Who’d have thought that Mike Mularkey’s first test would have come before one football was snapped with him as the Head Coach of the Jaguars? Mularkey, along with the rest of the coaching staff and the personnel department had their feet held to the fire for a couple of days this week as Tim Tebow was made available.
Tebow is the most polarizing figure currently in sports. There’s no middle ground. Either you want him on your team as a starter because he’s going to take you to a championship or you don’t think he can play a lick. All of the other stuff surrounding Tim, his religious beliefs, his goodness, his winning record in high school and college, his ability to sell seats (or not) don’t matter. Everybody, especially in Jacksonville, has an opinion. Mularkey didn’t think this would be an issue when he took the job with the Jaguars. Tebow was the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, and in fact, much of Mike’s pre-hiring discussions centered on Blaine Gabbert, the Jaguars second-year quarterback.
But then Tebow because available (“We’re are talking about Peyton Manning,” Tim said to John Elway when informed he’d be traded) and the Jaguars seemed like a logical destination: for some. Hometown hero, Gator, winner, fill the stadium, etc, etc. Apparently it was only a question of how much the Jaguars wanted him. For some, no price was too high. For others, any price was too high.
“Don’t believe everything you hear or read in the media,” Mularkey said at the “Meet the Coaches” event on Thursday night. “It’s hard not to want a guy like that. We wouldn’t have tried to trade for him if we didn’t feel like we didn’t want to have him here. There were a lot of things that went into this thing to try to get Tim to come here.
“In the long run, it did not work out. But if you do not want a player, you don’t even get involved with it.”
We might not know much about Mike Mularkey, but one thing about his reputation precedes him: his honesty. He’ll tell the truth and live with the consequences, good or bad. He left the head-coaching job with the Buffalo Bills when the job changed around him, knowing he might never get another shot in the NFL. So when he says the Jaguars were in the hunt for Tim and wanted him, believe him.
The Jaguars matched the Jets offer of a 4th rounder and a couple of throw in’s for Tim but in the end, Tebow picked the Jets. Not even a hint of Shad Khan’s money for the Tebow foundation and other “accouterments” could turn his head. For some fans, that wasn’t good enough. They should have outbid New York no matter what.
So why not up the ante?
“That’s confidential,” Mularkey said. “The draft is how you build a football team and that’s what we’re going to continue to do. That’s been the philosophy of this franchise. That’s my philosophy. You’ve got to be very careful what you start doing with draft picks and we feel strongly about the draft.”
The day after the trade, the Jets said Tebow would be a situational player, coming in on third down, short yardage and in the red zone, much like I suggested earlier in the week on how the Jaguars could make it work. Apparently they discussed that, but also talked internally about how Tim might fit in as the back-up quarterback.
“Some of that’s confidential to talk about, but we talked about all scenarios as far as the backup quarterback,” Mularkey said. “He has some rare ability to do some things and all of that was discussed.”
There are reports that Tebow picked the Jets because he thought it was a better chance to compete for the starting job. I’m sure that’s news to Mark Sanchez and his new contract extension. But with Tony Sporano as the offensive coordinator in New York, Tim will get some special packages and maybe 10-15 plays a game.
And as far as Tim’s star status is concerned, well, it is New York after all. Endorsements, fund-raising, it’s all right at his feet. I know Tim’s a solid guy but I’m sure you’ve seen him at the Oscar’s after-parties and walking Taylor Swift to her car. He has big time star status, and it’ll only be enhanced in New York.
True to his form, Mularkey kept Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne in the loop while all the talk about Tim Tebow was swirling.
“I wanted to make sure they were updated with where things are and where they aren’t, and that what we told them from the beginning had not changed,” Mularkey said. “We wanted to reconfirm it. We hadn’t been in contact with (Blaine) for a number of weeks because of the way the new CBA is, but I just thought with the way things were going down it was important he heard from me and my belief in him and that why we brought him here had not changed.”
Mike talked a lot on Thursday night about doing things “the right way.” Jaguars fans can only hope that his belief in Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, and everybody else’s in the stadium, is rewarded.