January 5, 2011 - 10:37 AM
Former Bills head coach Mike Mularkey finds himself a hot coaching commodity this week. He has interviews scheduled with Denver and Cleveland later this week, and he might be contacted by Carolina.
Obviously, Mularkey's unsuccessful two-year reign as Bills head coach is not hurting his job prospects. Expect Mularkey to pretty easily dismiss questions about walking away from the Bills job in 2005 during his interviews this weekend. The fact the Bills' organization has been dysfunctional and has failed in the five seasons since he left no doubt lends a lot of credence to whatever explanation he gives on his performance with the Bills.
Ultimately it didn't make sense for the Bills to keep Mularkey in 2006. The man who hired him, Tom Donahoe, had just been fired. The Bills brought on a new general manager, Marv Levy, who had no history with Mularkey. It was time to turn the page. If you're going to let Levy be the GM, let him bring in his own man. (Of course, we all know that didn't work out too well.) The Bills didn't turn the page. They decided to keep Mularkey. Both sides agreed there would be a defensive overhaul. But in ensuing meetings, the Bills didn't want to give Mularkey as much control of hiring and firing staff as he wanted. And Mularkey likely sensed the football administration wasn't to his liking, so he walked away.
What will the Broncos and Browns see when they look at Mularkey's track record? Here are his most recent results:
In 2004, he took over an offense that was 30th in yards and points the year before, he squeezed as much production as he could out of quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The Bills ranked 25th in yards, 13th rushing, 27th passing, 20th on third downs and 7th in points (thanks to a great defense).
In 2005, J.P. Losman took over at QB. The Bills were 28th in yards, 20th rushing, 29th passing, 20th on third downs, 24th in points.
Mularkey took over as offensive coordinator in Miami in 2007 but was stripped of his play-calling duties during the season. That year Miami went 1-15 and ranked 28th in yards and 26th in points.
In 2008 Mularkey took over as offensive coordinator in Atlanta, which ranked 23rd on offense the year before. With new QB Matt Ryan at the helm, here are Atlanta's rankings the past three years (08-09-10) -- 2nd-15th-16th in yards, 10th-13th-5th points.
Obvious conclusion: It's good to have a good quarterback.
Like most first-time head coaches, Mularkey definitely had growing pains in Buffalo. At times he could have done a better job of being Mike and not trying to be like Bill Cowher. He could have communicated better at times within the organization and gotten better enthusiastic buy-in from some players. He learned he should have brought in his own people and not inherited some coaching staff members. (He and defensive chief Jerry Gray clashed). Overall, Mularkey has done a good job getting as much production as he could get out of the offensive tools he's had. Is he better suited to being a coordinator than a head coach? That's what the interviewers will have to decide this week.