JACKSONVILLE – Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey’s approach Monday was simple.
“We’re going full-speed ahead,” he said.
As he saw it, there was no other way.
Because while Monday was a day of significant organizational change around the Jaguars, with the franchise parting ways with General Manager Gene Smith, Mularkey said when he spoke with Owner Shad Khan early Monday morning, Mularkey’s job status wasn’t a topic.
That, to Mularkey, meant one thing.
“Until I’m told otherwise, I’m the head coach of this team,” Mularkey said.
The Jaguars this season went 2-14 in Mularkey’s first season as head coach, and in the wake of Smith’s departure, Mularkey’s season-ending press conference Monday focused at times as much on his future as it did on a 2012 season that ended Sunday with a 38-20 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Mularkey said he talked with Khan early Monday, and that the meeting focused on Smith. Beyond that, Mularkey declined to discuss details of his conversation with Khan.
“My status was not discussed,” he said.
Asked about not asking Khan his status, Mularkey said, “I just figured that would be something that Shad would bring up.”
Mularkey also was asked if he had received an assurance from Khan he would be the head coach next season.
“I know I wasn’t told I wasn’t going to be,” Mularkey said. “If that’s an assurance, then I will take it as one.”
Jaguars players talked with the media before Mularkey’s press conference, and while many discussed disappointment with Smith’s departure, many also said they hoped Mularkey would return.
“We just didn’t make enough plays,” defensive end
Jaguars middle linebacker
“We had a bad record, but you never saw us give up,” Posluszny said. “You didn’t see the 55-7 scores that you saw with some other games. One of the reasons we stuck together and played as hard as we did was Coach Mularkey. He kept all of the guys together.”
Mularkey said while the season was “much more disappointing than we anticipated,” he believed the team is closer to success than many believe.
“I still will say it: we are close,” Mularkey said. “If we can get back some people and add some new people, new faces, we are closer than people think.”
Mularkey on Monday said the plan was to meet with players, something that was expected to continue throughout the day and into the early evening. Coaches will have time off this week, with evaluation scheduled to begin next week.
Mularkey also declined to name a starting quarterback entering the regular-season or the offseason.
“I am not going to go in and say, ‘This guy is, this guy is this or that,’ ” Mularkey said. “I am not going to do that at any position right now until I sit back and really look at everything they did from A to Z.”
Mularkey said while general managers often bring in a coach of their choice, he and Smith each reported to Khan separately, and that could remain the case.
“I think a lot of people thought that Gene and I had a relationship prior to my hiring here -- not any more than I have with a lot of people in the National Football League.” Mularkey said. “My relationship is very strong with Gene right now after working with him for a year. I report to Shad just as Gene reports to Shad just as (Jaguars President) Mark Lamping reports to Shad. We work closely side-by-side with each other – myself and Gene and/or whoever the next GM is.”
Mularkey also said his relationship with Khan remained strong throughout the season.
“I know I answer to Shad and I have from Day One,” he said. “I will continue to do that. And one thing I did was I always stayed in touch with Shad weekly to give him updates, and that won’t stop. Communication is very good there.”
Of Smith, Mularkey said, “I have a lot of respect for Gene for the way he does things and the way he works and what he’s left here to work with. He knows I have a lot of respect for him both professionally and personally. I appreciate everything he did for this organization, for this staff, and for these players. He was always looking out for people making sure that they do things the right way, and that’s why we got along as well as we did.”
Mularkey said just as players will be evaluated beginning next week, so will the coaching staff, adding that all assistants are under contract through at least the 2013 season.
“And I think all of us including myself need a little time away and take a step back and look at the picture from outside the organization right now. That will be done.”
Mularkey said he spoke with not only Khan and Smith Monday before meeting with the team, but the coaching staff as well.
“I try to keep them informed of anything I feel like is important to them,” Mularkey said. “I know there’s a lot of questions out there. I know there’s a lot of reports, wherever they come from. I try to keep them up to date exactly what is really happening within the organization, and they’re very clear what’s going on right now and understand they’re going to meet with the players and take some time off and get ready to go back and start our business when they get back.”
As for Monday, Mularkey said his message to players was that the team was closer to success than many believed, that the team is improved from this time last season. He also said he knows the team better now, and that that will help moving forward.
“I feel obviously better this time of the year than last year,” Mularkey said, adding that he believed players, too, knew the team was better than its record indicated.
“They stepped up,” he said. “But everybody in there knew who we were playing with and still felt like we had a chance to win. I think that’s the way they feel right now. We can get some people back and we can improve our roster with some additions.
“I think they see that if they come in here and work like they did we have a chance.”