Titans celebrate with fans, set playoffs as goal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk walked on stage Wednesday night and received a vastly differently reception from Tennessee's season-ticket holders than a year ago.
A crowd of approximately 5,000 gave her a standing ovation.
''I'm just stunned,'' Strunk said.
A year ago, Strunk was apologizing for the mess that the franchise her father, the late Bud Adams, founded in 1960 in Houston and moved to Tennessee in 1997 and promising improvement.
She took over as controlling owner in March 2015, and her first season in charge featured a 3-13 record that netted the Titans the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
Strunk took a few months to settle into the job, but she fired Ken Whisenhunt in November 2015. She let general manager Ruston Webster go at the end of that season and hired a Tennessee native, Jon Robinson, as a first-time general manager while taking the interim title off coach Mike Mularkey. She also fought off rumors the team is for sale .
Together, they guided the Titans to a six-win turnaround with a 9-7 record , just missing the playoffs.
''I know it's been a long haul at times, but you know you hung with us and we appreciate it,'' Strunk said. ''And you know what? Good times are going to happen for us. They're here.''
That was the biggest message from the Titans at the event Wednesday night they billed as ''Tailgate & Tuxedos'' featuring former and current Titans, including their five Pro Bowlers and Kevin Dyson, Frank Wycheck and Lorenzo Neal - the men responsible for the ''Music City Miracle'' in 2000.
They celebrated three key moments of last season and honored former linebacker Tim Shaw, diagnosed in 2014 with ALS, as their inspirational player of the year.
Mularkey also gave an update on quarterback Marcus Mariota, who broke his right fibula on Dec. 24 . The coach said Mariota is rehabilitating at Oregon with the Titans' trainers in constant communication with trainers there.
Robinson said their only concern is making sure the quarterback is under center for the season opener in September.
The Titans also handed out some big prizes. Strunk rewarded one season-ticket holder by announcing she is picking up the price of her tickets for 2017. They also gave another fan a trip to the NFL draft.
Mularkey and Robinson wrapped up the event taking questions from fans. Mularkey noted they talked a year ago promising change when they met with season-ticket holders and now have results to back them up. He promised more change going forward.
''If we can eliminate some of the mistakes ... we're going to go places we want to go,'' Mularkey said.
That's exactly what fans such as Jeremy Dobson wanted to hear. Dobson, 38, from Nashville has been a season-ticket holder the past two years, convinced to buy as a fan of quarterback Marcus Mariota.
He now expects 2017 to end in the playoffs, where this franchise hasn't been since 2008. The Titans haven't won a postseason game since January 2004.
''We potentially have the best team that we could ever have coming up,'' Dobson said. ''I believe we have some good draft picks, two first-round draft picks, and Jon Robinson is going to make the right choices.''
That's how expectations and confidence heighten after a winning season in the NFL.
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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker