If Mike Mularkey isn’t the Jaguars coach in 2013, I believe it will be because he’s collateral damage, not because he’s done a poor job.
Jacksonville is only 2-9 and it’s been a largely miserable season. The play-calling was far too careful and conservative during much of Blaine Gabbert's time under center, and Mularkey is an offensive guy so that's largely on him.
But Mularkey and his staff seem to be loosening up as they get better and more confident play out of Chad Henne.
When I was with the team during minicamp and training camp I thought the new head coach and his new assistants were good teachers, who were doing well to get players to buy in.
I never would have anticipated the buy-in lasting for such a long time as things crumbled.
The big change for this team, everyone expects, will come in the front office. Gene Smith’s had four years and four drafts and four free-agency periods, and he simply hasn’t stocked the roster with enough talent. That is the root cause of the team’s issues.
The biggest reason to stick with Mularkey beyond one year: This team has held together despite the poor win-loss record.
"Coach is big on sticking together and fighting until the end, so that’s what we are doing,” receiver Cecil Shorts told local reporters. “We’ve got five games left and we’ll continue to play hard and continue to ascend and continue to get better as a team on all three phases of the game.”
“We believe in what he’s saying. We believe in the process. We know we are better than our record right now, and we want to improve our record this year and get ready for next year. We want to improve and get ready for next year and be a contending team for the playoffs.”
If owner Shad Khan makes a move to replace Smith, it will be difficult, but not impossible, to ask Smith's replacement to stick with an inherited staff.
At some point, GM, coach and quarterback all have to align and not come from different regimes.
Asking a new GM to adopt Mularkey could be dangerous. Things go badly and it doesn’t take long for the new front office to say, “Well the coaches aren’t getting it done, and they aren’t our guys.”
And, maybe Mularkey wouldn’t want to stay.
He walked away from his first head coaching job in Buffalo early in 2006 after two seasons when there was front-office turnover. He never really shared the ins and outs of why, and said again today he's unlikely to ever share them.
With the Bills, he was hired by president and GM Tom Donahoe. When Donahue was let go, owner Ralph Wilson took back the team president title and hired a former beloved coach, Marv Levy, as the new GM.
So the question in Jacksonville if there is a new GM should probably flow in two directions.
Will a new GM want Mularkey? Will Mularkey want to work for the new GM?
How unlucky for him that he may be facing a similar situation to the one that ended his term in Buffalo just a year into his term in Jacksonville.