AFC South: Mike Mularkey

Titans Camp Report: Day 10

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
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FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tennessee Titans training camp:
  • The Titans got no one injured Monday in a joint practice with the Falcons at their facility, always the best development to come out of a preseason practice. Defensive linemen Antonio Johnson and Mike Martin and tight end Dorin Dickerson came in with injuries and didn’t practice.
  • The first fight turned out to be the only big fight. It came as the Titans and Falcons worked on punt returns and Coty Sensabaugh swiped a helmet off Robert McClain and a lot of players from both teams came onto the scene to get involved. It may have settled itself down, but Tommie Campbell came flying in to shove two Falcons, Bernard Pollard got involved and Ri’Shard Anderson came in with helmet in hand and swung it into Atlanta’s Ricardo Allen “We got it over and out of the way and moved on,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We thought it might come, it came early and we settled down.” Whisenhunt doesn’t fine players for practice fights, but Anderson should be fined for a foolhardy and dangerous move.
  • Later, Falcons center Joe Hawley got tossed by officials for his role in a smaller scrap with Michael Griffin.
  • Whisenhunt was audibly upset when Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora hit Jake Locker’s arm on a pass. “He grabbed his arm, he hit his hand,” Whisenhunt said. “Osi apologized. He knows he can’t do that.”
  • Marqueston Huff looked like he’s got the potential to be a quality gunner on punt returns. I saw him quickly burst between Kimario McFadden and Jordan Mabin to get en route in a hurry.
  • On a very early snap in one-on-ones matching Titans defensive backs against Falcons receivers, Jason McCourty was right with Roddy White on a quick throw from Matt Ryan, got an arm in and watched the ball pop loose. Another pass for White with McCourty on him was overthrown. McCourty was very solid in that period. The rest of the defensive backs were not as good. Griffin drew two flags for contact. (Khalid Wooten made a nice play and had a near pick of a Jeff Matthews pass for Tramaine Thompson. I think Wooten is steadily improving though he's not playing against the high-caliber guys.)
  • In one-on-ones, the Titans' offense connected on a big play early as Justin Hunter ran away from corner Robert McClain, collecting a throw from Charlie Whitehurst. Hunter caught another deep one from Zach Mettenberger.
  • Locker didn’t throw deep much, as the Falcons seemed to be offering open stuff underneath far more often. Some plays worked great against it. Locker hit Kendall Wright out of the slot and Wright ran away from Josh Wilson for what would have been a touchdown. On another play, Dexter McCluster worked into open space in the short middle and had a ton of space from there. Whitehurst found room for some shots. One of them connected up the right side with Derek Hagan over corner Javier Arenas and safety Sean Baker.
  • In many practices Locker still seems to have one moment that could be deadly. He held the ball and shuffled left as the pocket began to collapse and threw for Delanie Walker. But Desmond Trufant got to it and dropped what should have been a pick. “For any quarterback, there is always at least one you wish you could have back,” he said when I asked him about that specific play.
  • Both of the Titans' kickers attempted field goals against the Falcons field goal defense from 33, 36, 39, 42 and 46 yards. Travis Coons made them all, Maikon Bonani missed his attempt from 46 wide right.
  • Andy Levitre took three snaps in each team period before rookie Taylor Lewan replaced him. Levitre had his appendix removed on July 24. He still didn’t participate in the high contact one-on-one pass-rush drills.
  • In one team period, the offense worked exclusively in “penny,” its three-cornerback, one-safety package.
  • Falcons receiver Harry Douglas made a catch over Sensabaugh after the Falcons had the Titans jumping around before the snap. Derrick Morgan started with his hand down at left end, stood up and backed out, then returned to his initial position while multiple defenders shouted out multiple signals and waved each other around in what appeared to be confusion.
  • Akeem Ayers made a couple plays, including batting down a pass from Sean Renfree. In one-on-ones he made a great spin move against tackle Lamar Holmes that got him to the quarterback. But in a seven-on-seven period, T.J. Yates threw to running back Devonta Freeman and Ayers had no chance against him in space.
  • Avery Williamson impressively ran step for step with running back Josh Vaughan on a deep route and the pass glanced on the rookie linebacker’s helmet.
  • Moise Fokou worked as high in the linebacker rotation as I can remember, pairing with Zaviar Gooden as the inside tandem with the second team at least some.
  • On a snap where DaQuan Jones and Al Woods were the two defensive linemen, neither put a hand on the ground. The Titans played that one with everyone starting off standing up.
  • On one snap of nickel where nose tackle Sammie Hill came off the field, the standing up, off-the-line outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley actually lined up inside of right end Jurrell Casey.
  • There were a bunch of penalty flags on both sides. The most popular offense was illegal contact by defensive backs. The second biggest was offside. More to come on that
  • It’s always amazing to see how many guys know each other when two rosters of 90 and their coaching staffs combine. Titans linebacker Zach Brown saw Yates and exclaimed, “T.J, what’s up buddy?” Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter chatted with Hagan. Falcons owner Arthur Blank got off his cart to hug Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, who used to be Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. A lot of it was pre-practice, a lot was during the kicking period when non-special teamers had time to chat. I watched Chris Spencer and Griffin talk with Devin Hester as Pollard shouted to the Titans, “Y'all be careful with making friends right now.”
  • Find pictures at pkuharsky on Instagram.
  • The Titans are off Tuesday, then have an open practice at 9:20 a.m. CT Wednesday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Whisenhunt is down to two position coaching vacancies.

