In the Jaguars locker room today, I talked with Mel Tucker and Mike Mularkey about the whole hiring process and how Mularkey convinced Tucker to stay.
“Actually it wasn’t,” Mike said when I asked him if it was a tough sell to keep Tucker as his Defensive Coordinator. “Mel and I are a lot alike. Sometimes you just need to sit down one-on-one.”
That’s encouraging because Tucker is a very solid coach and perhaps even a better guy. If he’s staying, it’s for the right reasons. If he says Mularkey is a good coach, you can believe that in that fraternity of coaches, Mularkey is well respected. Right now it’s a love fest but Mularkey demonstrated his respect for Tucker by giving him the additional title of Assistant Head Coach.
“I didn’t do that lightly,” he explained. “I’ll consult with Mel on a lot of things. I’ve told him things this morning I wouldn’t have told other assistants.”
Tucker will pick the defensive staff and said Joe Cullen and Mark Duffner have already agreed to stay. Mel stayed because “this is where I’m supposed to be” and added “Mike and I are on the same page.”
“Sometimes when guys don’t have exotic looks on defense and they just lineup and say ‘here we are'” Mularkey explained when asked how an offensive coach picks a defensive coordinator with a certain philosophy. “That can be more troubling for an offensive guy than anything else. Mel’s done that and the players respond to that by playing with a lot of confidence.”
Mularkey said Bob Bratkowski, the new offensive coordinator, is literally driving from Atlanta to Jacksonville today (Friday).
“One of us was going to be the Offensive Coordinator in Pittsburgh and the other was going to be the same in Cincinnati,” Mularkey said when asked about his history with Bratkowski. “I stayed with the Steelers and he had a nice 10-year run with the Bengals. At one point we shared a small office together so I know him well.”
I can see why Mularkey interviews well and why Gene Smith and Shad Khan were impressed. He’s very clear-minded, friendly, and direct. He smiles, is pleasant and is confident all at the same time.
Sometimes the questions asked of the head coach in press conference situations can be pretty pointed and occasionally hostile. So far, Mularkey has an understanding of how to answer those questions, being honest but not revealing information he needs to keep to himself.
He welcomed the Jaguars employees today by hosting a pizza lunch at the stadium. “I just wanted to let everybody know I’m here to help,” the Jaguars new head coach explained. “Tickets, charity, whatever, I want them to know my door is open and they can come talk to me.”
He even joked that he’s trying to learn everybody’s name. “Two a week,” he chuckled. That’s a pretty good departure from Del Rio and even Tom Coughlin. Both had their own style but neither had the “approachability” that Mularkey displays.
“There’s a little extra pep in everybody step here in the building,” one employee told me.
Mularkey hopes to build his staff quickly but said he doesn’t have a timeline. He added it’d be nice to have them together by the Senior Bowl (practice starts January 23 in Mobile) but he said he wouldn’t rush it.
He will hire a quarterbacks coach and mentioned it might be somebody with offensive coordinator experience. He didn’t mention names but he obviously has somebody in mind.
Nobody’s going to rush out and buy tickets or get excited because of a bunch of football coaches but Mel Tucker said it’s pretty satisfying to be on a staff where everybody has the same goal.
“These guys are professionals and good coaches,” he said today. “When everybody has the same goals, you can achieve great things.”