted to make, some could be seen on the field while other coudl not be initiatged in mid-season. Those changes are now starting to take place.
"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," said Mularkey. "Of course, Dick LeBeau is 1/3 of that,'' Mularkey, with a laugh, in reference to the teams Hallo fFame defensive coordinator."
"It is a little bit of old school,'' Mularkey said. "And I think that is what we need right now. We need a little bit of old-school coaching to hold players accountable."
LeBeau is a veteran presence, and being able to retain him as part of the staff should pay dividends in the coming season as the Titans defense underwent a significant improvement last season, LeBeau's first with the team.
While a similar jump might not be a reasonable expectation, maintaining the same level is reasonable, and if the Titans can add a few key pieces either in the draft or free-agency, this defense could certainly remain in the top half of the league.
"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."