While they are all important, these may be the two most important: The offensive and defensive lines.

Offensive line was supposed to be rebuilt into a strength last season as the Titans signed veteran guard Andy Levitre, drafted guard Chance Warmack 10th overall and drafted center Brian Schwenke in the fourth round.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Ken Whisenhunt
AP Photo/Mark HumphreyOffensive line coach and defensive line coach will be two of Ken Whisenhunt's most critical hires.
But a rebuilt interior didn't jell quickly or play consistently even with mentoring from two Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive linemen, head coach Mike Munchak and line coach Bruce Matthews.

One of the criticism of Whisenhunt during his six years as head coach in Arizona was the Cardinals' failure to develop young offensive lineman. Another Hall of Famer, Russ Grimm, was Whisenhunt's line coach for his entire tenure in Arizona.

Grimm didn't coach in 2013, but I do not expect he will be joining the Titans' staff.

Offensive line was generally a strength for the Titans when Munchak was the position coach before he was elevated to the top job in 2011.

The Titans used to thrive on defense because they developed pass-rushers, Jevon Kearse and Albert Haynesworth, both first-round draft picks, head that list, but it also includes Kyle Vanden Bosch, a huge hit as a reclamation project.

Jim Washburn, recently retained by Detroit as the Lions' line coach, was a big part of that. Tracy Rocker followed him as Munchak's line coach, and for two years he had the assistance of Keith Millard, the team's pass-rushing coach.

The Titans really developed just one pass-rusher in that time, and defensive tackle Jurrell Casey is the sort of player who I think would play well under anyone.

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton will run a hybrid front that will feature 3-4 and 4-3 elements. The Titans have been a 4-3 since before the franchise relocated to Tennessee in 1997.

Whisenhunt, Horton and a new line coach will have a voice in drafting a guy – or a couple – who fit what they are looking for up front. It's imperative the team adds a quality edge pass-rusher, and the line coach Whisenhunt hires will be largely responsible for developing him.

Ron Aiken was Whisenhunt's defensive line coach for all six years in Arizona. He is now coaching the line at Oregon.

Whisenhunt is at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., where he is likely interviewing candidates for his remaining staff positions.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean reported Tuesday evening that the Titans will hire John McNulty as quarterbacks coach.

I reported early on that McNulty had an inside track on the offensive coordinator post, which wound up going to Jason Michael.

Whisenhunt's staff at this point, with holdovers in italics.

Offensive coordinator: Jason Michael
Quarterbacks: John McNulty
Running backs: Sylvester Croom
Tight ends: Mike Mularkey
Wide receivers: Shawn Jefferson

Defensive coordinator: Ray Horton
Linebackers: Lou Spanos
Secondary: Sigismondo “Louie” Cioffi
Assistant secondary: Steve Brown

Special teams: Nate Kaczor
Assistant special teams: Steve Hoffman

Strength and conditioning: Steve Watterson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ken Whisenhunt isn’t going to be the only successful NFL tight end helping run the Tennessee Titans.

Adam Schefter says Whisenhunt’s staff will include Mike Mularkey, the former head coach of the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. Mularkey will coach either tight ends or quarterbacks, presumably based on how the rest of the offensive staff takes shape.

Mularkey’s term with the Jaguars ended after just one season as the team went 2-14 in 2012. He did not coach in 2013.

Some of his players on that team saw him as rigid, unwilling to take their input. That tends to make players feel less invested. Mularkey publicly maintained unreasonable expectations, talking of the team’s chances at a playoff berth too deep into a season when it was clear the Jaguars were far more likely to earn the first pick in the draft. (They drafted second.)

But I spoke to one defensive player from that team who had great things to say about Mularkey.

“Defensive guys really liked him,” the player said. “He had that calm approach and stressed the importance of hard work. For me personally, he talked of his time learning from Chuck Noll and the way the Steelers did things. It was hard not to like."

He’s a measured guy with a lot of experience. As a position coach, he should be an asset to Whisenhunt and the Titans.

Whisenhunt will likely enjoy having a sounding board on his staff who has also been a head coach in the past.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- So who’s next in line to be coach of the Tennessee Titans?

My first choice would be Stanford coach David Shaw, but I don’t think the Titans could lure him away from Palo Alto.

General manager Ruston Webster is connected to a lot of coaches who could be candidates from his time in the front offices in Tampa Bay and Seattle.

[+] EnlargeRich Bisaccia
AP Photo/James D. SmithCowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia is a possible candidate for the Titans' head job.
I pondered many of those connections on Christmas Eve. Lovie Smith is off the board, hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His ties to ownership there would have made it tough for the Titans to get involved even if they had fired Munchak earlier and liked him. Jim Mora appears set on staying at UCLA.

But a few other coaches Webster knows could surface. Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia is a name I’ve already heard Webster will consider. Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden or Chicago Bears offensive coordinator and line coach Aaron Kromer might be of interest.

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, whose current office is only a couple miles from LP Field, is a high-energy coach who’s very popular in Nashville. He has a bit of NFL experience. Adam Schefter says Franklin interviewed with the Houston Texans before they hired Bill O'Brien.

A Pennsylvania native, Franklin is reportedly in line to talk to Penn State about its opening. I feel he’s a better fit with college kids than the NFL, but Webster certainly could feel differently.

Like Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean before me, I’ve heard Bisaccia and Seattle Seawhawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn are guys Webster is likely to interview.

Before the Titans hired Munchak in 2011, I wrote about why I thought Bisaccia would be a good candidate for the job. It included a rave review from Jon Gruden and Derrick Brooks. (And a bad assessment by me of Raheem Morris.)

From what I’ve heard about Bisaccia, I think he might be a Franklin-type in the energy department. He’d bring far more experience coaching guys in the pro ranks. Already on Twitter some are crushing the idea. I’m asking them if John Harbaugh was a bad hire for the Baltimore Ravens. He won the Super Bowl with Baltimore last year and was hired by the Ravens with a resume that was predominantly overseeing special teams with the Philadelphia Eagles. A top special teams coordinators should have head coaching qualities, and it's an outside-the-box idea worthy of consideration.

Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton have been popular names with regard to remaining openings and it would be no surprise if Webster considered them. Greg Roman of the San Francisco 49ers is among the most popular offensive coordinators in the NFL right now.

One guy I do not think will draw Webster's attention: San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the former coach of the Cardinals. I don't think Webster is a big fan.

Mike Mularkey (not working this season) and New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell interviewed with the Titans when Munchak was hired in 2011. Mularkey got the Jacksonville Jaguars job in 2012 and was a one-year disaster.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Rookie tackle David Quessenberry's recent surprises include a stolen truck and a lot of playing time at right tackle, says Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Like most starters, Danieal Manning isn’t participating in minicamp but he offered a coaching eye, say Ganguli and John Brannen of the Chronicle.

A couple former Texans -- Connor Barwin and Eric Winston -- are among the 10 players who have lent their names to a new line of clothing which is being sold by the NFL Players Association in honor of LGBT Pride Month, writes Ganguli.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are sorting through four players and 1,300 pounds as they seek to fill their nose tackle position, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

The Colts were an 11-5 playoff team in 2012, but that hasn’t stopped general manager Ryan Grigson from a massive roster overhaul that could yield nine new starters, says Chappell.

Until they signed Ahmad Bradshaw, the Colts commitment to improving the running game had been mostly verbal, says Conrad Brunner of 1070 The Fan.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Veteran Marcus Trufant is sharing his expertise with a young group of defensive backs, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

The Jaguars will wrap up minicamp with a public practice, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Mike Mularkey said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he would start Chad Henne over Blaine Gabbert if he had to pick one right now. (Audio.)

Thoughts on how the quarterback situation could shake out between Gabbert, Henne and Mike Kafka from Cole Pepper.

Tennessee Titans

The No. 2 cornerback job is open for the taking, partly because Alterraun Verner doesn't exactly fit what the Titans now want to do, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

While the offense is simplifying, is the Titans defense getting more complicated and too complicated, asks Music City Miracles.
General managers making moves fire coaches when the season ends. They fire scouts after the draft.

When he took over as the general manager of the Jacksonville Jaguars, David Caldwell fired coach Mike Mularkey and most of his staff. Now he’s let go the top two members of the scouting staff he inherited as well as a scout.

Per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have parted ways with director of player personnel Terry McDonough, director of pro personnel Louis Clark and southwest regional scout Chris Prescott. Prescott is the son of Jaguars former chief financial officer Bill Prescott.

Caldwell will now bring in his own people for those posts, and perhaps more.

One prime candidate is likely to be Chris Polian.

Caldwell worked for Bill Polian in Indianapolis, and Chris Polian was on the staff there. Caldwell came to Jacksonville from Atlanta, where the Falcons hired Chris Polian after the Polians were fired by the Colts following the 2011 season.

There will be other candidates with expiring contracts or who come free in similar moves with other new regimes.
One of the unintentional consequences of the NFL’s expansion into a year-round story is that virtually everything that happens on the field in the offseason is positive.

Sure, we might write about a holdout or an injury or an undisciplined overeater. A coach might occasionally send a message to a player he’s unhappy with that goes public.

But how much offseason on-field stuff isn’t positive? I’d say a 5 percent estimate would qualify as high.

I don’t say this to lessen the excitement of Gus Bradley and the Jaguars over Tuesday’s start to minicamp, just to contextualize it.

A new coach gets this extra camp to introduce himself to his team. And whether he’s Bill Walsh or Ray Handley, everything is wonderful.

I don’t doubt Marcedes Lewis' feelings about the day one bit.

“Going into my eighth year, I’ve never been a part of anything like this as far as the first day of minicamp," the tight end told Vito Stellino of the Florida Times-Union. “They threw everything at us and we came out with a great attitude and we executed.’’

“... Gus talked about they’re going to apply pressure in practice so the games are easy. We got a clean slate. Everything that happened last year is a blur now. All we can control is our future.’’

Bradley loved the tempo: “It was just what I envisioned. High tempo, guys busting their tail, guys running from drill to drill, the tempo was high and we pushed them just like we had envisioned so I was very pleased with that. This was definitely something to build on."

Jaguars fans should be excited.

Jaguars fans should also remember that on April 17, 2012, after the first practice under new coach Mike Mularkey, he said: “I was extremely pleased with the focus and really liked the tempo.”

It’s a different deal now. But take note that the April enthusiasm and optimism are the same.

RTC: Mularkey talks Gabbert

April, 16, 2013
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Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

The upgrades of Reliant Stadium’s video boards are on track, writes John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

James Baker, the former secretary of state who’s the honorary chairman of Houston’s Super Bowl bid committee, won’t be allowed to be part of the presentation because he’s a celebrity, says McClain.

What non-receivers make the most sense for the Texans at No. 27? Brett Kollmann of Battle Red Blog considers.

Indianapolis Colts

Four areas of interest as the Colts begin their nine-week offseason program, from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. “We have a bull’s-eye on our chest now,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “We aren’t going to sneak up on anybody. You have to prove yourself because nobody really cares about last year.”

Sizing up the Colts' status at running back as they head toward the draft, with Chappell.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars will begin to get a sense of Gus Bradley’s tempo as a voluntary minicamp opens today in Jacksonville, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union. Four core principals will be emphasized.

A look at the history of the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, a list the Jaguars will be adding to soon, from Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Former Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said he can’t forecast whether Blaine Gabbert will be a franchise quarterback. Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country reviews what Mularkey told PFT.

Tennessee Titans

Safety Bernard Pollard is putting his past behind him and not going to talk any more about the mutiny storyline from Baltimore, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Touring mock drafts to see who people have the Titans taking at No. 10, with Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Considering Chance Warmack, Johnathan Cooper and Larry Warford as potential Titans draft picks with Tom Gower of Total Titans.
Guy Whimper, released Wednesday by the Jaguars, was somewhat of a symbol of stubbornness to me.

Whimper
Whimper
Jacksonville -- with, I believe, deposed general manager Gene Smith at the head of the line -- insisted Whimper was an NFL-caliber player. The evidence screamed otherwise.

The offensive tackle was brought in on Nov. 2, 2010 as offensive line depth. A third tackle at best, he would up starting 22 of a possible 40 games.

That was far more than the Jaguars ever envisioned they would need from him.

In a miserable 2-14 season that got both Smith and coach Mike Mularkey fired, Whimper caught a touchdown pass as a tackle eligible in Green Bay. But he was central in another tackle-eligible moment that might encapsulate the disastrous year more than any other.

In a 24-3 loss at Miami, officials said he botched a crucial play.

What I wrote about it that afternoon:
The worst, most symbolic moment of the game came after Jacksonville sacked (Ryan) Tannehill, forcing and recovering a fumble. Chad Henne threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Justin Blackmon that should have put the Jaguars ahead 10-3. But tackle Guy Whimper, who’d come in the game and lined up as an eligible player running a route, failed to report and was flagged for an illegal substitution. Later, the drive ended without even a field goal as Henne failed to convert a fourth-and-1 run.

Whimper said afterward he reported as he was supposed to.

The Jaguars need to get a lot better on the offensive line. I’m not sure the new brass yet realizes the extent of the deficiencies, though David Caldwell recently acknowledged the team probably has blanks at left guard and right tackle right now.

It was time for Whimper to no longer be in the mix. The Jaguars also released quarterback John Parker Wilson and defensive back Brandon King.

A look back at preseason storylines

January, 29, 2013
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On July 27, 2012, I took a team-by-team look at preseason storylines for the AFC South.

It’s always fun to go back and see just how some of the storylines panned out. So away we go.

JAGUARS

I said then:

New coach Mike Mularkey is very much in control. He’s got a clear plan and a staff he will keep on message. Players will see consistency from the coach and the staff. The messages will be easy to understand and often repeated. It will be on the players to buy in to them and put them in to practice. Early indications are they will do so.

I say now:

Little did I know that a big piece of the message that was easy to understand was the idea that a 2-14 team was close, a Mularkey stance that owner Shad Khan basically called delusional after Mularkey was fired by new general manager David Caldwell. Mularkey was partially a victim in this situation, but his low-key demeanor didn't serve a bad team well enough.

TITANS

I said then:

Cornerback development: With Cortland Finnegan gone, Jason McCourty takes over as the team’s top corner. His twin brother, Devin, has gotten more attention in New England. But Jason was the better McCourty in 2011. The Titans are counting on Alterraun Verner as the second starter and he will kick into the slot in the nickel package. Can the super athletic but raw Tommie Campbell succeed as the No. 3 guy, taking Verner’s outside spot when three corners are on the field?

I say now:

The answer to the Campbell was a resounding no. The Titans went into the regular season keeping Verner outside in nickel and inserting with Ryan Mouton inside. Rookie Coty Sensabaugh eventually took over the nickel job covering the slot receiver and showed signs of being a capable NFL cornerback. Campbell’s only real impact came on special teams, where he was good at drawing penalties.

Colts

I said then:

The offensive line as tone-setters: The Colts patchworked as they added pieces who will help them be bigger and more physical than they were under the previous regime. Can a group that will likely include at least three new starters coalesce? Keeping (Andrew) Luck safe is priority one, and creating some room for backs who have not yet proven they can carry the load is also vital.

I say now:

I wouldn’t say the line set the tone. It’s a weakness coming out of the first season of the new regime, and it allowed Luck to get hit far too often, though he bears some responsibility for holding the ball too long too often. I do think they got more than they could have reasonably expected from some guys who probably don’t qualify as NFL starters.

Texans

I said then:

Matt Schaub’s return: The perception is he gets hurt a lot. I thought he got past it with complete 2009 and 2010 seasons, but bad luck knocked him out with a serious foot injury last season. Critics wonder if he’s clutch. We do need to see him in situations with a lot at stake. It’s a contract year. It’s a good team. The table is set for him to excel. The spotlight will shine on his play brighter than ever before.

I say now:

The team’s downfall was hardly on Schaub and Schaub alone. But the peak of his play in 2012 hardly came when things were most important. He didn’t lose faith and the team, which signed him to a long-term deal before the season started, hasn’t lost faith in him. But he certainly didn’t do what he needed to to silence his critics.
The Jaguars went 2-14 this past season and there was an element of coaching/management that was delusional about how close the team was to being good.

New coach Gus Bradley found at least two things from Mike Mularkey’s regime worth keeping: receivers coach Jerry Sullivan and linebackers coach Mark Duffner.

The two assistant coaches will stay on as part of Bradley’s staff, per Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

I think they were the two best position coaches on the team last year, and continuity at the two positions will be a good thing.

That’s particularly the case with Sullivan, a real teacher who came out of retirement to join Mularkey and did good work with youngsters Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon. Those two guys will have to learn a new offense with coordinator Jedd Fisch in place, but the primary voice that will be teaching them will remain the same.

It’s a rare instance where continuity for the Jaguars will be a good thing.

All the way back in training camp last summer it was clear Sullivan liked Shorts and saw promise in the second-year receiver. Shorts seemed to have game-day stage fright as a rookie in 2011. He was a fourth-round pick out of Mount Union.

Sullivan found just the right way to develop Shorts, who caught 55 passes for 979 yards and seven touchdowns in 2012. His 17.8-yard average with Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne at quarterback provided a real boost to an offense that lacked big plays.

At Jaguars camps over the year as I watched position group work, I’ve always thought Duffner was a good teacher.

Coaches who can really teach are at a premium for a young team installing new systems. Bradley’s shown a feel for that by retaining these two coaches.
The tendency in the NFL with hires is to get guys who are largely the opposite of the people they are replacing.

Departed Jaguars general manager Gene Smith and coach Mike Mularkey were low-key guys.

[+] EnlargeGus Bradley and Dave Caldwell
Phil Sears/USA TODAY Sports New coach Gus Bradley, left, said he could "feel the passion" coming from GM Dave Caldwell, right, when he interviewed for the job.
Replacements David Caldwell and Gus Bradley are high-energy guys who talk over and over about passion.

“I think what sold me on this opportunity was the passion,” Bradley said as his introductory news conference Friday morning. “I’m a defensive coach, I have great passion, great excitement. I’m trying to hold it back a little bit right here. But I think with [owner] Shad [Khan] and Dave, given a chance to visit with them, I could just feel the passion coming from them with what they really want to accomplish here. I knew our philosophies meshed together and it became very exciting very fast.”

That alone won’t cure what ails the Jacksonville franchise, but it’s a change the city and fans should appreciate.

