Mularkey got raw deal, but Jags made right call
New Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell waited 1½ days on the job before firing head coach Mike Mularkey.
Mularkey enjoyed just one season as Jaguars coach.
OK, maybe “enjoyed” is a bit strong — the Jags did finish 2-14.
Among the obstacles Mularkey tried to overcome was his team leading the league in players placed on injured reserve.
Did Mularkey get a raw deal? Perhaps.
Did Mularkey need to go? Yes.
Welcome to the insane world of today’s NFL, where honeymoons for coaches and quarterbacks seem to be non-existent.
The pro game is more complicated than ever, thanks to all the formations, plays, audibles, etc. Despite that, coaches and quarterbacks get little time to prove themselves.
It doesn’t help that coaches such as San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh and Seattle’s Pete Carroll have directed quick turnarounds with franchises that had been struggling.
Fans see that and ask, “If they can do it, why not us?” Even Jaguars owner Shad Khan knows Mularkey was dealt a tough hand this season. Jacksonville’s many injuries included season-ending ones to star running back Maurice Jones-Drew, receiver Laurent Robinson and quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Vince Lombardi couldn’t have won with the Jaguars in 2012.
But that means little in today’s NFL environment.
“Our record was still 2-14 and regrettably, this is a league that demands winning,” Khan said Thursday. “What we have to do is win.”
Khan took control of the Jaguars last January, and held off on major managerial changes.
After seeing his team lose eight games by 16 or more points and miss the playoffs for a fifth straight season, Khan fired GM Gene Smith. The owner decided to let Mularkey’s fate rest with Smith’s replacement.
Hello, Mr. Caldwell. Goodbye, coach Mularkey.
Caldwell, who had been Atlanta Falcons player personnel director, was selected by Khan to resurrect the Jaguars franchise.
In attempting to do that, Caldwell deserves to choose a head coach with whom he will work closely.
“I felt like we needed a fresh start here,” Caldwell said during his introductory press conference. “Me coming in as a first-time general manager, I’m looking for a co-builder for this team.
“When I talked to Shad in terms of a culture change along the football side, it felt more than that — it felt like an atmosphere of change. And to do that, I felt like we needed a fresh start across the board.”
It didn’t help Mularkey that he previously went a mediocre 14-18 as Buffalo Bills coach.
There are many factors that go into a successful NFL team. These days, the two most obvious ingredients concern the head coach and the starting quarterback.
Among the candidates for the Jaguars coaching job is San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who happens to be Caldwell’s former college roommate.
Caldwell said previous NFL head-coaching experience was not a perquisite, and he cited Falcons coach Mike Smith as an example.
“He did not have head-coaching experience and he’s the all-time leading winner in Atlanta,” Caldwell said. “I’m looking for the right person. Obviously, he has to have certain qualifications. But in terms of previous head-coaching experience, that’s not necessary.”
As for quarterback, Caldwell said Gabbert — whom the GM mentioned was still the second-youngest QB in the league — could expect an open competition at the position. Don’t expect Tim Tebow, though.
“He is a member of the New York Jets,” Caldwell said. “I can’t imagine a scenario where he would be a Jacksonville Jaguar, even if he’s released.”
If true, part of the reason likely would be Caldwell wanting to avoid a potential media circus similar to that which engulfed Tebow in New York.
As the Jaguars’ new general manager, that’s his decision. Same with choosing a head coach, and that’s no Mularkey.