JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Mike Mularkey is far from a splashy hire.
The Jacksonville Jaguars know it, and everyone around the league seems to be talking about it.
New owner Shahid Khan he spoke with some big-name candidates, and then decided to make the "smart" choice by hiring Mularkey. The former Atlanta Falcons offensive co-ordinator was introduced as the franchise's fourth head coach Wednesday and did little to alter his reputation as a colorless coach.
The Jaguars didn't seem to mind.
Although there were some who thought Khan would spend big for a well-known coach, he questioned whether those guys would be successful "after the splash." He believes Mularkey will.
"When you start sobering up, how does it feel?" Khan said. "That's the key issue. After the binge, how do you feel? ... A wonderful thing about football is everybody looks great until the ball is snapped. Once the ball is snapped, results speak for themselves and we know in September how good a job he is doing preparing, strategizing, (assembling) the staff. It will all come out. By that time, the buzz, the splash, is going to be history."
Mularkey, meanwhile, said he expects to be a better head coach than his brief stint in Buffalo. Mularkey learned a lot from his days with the Bills (2004-05), including that he shouldn't call plays. So the longtime co-ordinator will give up play-calling duties and hire an offensive guru.
"Some guys are very good at managing the game and calling plays. I'm not one of them," Mularkey said. "Any one mistake can be the difference in the game. I don't want to be that guy that thinks he can do it all. If I can't do it, I'm not going to do it. Hopefully I'll put it in the right hands. That's what my job is, to get that guy in here, get the right guy in here to do it."
Mularkey also plans to meet with former defensive co-ordinator and interim head coach Mel Tucker on Thursday, and likely will offer him his old job back. Tucker interviewed for the same position in Minnesota, and will have to decide whether to swallow his pride and remain in Jacksonville.
"I don't know if you want to call it an interview or just talk to him," Mularkey said. "I want to really just have a chance to sit down and talk to him. I've spoken to him already, prior to this going down. We really have a pretty good relationship, so hopefully it works out."
Mularkey agreed to a three-year contract Tuesday. Not coincidentally, it's the same number of years that general manager Gene Smith has remaining on his extension.
"It's tied to the hip with Gene," Khan said.
Quarterback Blaine Gabbert also has three years remaining, making Mularkey, Smith and Gabbert kind of a package deal. If they don't succeed, Khan surely will start over.
"We've got a huge amount invested in Blaine," Khan said. "Our fate is tied to him. We can't win without him."
Mularkey backed Gabbert and said he has seen enough to suggest he can be a franchise quarterback like Matt Ryan in Atlanta. Mularkey expressed disappointment in failing to win a playoff game in his four years with the Falcons.
He also declined to get into what happened in Buffalo. He stepped down a week after owner Ralph Wilson hired former coach Marv Levy as team president.
"It was a difficult decision, obviously," Mularkey said. "I've never had regrets. I don't want to get into that because I'm really looking more toward the future and what we're going to do here in Jacksonville. Always felt it was the right thing to do. My wife and I talked about. It's unbelievable that we're going to have a chance to interview for this position because we did the right thing. It's unbelievable that I got a chance again."
Mularkey's lengthy relationship with Smith made him a front-runner early on after former owner Wayne Weaver fired Jack Del Rio in late November.
Nonetheless, Mularkey had a seven-hour interview with Smith and Khan in Atlanta on Tuesday. Mularkey thought it was going well, but then he knew something was up when Smith and Khan left the room for an extended break. When they returned, they offered Mularkey the job. And he accepted.
Clearly, he made a splash in that room.
Not so much everywhere else.
"Some people say it's great, some people say it's not good," Khan said. "But that's OK. When Wayne announced he was selling, probably more than half said, 'Oh my God, this is disaster. The team's going to move. Who's this guy coming in? Are we going to have beer in the stadium? Oh gee, it's a Muslim.' The social media was abuzz with that.
"This is just like that. ... I've got a huge amount of confidence that this decision is going to serve the Jaguars and Jacksonville well in the future. They've got to get to know Mike the way we get to know Mike, and the issue was not 'splash.' The issue was 'smart.' If you're looking for one word, it's 'smart.' It's something sustainable. It's about building a winner for the long term that will serve the fans well in the future."