And another name emerges: Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey is also on the Buccaneers' increasingly expansive list of potential head coaching candidates according to Rick Stroud. The common thread for all of these head coaches so far is experience: each candidate has been a head coach before - except for Jerry Gray, who does have extensive experience as a defensive coordinator.
Mike Mularkey should be pretty familiar for Bucs fans: he's been the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator for the past four seasons, and has managed to beat the Bucs' defense into the ground repeatedly. He also started his coaching career as a Buccaneer, operating as a quality control coach and tight end coach in 1994 and 1995 respectively. That came after his nine-year playing career as a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsbugh Steelers.
His coaching career progressed quickly: he went from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator to head coach within ten years, serving as the Bills' head coach from 2004 to 2005. He was the last coach to lead the Bills to a winning record, but resigned after a 5-11 season in 2005. Since then he's coached with the Dolphins before becoming the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, his current job.
The Buccaneers aren't the only ones interested in Mike Mularkey. The Jacksonville Jaguars want to bring him in for an interview too.
Quality Control Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1994
Tight Ends Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1994
Tight Ends Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996-2000
Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001-2003
Head Coach, Buffalo Bills, 2004-2005
Offensive Coordinator, Miami Dolphins, 2006
Tight Ends Coach, Miami Dolphins, 2007
Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons, 2008-Present
Why Mike Mularky should be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach
- Is an offensive-minded coach with success developing young quarterbacks
More specifically, he's had success developing Atlanta QB Matt Ryan, who has turned into a good if unspectacular quarterback in his short career. As the offensive coordinator of the Falcons he was very involved with Ryan's development, and has constructed an offense around him that plays to Ryan's strength. Using the running game as the basis of the Falcons offense, he's managed to build a solid NFL offense after having to start essentially from scratch in 2008.
Matt Ryan also isn't the first quarterback he helped develop. He helped turn Kordell "Slash" Stewart into a capable NFL quarterback and got some productive seasons out of Tommy Maddox, who had been out of the NFL for five seasons at that point.
The Bucs could use a coach who can construct an offense and develop a young quarterback, as Josh Freeman has struggled the past season. Mularkey could be just the man for the job.
- Has had previous success as a head coach
While he has an overall losing record as a coach and has never made the playoffs, Mike Mularkey has certainly had some success as a head coach: he's the only head coach to post a winning season with the Buffalo Bills since 1999. That's pretty impressive.
Of course, he did win that season based on an elite defense led by Jerry Gray, who is also going to be interviewed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the very next season was an 11-loss season, so how much weight should that carry?
- Has experience on a variety of NFL staffs
Mike Mularkey has been on a lot of different (successful) staffs in his career, and has worked with a number of coordinators. That's important because it means he has an extensive network to draw from when assembling a coaching staff.
Why Mike Mularkey should not be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach
- He hasn't been all that successful in building an offense so far
Yes, Mularkey has managed to build a solid offense in Atlanta - but it's nothing more than solid. They tried to become more explosive by drafting Julio Jones this season, but as soon as they tried to move to a pass-first offense it all fell apart. Mularkey's offense cannot function without a lot of running the ball, and that offense is not built to play catchup or compete with high-powered offense. It's not a bad offense - but it's a limited offense that can't really compete with the other offenses in the NFC South without a good defense.
- He doesn't have that much experience as a head coach
He has had two years experience as a head coach, which isn't all that much. He had one good year and one bad year, and the difference between those two years was mostly the quality of the defense - which wasn't run by Mularkey.
Besides that, he resigned as head coach, which is an odd thing to do in a league where head coaching jobs are hard to come by.
- Atlanta Falcons fans really hate his guts
I mean, really hate him. Being hated by your fanbase isn't uncommon among offensive coordinators, even good ones: they tend to be the subject of all sorts of hatred for messing up playcalling. Buffalo Bills fans don't seem to look back on his tenure with fondness, either.
That's not necessarily a commentary on his quality as a head coach, which should be a leading factor, but for a team that is struggling to sell tickets hiring someone who is hated by his own fanbase may not be the best thing.
Besides, anything that can make Falcons fans a little unhappy (like forcing them to keep their hated OC) is okay in my book.
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