As the Denver Broncos begin to scope out potential coaching candidates, the oft rumored candidate in the weeks leading up to now has been Atlanta Falcon's Offensive Coordinator, Mike Mularkey. Let's take a look at his overview and coaching history.
Official Team Coaching Bio
|AVG Offensive Ranking
Mike Mularkey was drafted in the 9th round of the 1983 draft by the San Francisco 49ers, which to Bronco fans might bear some significance. As a journeyman tight end, he would end his career in Pittsburgh in 1991 and begin his coaching career a few years later in Tampa Bay.
He would coach the Tight Ends for both the Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Steelers until 2000, when he took the reigns of the offense of perennial contender Pittsburgh. Over three solid seasons as Offensive Coordinator, his team would rank in the top ten in points twice and in the top top 5 in yards twice.
From there, he attained his first shot as a head coach in Buffalo in 2004. His first season was solid; rallying his new team to a 9-3 finish, just missing the playoffs. However, the wheels unraveled quickly in the next season and resigned out of frustration with the lack of direction from the top.
After the debacle in Buffalo and a couple of miserable years of turmoil in Miami, he landed a job in Atlanta; helping his new team return to prominence in the wake of the Michael Vick disaster. He appears ready to give head coaching another shot and Denver may just be his next landing spot.
Mularkey is obviously of the Bill Cowher coaching tree, having grown as a coach under Cowher's long tenure as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Mularkey was a big part in turning the Steelers offensive production around from the low twenties or high teens in ranking to a top ten offense.
It's hard to believe the Steelers would have been in position to win the Super Bowl the year after Mularkey's departure to Buffalo had he not been the Offensive Coordinator that turned the dysfunctional nature of the Steelers offense of the late 90's around.
The wildcard is can Mularkey rebuild the defense as a head coach? After all, that Buffalo Bills team had a top five defense in both yards and points the year prior to Mularkey being hired and during his first season as head coach, but in his second and final year, the Bills defense collapsed to 24th in points and 29th in yards. Not exactly something to give us fans much comfort if he were to be hired as the Broncos next head coach. To be fair to the guy, one year is hardly a good measuring stick.
For me, it all comes down to the men a guy like Mike Mularkey would surround himself with. If he brought aboard strong coordinators who are themselves former head coaches, then I think Mularkey would be a perfect fit for this team. First off, he is a former player and will have that unique ability to connect with his players. That is a skill that can be underrated at times. Coaches, many times, take too hard of a line (e.g., Tom Coughlin) or is too soft on players (e.g., Wade Phillips), so having a guy who is a former player might help keep a good balance between the two.
Overall, I think Mularkey is a strong candidate for the job. I'd prefer to get a defensively minded head coach, but I am open to an offensive guy if he brings aboard the right people to coach the defense.
For more information, another MHR Member wrote a pretty solid piece on Mike Mularkey not too long back.