The Jaguars managed to shoot themselves in the foot again with penalties against the Dolphins this week. The Jags had 10 penalties for 88 yards. This is a reflection on the Jaguar locker room and on head coach Mike Mularkey. Mularkey is a disciplined man and runs a disciplined team. He has strict rules and believes that by instilling discipline his team will get better. When your team is 2-12, however, those same rules that are supposed to be supportive and building a foundation feel oppressive and suffocating.
Is Mularkey a vastly different approach from Jack Del Rio? Yes. Is he vastly different from Tom Coughlin? No. Coughlin and Mularkey have far more in common – especially in wanting to instill discipline in their teams – than either of them have with the Jack “players’ coach” Del Rio. All three men have something in common though: poor first seasons.
Coughlin had a very tough assignment when he was brought in to coach an expansion team. The talent was there, yet questionable, and it is tough to build and organization from scratch. When building from scratch, you need that discipline and order. Coughlin provided that. He built a culture of winning in one of the NFL’s youngest teams. That culture took time to develop. For him, it was one season. The Jags were 4-12 (franchise worst) in 1995. The next season they made it to the AFC Championship and the playoffs the three years following.
Del Rio, coming off of a few bad seasons to end Coughlin’s tenure, was a good departure from the discipline of the Coughlin era. He was more lax, relied on personality and played to the attitude of his football team. Del Rio’s Jaguars reflected the personnel of the team more than they reflected the coach. Del Rio inherited a 6-10 team and seemingly made it worse. The Jags were 5-11 in Del Rio’s first season before having four .500 or better seasons over the next four years. Del Rio ultimately faded down the stretch and opened the door for Mularkey.
Mularkey is not starting by building his own foundation, he is starting by building off a poor foundation laid by his predecessor (and his boss). Mularkey is trying to instill discipline and order to a team left in turmoil. What he is trying to do is a departure from the approach of Del Rio, he most winning coach in Jaguars history. Mularkey’s team is still learning that process. This season promises to be the worst in Jaguars history, but, like his predecessors, Mularkey is going to struggle his first year.
Yeah, the Jags may not win another game. 2-14 could very well be the Jaguars’ fate. But he development of a team is more than just players learning their positions. It’s also about culture. While the team is getting resultes, it’s easy to change a culture. Otherwise there will be growing pains. The penalties and discontent in Jacksonville are a reflection of growing pains, not Mularkey. Is Mularkey the cause? Yes. Will this continue? No. Like all growth, things will settle down. The key is to keep his team hungry. The Jaguars still have buy-in, they are just getting tired of not seeing results.
Whether Mularkey is in Jacksonville next year or not, keep in mind that the task he took on is much more than simply improving a football team: he’s changing a culture.
Is changing a culture worth giving the guy another year or should we move on and hope for a guy who can get results in year one? You know my opinion, let’s hear yours.
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims