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A key factor

Posted Jan 12, 2012

Ability to develop quarterbacks critical to Mularkey hiring, Khan says

Shahid Khan said there were definite traits he wanted in a head coach.

One of those factors was the ability to work with and develop young quarterbacks, and in that area, the Jaguars’ owner said late Wednesday he didn’t want to depend on speculation.

Khan, who last week took over sole ownership of the Jaguars, joined Jaguars This Week on Wednesday evening shortly after announcing Mike Mularkey as the franchise’s third permanent head coach. Among other topics, Khan discussed the hiring of the former Falcons offensive coordinator.

Mularkey spent the last four seasons helping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan develop into one of the NFL’s top young players at the position.

Khan said that certainly played a role in the decision.

 “It’s a definite factor, and it’s something you can’t speculate on, you can’t guess on,” Khan told JTW. “You have to have a track record.”

Speaking to reporters earlier Wednesday, Khan addressed quarterback Blaine Gabbert, saying as he had said in previous weeks, “He’s our quarterback.’

“We’ll see this fall how things are going,” he said. “You have to strike a balance. He has to get every opportunity and we have to get every resource possible. We have a huge amount invested in Blaine, and our fate is tied to him. We can’t win without him.”

Asked what happens if Gabbert struggles next season, Khan said, “You cross that bridge when you get to it.”

“Right now, we want to win the division – that’s our goal,” he said.

Khan said he will spend the coming days doing whatever is appropriate to help assemble a coaching staff, and said during the search process several high-profile coaches offered insight in that area.

“Mike is going to be putting together a staff,” Khan said. “Really, it’s his choice, but I’m curious to see who they’re hiring. There is quite a bit culturally I’ve learned about football coaches, and I think most importantly we want to give him a meritocracy, where they are the most competent coaches who work together as a team and who are here to get Jacksonville to win on the field – and that is their sole interest.

“If they benefit personally later on and get a better job, that’s wonderful. We want to help them. But their sole focus here is to help us win.”

Khan also said he liked Mularkey’s offensive approach, which is based on balance.

“He gets the point that you look at the players and you come up with a system that’s best for them,” Khan said. “How do you win with the players you have? Balanced attack, it’s really a good thing.

“You can’t come in and have a grid, ‘This is my system.’ You have to come in with the brain power and the flexibility: ‘I have these players. How do I win with them?’’’

Khan on JTW also said as high a priority is to continue connecting with the Jaguars’ fan base.

“There are fans who might not be able to get to a game for whatever reason – buy a ticket, don’t buy a ticket – it doesn’t matter,” Khan said. “We want to connect with them all: The fan experience, the stadium experience – how we get people out of the living room on the couch with six best friends , off the couch with six best friends to come and join 67,000 best friends.”

Khan will attend the “Ready to Rise” Rally at EverBank Field Tuesday, January 17. The event is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the South end zone and Bud Light Party Zone at the stadium.

“We have a lot of ideas,” Khan said. “I spent Friday at the league (office in New York). I saw what some of the state-of-the-art ideas are, and we’re going to execute them – from simple things to having a strong signal for cell phones for fantasy or anything else, to having a bunch of Hi-Definition boards – a number of elements such as that.”

Khan said the in-stadium sound system also will continue to be a focus.

“It’s a two-way street,” Khan said. “We have to make the experience be so over the top for them that they say, ‘I want to come out. This is not a sense of entitlement. I want to make sure I’m clear. We want to earn the right for them to be out here.”

Also:

*Khan said the three-year contract given to Mularkey is “tied to the hip with Gene” Smith, the Jaguars’ general manager who also is on a three-year deal.

*Khan said he and Smith were able to talk to many high-profile candidates because those candidates knew the discussions would remain private. “I’ll let you imagine who they might be, but chances are we spoke to them,” Khan said. “A lot of them I met one on one someplace where (confidentiality) would not be breached.”

*Khan discussed extensively the popularity of the Mularkey selection, and said he understood initially it might not be an overwhelmingly popular hire. “To me, it was about, ‘After the splash, are they going to be successful?’’’ he said. “When you start sobering up, after the binge, how do you feel? If you look at social media, I don’t know what the numbers are. Half and half? Some people say it’s good. Some people say it’s not good? That’s OK. When (former owner) Wayne (Weaver) announced he was selling the team, probably more than half said, ‘Oh, my God – this is a disaster. The team’s going to move. Who’s this guy coming in? Are we going to have beer in the stadium? It’s a Muslim.’ The social media was abuzz with that. It was, ‘Well, that’s great. If half thinks it’s good we only have to work on the other half.’ This is just like that. The ones who really are uncomfortable, they have to come out. They have to meet Mike. You know the wonderful thing about football? Everybody looks great until the ball is snapped. Once the ball is snapped, results speak for themselves and people know in September how good a team is doing. By that time, the buzz and the splash will be history.”

*Khan said there were one or two candidates interviewed who were “public figures,” and Khan said those coaches weren’t “the right fit for us.” “They would have wanted to get into a derby or something like that,” Khan said. “That is a non-starter, obviously. That’s very easy. Anybody we talked to it was, ‘It has to be confidential for your sake and our sake and if you want it public, frankly we don’t trust you because we don’t want to be used.”

*Khan said while he is not currently on Twitter he may consider it “if I can add value.” Khan said he spoke to Colts Owner Jim Irsay, an extensive user of the social media platform, about its usefulness. “If there is a clamoring for that, I may have to do that,” he said.

*Khan said of Mularkey, “It’s like you go through Central Casting. You have a script, ‘Give me this ideal person.’ You’re shocked when you find it.”

*Khan said he realized about four and a half hours into the interview that Mularkey was right choice. He said while Smith had gathered extensive data on each candidate’s background, “What you don’t get is the culture and the values, the emotional page – that this is a winner, and he’s going to do whatever it takes to win right away.”

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