Some notes out of the news conference:

  • Among those Bradley thanked were the players on defense in Seattle, where he was coordinator. “If it wasn’t for them,” he said, “I’m humble enough to know I wouldn’t be here.”
  • His name: Bradley’s birth certificate says his first name is Paul, which satisfied a Catholic family’s desire he be named after a saint. But his parents intended to call him Casey. It wasn’t long before his brother nicknamed him Gus, which stuck.
  • Bradley and Caldwell actually crossed paths once, briefly in 1990 or 1991. Bradley was coaching at his alma mater, North Dakota State and Caldwell passed through on a scouting trip.
  • Bradley said he’s spoken to colleagues who said as young coaches assembling their first staff they made decisions too quickly. He will take his time assembling his staff. “It’s important to find out about people, because it is a people business,” he said.
  • Regarding scheme, he said the Jaguars would play to their strengths. But we can expect a multiple offense. “I understand what hurts defenses, what causes us problems: Multiple personnel groupings, multiple formations, diversity, with the quarterback run game, with the spreading out, the two-back run game, the zone. All things are issues. ... We’ll work together on some issues that will cause great difficulty.”
  • He talked of having an explosive offense, something both Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey spoke of but were unable to produce in their time as the Jaguars head coach. He said being able to run effectively -- be it through backs, the quarterback or even the short passing game that functions like the run -- gives a team the opportunity to be explosive.
  • Bradley didn’t want to talk about a timetable for being a playoff contender. He said his team’s focus will simply be on getting better every day. If the team does that, he said, it’s remarkable how other things can fall into place.
  • He met Paul Posluszny Friday morning and spoke to Maurice Jones-Drew on the phone.
  • Bradley declined to talk about Matt Flynn, a quarterback under contract with Seattle, and didn’t field a question about Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne.
  • While Caldwell’s contract is for five years, Bradley’s is for four.
  • “My whole hope is to be genuine,” he said. “That’s it.”
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

J.J. Watt was the best player in the NFL this season, says Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus. He’s also the PFWA/PFW defensive player of the year.

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports looks back at the first game and says what needs to be different for the Texans: Schaub needs to look defensive backs off more.

What Wade Phillips told me about Wes Welker was not in the least bit controversial as some have made it out to be, says Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.

Five things Houston has to do to spring the upset at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, from Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Indianapolis Colts

The top 11 plays of the Colts’ magical season according to Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Considering the Colts in free agency, with Dunlevy.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Early impression of David Caldwell from Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union: He likes the immediate signs of firm direction.

Caldwell is the latest NFL riser from John Carroll University, says Garry Smits of the Times-Union.

A split locker room didn’t help Mike Mularkey, says Ryan O’Halloran.

To which I say: Very interesting to know how guys felt. But a head coach of a 2-14 team shouldn’t be popular with players.

Caldwell could not have been more clear about Tim Tebow: He’s not going to be part of the Jaguars, says Vito Stellino of the Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Said Zach Brown of his fired position coach: “Without Frank Bush, I don’t think I would have had nearly as good a rookie year as I had.” Jim Wyatt’s story from The Tennessean.

Derrick Morgan was the big surprise for the Titans, says Tom Gower of Total Titans. Morgan was involved in a high rate of defensive plays.
The first three names to emerge as candidates to replace Mike Mularkey as head coach in Jacksonville are St. Louis offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Atlanta special-teams coach Keith Armstrong.

We knew Roman would be in the mix for new general manager David Caldwell, because the two went to college together at John Carroll University in Ohio and worked together early in their careers with the Carolina Panthers.

Schottenheimer interviewed for the Jaguars' head-coaching job last season and lost out to Mularkey. Armstrong works for the franchise where Caldwell spent the previous five years.

[+] EnlargeBrian Schottenheimer
AP Photo/Michael YoungThe Jaguars have asked permission to speak with Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
“Me coming in here as a first-time general manager and I’m looking for a co-builder of our team,” Caldwell said at his introductory news conference. “When I talked to [owner] Shad [Khan] in terms of a culture change along the football side, I felt like it was more of that. I felt like it was an atmosphere of change. I felt like that to do that, you’ve got to have a fresh start [across] the board.”

