Mike Mularkey, who reportedly will interview for the Dolphins head coach job this week, gained a solid albeit unspectacular NFL reputation as the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator. The Fort Lauderdale-born former tight end parlayed that reputation into a job as the head coach of the Buffalo Bills.
It didn't go too well.
Yes, he did outstanding work his first season -- after an 0-4 start -- and rallied the team to a 9-7 finish. But his second season was dogged by QB problems, as neither JP Losman nor Kelly Holcomb could produce enough to keep the Bills from finishing 24th in the NFL on offense.
After that season, the Bills hired Marv Levy as the defacto general manager and he wasn't a big Mularkey fan. The coach "resigned" and was then hired by Nick Saban to be his offensive coordinator for the 2006 season.
That didn't go well, either. The Dolphins averaged 16.3 points per game that season. Miami scored 20 points or more in only six of 16 games that year. Miami was 20th in total offense. Mularkey's play-calling was questionable and Saban often threw him under the bus to the point Mularkey didn't exactly love his boss.
His next boss, Cam Cameron, kept Mularkey on the staff but demoted him to tight ends coach. That was short-lived also. Those Dolphins were 1-15 and obviously everyone failed. And pretty much everyone got canned.
When the Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland administration took over, Mularkey was fired. He was dismissed on January 8, 2008 along with all the other assistants.
Mularkey went to Atlanta and immediately was credited with making Michael Turner a fine starting running back, turning Matt Ryan into a good starting quarterback and generally handling the tons of talent on the Atlanta offense well. Atlanta finished 10th in scoring in 2008, then 13th in 2009, then 5th in 2010 and seventh in 2011.
Is what Mularkey did in Atlanta truly worthy of making him a head coach?
Parcells and Ireland (before Sparano was hired) decided Mularkey should not be retained as an assistant but now Ireland and owner Stephen Ross have him on their head coach short list? He wasn't good enough to hire as the tight end coach four years ago but he deserves a head coach interview?
People around the NFL run hot and cold on Mularkey. Some like him for running a balanced offense. Some dislike him for running an offense that depends too much on talent and doesn't present enough updated looks and problems to defenses. I was not a big fan of his play-calling back in the day.
Mularkey, by the way, is free to interview with the Dolphins now because the Falcons were eliminated from the playoffs Sunday. The Falcons were crushed 24-2 by the Giants.
The Dolphins scored 17 points against the G-Men back in October with offensive talent not considered to be nearly as good as Atlanta's. The Falcons scored two points Sunday with better talent. In fact, Mularkey's offense was outscored by the Giants ... and his own defense.
Because Mularkey's offense was shut out.
After the game, some Falcons players were not too thrilled with Mularkey's approach or his play-calling that included two failed quarterback sneaks on fourth-and-1. There's this from Jason Cole's game story on YahooSports!
"Rather than challenge defenses with aggressive play-calling, Atlanta has played scared.
“We talked about trying to establish the running game because we didn’t think we could pass protect,” said Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who was limited to five catches for 52 yards with a long of only 21 yards. “We played right into their hands. I mean, if they sack us every down and we can’t move the ball, OK. But let’s try.”
"White’s remarks echo private comments of several other players who have pointed at a disconnection who offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey’s approach. Numerous players believe Mularkey is too conservative, particularly in tense situations like the playoffs.
Or as one player put it: “Something has to be said to [coach] Mike [Smith] this offseason.”