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Mike Mularkey’s Communication Problem: A One-Act Play

SCENE: The Atlanta Falcons are practicing at Flowery Branch. While Offensive Coordinator MIKE MULARKEY stands on the sideline, MATT RYAN, JULIO JONES, JUSTIN BLALOCK AND JACQUIZZ RODGERS are running drills in the scorching heat.

RODGERS: Man, I really feel like I’m picking up this offense. Matt, thanks for giving us the crash course.

JONES: Amen! I’m caught up on the playbook already. It’s so cool that they’ve given you so much control of the offense. It’s almost like you've been calling plays for years!

RYAN: Well, it’s nothing. I’m just helping out the team in a humble, unassuming sort of way!

BLALOCK: He’s just being modest. Dude runs more plays than the coaches!

RODGERS: You know, speaking of coaches, I haven’t even gotten to talk to Mike Mularkey yet.

JONES: Yeah, I haven’t heard a word from Coach Mularkey. What gives?

RYAN looks nervously at the sideline. He clears his throat before speaking. BLALOCK crosses himself.

RYAN: Uhh, he’s awfully busy. That’s it. Busy.

BLALOCK: Gosh, you know? So busy.

JONES and RODGERS exchange looks.

RODGERS: That was kind of odd, guys. Almost Cristobal Rojohombre odd.

At that moment, a quarterback wearing a floppy sombrero, a comically large mustache and a "Chris Redman For President" T-shirt walks by, glaring at RYAN.

JONES: Looks to me like Coach Mularkey’s just standing over there, doodling in his playbook. I want to meet him. Let’s go say hey.

RYAN: Wait! I have something cool to show you!

RYAN begins desperately jangling his car keys.

RYAN: See? So shiny!

RODGERS: Really? Car keys?

BLALOCK: Getting happy feet in the pocket, Matty.

JONES strides toward the sideline, with RYAN lunging desperately after him. RODGERS and BLALOCK follow.

JONES: Coach Mularkey, how are you? We haven’t had a chance to meet. I’m Julio…

MULARKEY makes a swift chopping motion toward Jones’ face. A startled Jones steps back and watches as Mularkey points toward the field, where ADAM FROMAN is throwing passes.

MULARKEY: The field, he’s seeing things. It’s getting bigger to him. He can see things that I can see from upstairs, he can already see. Before we can even have a conversation, I know that he’s going to see some things as we go forward. 

Everyone is silent for a moment.


JONES: Was that…was that English?

MULARKEY: I’m seeing English. English is the small ninja of the forest. True lies, monsieur.

JONES glances at RYAN, his expression alarmed. BLALOCK swiftly edges away. No one notices MULARKEY sketching a formula for rocket fuel in his notebook.

RODGERS: What the hell was that? 

RYAN: I tried to keep you away! But you blew it!

MULARKEY: Blue. Blue 42. Blue cannot be 42. How can colors be numbers? Ruminate. I was 42 in Pittsburgh. Steel is the softest of the space-faring metals, wouldn’t you say? I know he’s going to find the spelunkable cavern of Blue 42. Froman. Fro-man. Fro-yo, man.

Another awkward silence ensues. In the span of seconds, Mularkey draws up a brilliant pass play that would catch even the Jets off-balance. Then he draws a turtle hugging a kitten.  

JONES: (Accusingly, to RYAN) So you have been calling the plays this whole time!

RYAN: You don’t understand! I’m doing the best I can to decipher the ravings of a madman! I deserve a goddamn Nobel Prize!

RODGERS: Is this why Turner runs up the middle twenty times a game?

JONES: And why you rolled out in the Green Bay game even though my unborn children knew it was coming?

RYAN: Hey, you try figuring out what he’s calling!  

MULARKEY: Too many miss their callings. Ah, Master Ryan. Will you not know more of the knowing when you know the unknowing? Harry Douglas over the middle. Forever.

RYAN: Agh! My brain!

RODGERS: Actually, I kinda got that one.

JONES: Wait, now I’m curious. Coach Mularkey, could you call a play for us?

RYAN swings furiously at JONES, who leaps, catches the punch and scores a touchdown.

MULARKEY: Well very.

Reluctantly, RYAN lines up, holding the ball in front of him. JONES and RODGERS line up next to him. MULARKEY sequences the human genome in his head.

MULARKEY: Sixpence. We shall name of it sixpence. Master Ryan, are you hearing the pass? It makes such an orange whistle in the cortex, does it not? Ah, young Hoo-Leo. Fly to an elevation of more proper height in order to receive Master Ryan’s arm candy. Jacques Quizzteau, your submersible appendages must carry you to the Great Deep, past the clutching tentacles of the Obstacle Octopus. You are the feint, the chaff, the shadow. Total yield: Six yards.

RYAN: Orange whistle?

RODGERS: Octopus?

JONES: What?

MULARKEY: Exclamation!

RYAN: I think…I think he wants us to run Turner up the middle.

RODGERS: Yes! Let’s go…get Mike. Right now.

JONES: Thanks for the, uh, playcall, Coach Mularkey.Great to meet you.

Chancing the occasional nervous look back, JONES, RODGERS and RYAN flee toward the cafeteria, where BLALOCK is praying silently to an inscrutable God. MULARKEY watches them go.  

MULARKEY: What was their problem?