Prior work as a head coach is not a prerequisite for Mularkey’s replacement.

“You guys are all familiar with Mike Smith, who is our current head coach in Atlanta, did not have head-coaching experience and is the all-time leading winner in Atlanta,” Caldwell said. “I’m looking for the right person, he obviously has to have certain qualifications. In terms of previous … head-coaching experience, not necessary.”

Khan wasn’t going to be able to get his man without giving him power to pick his head coach.

Khan cited the team’s record getting progressively worse over the past three seasons as a reason for large-scale change.

Mularkey was a victim of bad timing, injuries, a thin roster and a bad year.

Khan bought the franchise toward the end of the 2011 season, and the team fired Jack Del Rio as coach and gave general manager Gene Smith a contract extension.

Khan and Smith hired Mularkey, whose overmatched team went 2-14. Jacksonville hardly had its best offensive player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, and got one game combined out of two projected starting linebackers, Daryl Smith and Clint Session.

Smith’s four-year record as the personnel chief didn’t cut it, and Khan parted ways with him the day after the season ended.

He then left Mularkey’s fate in the hands of a yet-unnamed GM and ultimately allowed assistants to seek other work. They are still under contract, however, and will require Caldwell’s permission to leave.

Caldwell had long terms working in the front offices of two winning teams, Indianapolis and Atlanta.

“The common thread is the relationship between the head coach and the general manager and obviously the quarterback,” he said. “The type of people we bring in as players. They have to be good football players but they have to be positive, passionate, physical and I think you see that.”

He needs a coach first, and then they’ll assess what they will do offensively. Quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are under contract and will be part of things. Tim Tebow won’t be, even if he is released by the Jets.

“I have others in mind and I’m comfortable with what’s here,” Caldwell said.

Adam Schefter reports that the Jaguars have already asked for permission to talk with Schottenheimer.

Because the 49ers and Falcons are still in the playoffs, Caldwell will have to wait to talk to Roman or Armstrong. If their teams lose, he will be allowed to interview them if they are interested. If they win this weekend, they are off-limits until after the NFC title game. If one goes to the Super Bowl, there is an interview window in the week leading up to the weekend off before the Super Bowl.

With a lot of turnover around the league, Mularkey could resurface as a coordinator. He did good work with Matt Ryan in Atlanta, though after he helped the quarterback reach a certain level in his first four years, the team was ready to go in a different direction when he got hired in Jacksonville.

Several teams in need a solid teacher for a young quarterback could benefit from adding Mularkey.

Put the Tim Tebow-to-Jacksonville talk to rest, America.

New Jaguars general manager David Caldwell surely knows that talking about a player under contract to another team is technically tampering. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to snuff out that story line immediately, addressing Tebow during his introductory news conference.

"I can't imagine a scenario where he'd be a Jaguar, even if he's released,” Caldwell said.

I’d long maintained that even if owner Shad Khan was intrigued by Tebow, he wouldn’t force a new GM to take on a player he didn’t want.

Caldwell has worked for teams with Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan at quarterback, and Tebow wouldn’t help him get the Jaguars anywhere close to those kinds of quarterback situations.

Though Caldwell emphasized positivity and passion, he knows it will take more than those to win.

A couple other notes from the news conference:
  • Caldwell said he feels like the team needs a fresh start and that was the primary reason for dismissing Mike Mularkey as head coach. The wheels have started turning in a search for a new coach, but Caldwell set no timetable for the hire. He used Atlanta’s Mike Smith as an example of the kind of guy the team might find, indicating the new guy doesn’t have to have a head-coaching background. Caldwell and the coach will be involved in “co-building” of the team. The coach will be the primary voice of the team.
  • Caldwell sees a role for analytics as a supplement to evaluations and he sees a role for Shad Khan’s son, Tony Khan, is that regard.
  • Khan pushed Caldwell to visit the Jets for a second interview so as to be sure what he wanted, so he followed that advice and it became clearer to him that the Jacksonville job was the one he wanted.
  • Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union reports Khan said Caldwell’s is a five-year deal.

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