As I watched the press conferences on Jaguars.com announcing Mike Mularkey as the Jaguars’ new head coach, the third head coach in team history, I was struck by how incredibly bland this man is. His posture – rigid. His voice – unaffected. His words – about as much flavor as a balsa wood sandwich on stale rye bread. Shad Khan and Gene Smith could not have picked a more BORING man to be the new leader of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And I think that’s a decision that will really pay off for the Jaguars.Maybe Mularkey was nervous or tired or bloated from the all the Maine lobster and expensive champagne Shad Khan and Gene Smith served him, but as our new leader addressed the media, it was difficult to ignore how unexciting this all felt. Having said that, I think we all learned from the Jack Del Rio era that having a fiery and personable head coach isn’t necessarily a positive. A lot of pent-up secrets leaked out of the Jacksonville locker room once Del Rio was dismissed; many players, including the highly respected Fred Taylor, were perturbed by Del Rio’s tendency to play favorites, his emotional swings, and his dramatic “divorces” with key players (Byron Leftwich, Mike Peterson come to mind). No doubt, a lot of guys liked playing for JDR, but at the end of the day, we can all agree that with a sub-.500 record, he was not effective enough as a head coach. Much of that had to do with years of poor drafting and sub-par personnel, but much of it falls back on Del Rio’s shortcomings.
The way the hiring process unfolded with Mike Mularkey says a lot to me. After seven hours of intensive interviewing, Gene Smith and Shad Khan excused themselves from the room and returned to offer Mularkey the job. Even with further candidates scheduled to interview in the following days, they were ready to call the search off right then and there, because they knew they had found their man. If we know anything about Gene Smith, it’s that he is a tireless worker and will never be accused of failing to take due diligence. If we know anything about Shad Khan, it’s that he has an innate ability to succeed in a new environment by asking the right questions and trusting the right people to run his operations. If these men were that struck by Mike Mularkey, then you have to be confident that he’s the right man for the job.
In many ways, I expect Mularkey to be everything that Jack Del Rio was not. Not emotionally volatile, but calm and even-keeled. Not your friend, but your coach and your boss. Not a personality, but a leader with vision and a practical plan of execution. It sounds like he’s learned a lot from his first tenure as a head coach and knows what he must do better this time around. He’s got a balanced offensive philosophy and has had a great deal of success both running the ball and moving it through the air. He’s got a history of developing young quarterbacks and as we all know, the fulfillment of Blaine Gabbert’s potential is priority #1 for the Jaguars’ future success.
Mike Mularkey is not a rock star hire, but Jacksonville doesn’t need a rock star. We need a winner.
- Andrew Hofheimer