The collective wish of Falcons fans across the globe has come true. Mike Mularkey is heading to tealer pastures.
Forgive me if this is rambling and directionless.The Jacksonville Jaguars made Mularkey their head coach, overlooking an embarrassing playoff performance in the process. No official word on what drew the team to MM at this point, but I'm guessing it was his tutelage of Matt Ryan and his dedication to the ground game. Given that the Jaguars have no wide receivers, a struggling rookie quarterback in Blaine Gabbert and arguably the NFL's finest running back in Maurice Jones-Drew, he really is a great fit.
But enough about the Jaguars. You're more concerned about the Atlanta Falcons, and without question, this is the best outcome for the team. They didn't have to fire Mularkey, but they still jettisoned the offensive coordinator who presided over arguably one of the most embarrassing playoff performance in the team's tortuous history. That failure was striking, yes, but it was also an indictment of what a Mularkey-led offense had become: Incapable of winning big games. The team can now truly evolve from its days of a ground-heavy focus and short passing game to something more dynamic, which they did only half-heartedly in 2011. That's the hope, anyways.
I had an entire post written about why the Falcons needed to can Mularkey, which I'll summarize here. He didn't get the best out of his players, his offense was becoming a dinosaur in today's NFL and with these Falcons and not getting rid of him would send an unacceptable message that coming up with zero offensive points in a critical game was okay. Give the team credit for having enough class to let Mularkey go get a good job instead of sabotaging him, and kudos to Mularkey for finding a head coaching gig.
Again, though, this is a welcome change. Mularkey's unwillingness to use guys down on the depth chart—perfectly capable and useful players like Harry Douglas, Jacquizz Rodgers and Kerry Meier, to name a few—was infuriating, as was his laughably inept play calling in do or die situations. He guided the Falcons capably through the 2008 transition period and did his job well enough for 10-13 games a season, but the post-season failures and the meltdowns in games against quality opponents told a story all of us were tired of hearing. With the talk from Arthur Blank down to the grounds crew focusing on creating an offense that can hang with the Packers and Saints of today's NFL, it was time.
Now the Falcons must hire an offensive coordinator who can use those weapons in new and creative ways and the players must learn a new system. Don't anticipate greatness right off the bat, but a fresh start is so, so welcome. It's a brave new world.
I wish Mike Mularkey well and I'm grateful for what he accomplished in Atlanta, but I can't say parting is such sweet sorrow. It's just a relief.