Mike Mularkey knew he would have his work cut out for him after being hired as the third head coach in Jaguars history in January. Plenty of head coaches would have wanted nothing to do with QB Blaine Gabbert after he provided so few real glimmers of hope as a rookie. Mularkey certainly knew the receiving corps was in need of a dramatic makeover and the defense, despite making major strides in 2011, still lacked a top-flight pass rusher and needed greater depth.
But he couldn’t have foreseen being dealt this lousy of a hand.
The Jaguars' best player, RB Maurice Jones-Drew, missed the entire offseason program, and had yet to report to training camp at the time of this writing as he attempts to gain leverage toward securing a new contract, despite having two years remaining on his current deal. Jones-Drew didn’t even bother to contact Mularkey to let him know he wouldn’t be in attendance. Top pick Justin Blackmon was arrested for aggravated DUI just weeks after being drafted and had also yet to report to camp as of July 29 because of complications with his contract given his arrest and checkered past dating back to college.
And yet Mularkey and the staff he assembled have handled the adversity admirably, according to team sources, drawing high marks for their preparation, attention to detail and ability to get the players ready for the start of the season.
One source compared Mularkey to former Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin, noting Mularkey's thorough involvement with all aspects of the team and staff. The source raved about the staff Mularkey assembled, complimenting him for retaining interim head coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, a move many head coaches’ egos wouldn’t allow them to make. (Defensive line coach Joe Cullen and LBs coach Mark Duffner also were singled out as quality coaches to retain.)
On offense, it was impressive that Mularkey coaxed noted receivers coach Jerry Sullivan, who we hear is already making a very positive impression on a suddenly talent-laden group, out of retirement.
Gabbert has responded well to the changes, too. QBs coach Greg Olson spends a great amount of time on preaching balance and footwork in practice, an emphasis that we hear should put the second-year signalcaller in much better position to be successful this season.