A Bunch of Mularkey


In a (somewhat) surprising move, The Jacksonville Jaguars have hired former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey as their head coach. Most Falcons fans are happy about this move, as Mularkey was unable to effectively utilize the elite talent the team had the skill positions (Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Michael Turner), a problem he will not have to deal with in Jacksonville.

Mularkey is known for running a supremely conservative offense, basing his strategy on a power running game that controls the clock. For a team like the Jaguars, whose only real strength is their running back, Maurice Jones-Drew, this system can work very well.

But possibly the biggest reason for this hire is Mularkey’s success in developing Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has evolved into one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, and much of it can be credited to Mularkey.

Ryan has been successful in this league even without a prototypical elite skill set. He doesn’t have the strongest arm and isn’t the most mobile quarterback, but has still been a very good player in his first four years. His ability to read defenses and stand strong in the pocket has been what’s propelled Ryan to near-elite status. Much of this ability he had since his college days, but he has improved during his NFL tenure, so much of his success can be attributed to Mularkey, his former quarterback coach. Ryan did perform poorly under pressure at his pro day in 2008.

I bring this up in a Missouri blog because, as you all probably know, former Tiger Blaine Gabbert is the (much maligned) starting quarterback for Jacksonville. The question now becomes: Can Mularkey work his magic with Gabbert?

No one has ever questioned Gabbert’s natural ability. He has a great arm and above-average mobility. He has the potential to become a very good NFL quarterback, but still has a long way to go. Gabbert’s biggest issue right now is his pocket presence, or lack thereof. If Mularkey is able to teach Gabbert to stay strong in the pocket and not be afraid of being hurt, he could drastically change Gabbert’s career for the better. Mularkey’s first goal should be to shore up a shaky offensive line that allowed Gabbert to be sacked 40 times last season, giving him more time to make his reads.

Mularkey was a questionable hire, but he has the potential to make a big splash if he handles this situation well.

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