With the news that the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey has been given permission to talk to the Denver Broncos and Cleveland Browns about their head coaching vacancies it got me thinking. Yes, that does happen sometimes, Wisenheimer. Anyway, it got me thinking, would it be a bad thing if the Falcons lost him?
I know many, if not the majority, of Falcons fans have grown disenchanted with his vanilla playcalling and over-devotion to the run game as evidenced in the Saints loss earlier this season. I'd definitely like to see him use Harry Douglas in more packages and think Jason Snelling is underused especially as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
We've all seen the offensive series that begins with Michael Turner straight ahead, then switches to Turner straight ahead before finishing with Turner straight ahead. This season, the Falcons were 22nd in the league with only six pass plays of 40 yards or longer. Much of this could be attributed to Roddy White's knee injury in the second half but most of it rests on the playcalling.
He's certainly not kept the Inspector Gadget moniker her earned as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh but then again, it's hard to argue with the success of a 13-3 team. My question is how much of that success is owed to Mularkey? For the answer let's ask our friends math and stats for some help.
Mularkey has been in charge of, or had control over, offenses for nine seasons. He began as OC for the Steelers from 2001-03 then was the head coach for Buffalo in 2004 and 2005. He was back as the OC for the Dolphins in 2006 before arriving in his current role as OC for the Falcons since 2008.
During those nine seasons, the average ranking of his offenses has been less than remarkable. Using yards gained, the best season Mularkey oversaw was his first season in 2001 with the Steelers' third-best offense. His worst season was in 2005 with the 28th-ranked Bills offense. His nine-year average is 16th. He's the Mayor of Middle -of -the-roadsville.
So he's an average OC with the potential to be great (three seasons in top 10) and the potential to be awful (four seasons in bottom 13). More puzzling is he's yet to show offensive improvement once he's arrived. His first season with a team is always his best season. Each subsequent year is worse than the last. So why are teams still interested in his offensive mind? Mularkey can turn offenses around. In all but one stop, his first season has improved upon the season prior to his arrival.
In 2000, the Steelers had the 18th-ranked offense. Mularkey arrived in 2001 and they finished third overall. In 2003, the Bills had the 30th-ranked offense. Mularkey brought his show to town and they finished 2004 as the 25th-ranked. In 2005, the Dolphins brought in Mularkey after finishing 14th in offense. Behind his tutelage, they finished 20th his first season. Finally, in 2007, the Falcons sported the 23rd-ranked offense and Mularkey instantly turned them into the sixth-best in the NFL. Four stops and an average improvement of eight spots in the season. Only with the Dolphins did Mularkey make things worse.
I think the Falcons are wise in letting Mularkey speak to other teams. You now know that he's a terrific first-year coach/coordinator but his playcalling gets old and defenses figure him out. It's also great for Mularkey because the Falcons' success allows him to get another crack at a head coaching job, something all motivated assistants crave. If Mularkey does leave, let's just hope Mike Smith doesn't have to look for another offensive coordinator until well after Feb. 6.