It isn’t exactly the best way to compare two coaching candidates (one the contracted incumbent) but, as the Jacksonville Jaguars get closer to hiring a new general manager, it is about time we looked at the pros and cons of Greg Roman vs Mike Mularkey. Roman has been linked to GM candidate David Caldwell, who looks like he may be the favorite for the GM job at this point. General managers like to bring in their own guy to take over the reins, and with Mularkey still under contract a look at how these two offensive minds have done should be done.
One of the main problems with transitioning toward a new coach at this point is that the selections become slim pretty quickly. Andy Reid is locked up, Chip Kelly is staying in Oregon, and teams like the Carolina Panthers are even willing to take chances with their incumbents rather than delve into the slim pool of available coaches. With Caldwell, presumably, the team will have a man in Roman who would be able to come over early and set up shop. But is it the right move?
Greg Roman’s Coaching History
Roman has been an assistant coach to the Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, and Baltimore Ravens of the NFL as well as with Stanford. Most recently he has gained a lot of attention for his revamp of the San Francisco 49ers offense when he made the jump back to the NFL with Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Under his and Harbaugh’s tutelage the Niners have gone from a joke in the NFC West to the class of the NFC. How much of this is to be attributed to Harbaugh and how much to Roman? We won’t really know until we separate them, but the data is limited as to Roman’s distinct influence as an assistant coach. He was good enough for Harbaugh to bring with him, and Harbaugh’s word is good enough for me (at least based on his current success).
Roman has produced a ridiculously efficient offense in San Fran – the Niners have been ranked first and second (2011 and 2012) in giveaways and tops in the league with interceptions behind Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Of interest is the reliance on the running game (third and seventh in rushing attempts) while finding decent production on the few attempted passes (31st in passing attempts both years, 29th and 23rd in passing yards with 29 ad 23 passing touchdowns). Under Roman, the offense has continued to develop through both years.
PROS – Roman
- Has demonstrated ability to get the best from “average” players
- Revamped offense successfully
- Has won playoff games as OC
- Ball Security
- Running is a strength with Maurice Jones-Drew
- Can revitalize quarterbacks with limited success prior to that point
CONS – Roman
- Don’t know how good he is as a head coach yet
- Only has two years as a coordinator
- 4th head coach (counting Mel Tucker) in last three years for Jags
- Passing offense is not very prolific
Mike Mularkey’s History
One of the major strengths for Mularkey when he came to the Jaguars was his demonstrated history of success in a franchise revamp under Mike Smith with the Atlanta Falcons. Mularkey was offensive coordinator for the Falcons after a stint in Miami and two years as head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Mularkey’s resume strength and calm demeanor were appealing aspects to Gene Smith when he was hired. Yet Mularkey’s head coaching record is suspect. As well liked as he has been in the locker room and as respected as he is across the NFL, it does not translate into success. As a head coach, Mularkey is 16-32 in three seasons. Despite posting generally top 10 numbers as the OC for Atlanta in almost all offensive categories, Mularkey’s offense in Jacksonville was not good enough to overcome injuries and inexperience. Many coaches have poor first outings with their teams – especially teams with below average personnel – but is the continuity worth it for the Jaguars? Of note, none of his assistants (such as Jerry Jones) have yet left despite being allowed to seek other work by owner Shahid Khan.
PROS – Mularkey
- Continuity with Jacksonville
- Has shown he can be successful (Atlanta, 9-7 in ’04 with Bills)
- Brings in top flight coaching talent
- Helped form Matt Ryan into a top quarterback
- Balanced offensive approach
- Locker room support despite a terrible season
CONS – Mularkey
- Walked out on Buffalo
- Posted worst franchise record ever with Jags (2-14)
- Blaine Gabbert showed limited development in year one
- Oversaw defensive collapse under assistant HC Mel Tucker
- Part of “old regime” under Gene Smith
This is all a hypothetical exercise, but I assure you that Khan is going over things like this in his head right now. Will Caldwell be worth it if he brings Roman with? If that only leaves Steve Keim as the other available GM candidate, is he going to do the job as well as Caldwell? Ultimately, what will win you more games? The NFL is rough and tumble world, so it’s important to be a step ahead. I assure you that Khan is trying to be. In my preliminary Pros/Cons list, I don’t think it would be so bad to move away from Mularkey in favor of Roman. Intangibles like the ability to recruit top flight coaching talent and continuity are tougher to predict the effect of, however.
Are you fine with moving away from Mularkey after just one season? What about Roman, do you feel he could be an effective head coach for the Jaguars?
- Luke N. Sims
You can also find me on Twitter @LukeNSims