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A view of the big picture


When considering Mike Mularkey as a head coach, Mike Smith thinks of a word.

Smith, the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons the past four seasons, spent the five seasons before that as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator, and Smith said there's a trait that successful head coaches must possess perhaps above all others.

Smith calls it "macrovision," and while there's no technical definition, it's about seeing the big picture, and understanding how in the NFL, one small thing can affect many big things.

Mularkey, named the Jaguars' head coach last week, worked as Smith's offensive coordinator in Atlanta for the past four seasons, and Smith said if he is confident in anything about Mularkey, it's the macrovision thing.

Mularkey, Smith said, very definitely has it.

"Mike is going to be very successful there," Smith said late last week, shortly after Mularkey was hired as the Jaguars' third permanent head coach.

"He has a macrovision and he was a very good resource for me the whole time he was here. You can't have zoom focus. You have to have the ability to have long-term as well as short-term vision.

"He has a great understanding of the game."

Smith, who has led the Falcons to three playoff appearances and a 43-21 regular season record, called Mularkey a "very organized coach who has extensive knowledge in all phases of a football team."

"He was a big reason we've had the success we've had here in Atlanta," Smith said.

Mularkey, an 18-year NFL coaching veteran, had extensive NFL experience even before the four years he spent as Smith's offensive coordinator.

He played tight end nine seasons for Pittsburgh and Minnesota, and twice before joining the Falcons had been an offensive coordinator – for three seasons in Pittsburgh (2001-2003) and in Miami in 2006. He also spent two seasons as an NFL head coach, coaching Buffalo to an 14-18 record from 2004-2005 before resigning early in 2006.

Smith said the head coaching experience should help Mularkey in Jacksonville.

"He's done it before, so he understands the job description and what it takes to be successful," Smith said.

Smith said even beyond experience, it's Mularkey's approach that should serve him well as a head coach. Mularkey last week upon his hiring described his approach to offense as "balanced" with equal emphasis on the run and the pass, but Smith said Mularkey's style isn't as much a commitment to a certain philosophy as the ability to best utilize the skills of those around him.

"That's what coaching is all about – to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your football team, and try to design a system that plays to their strengths," Smith said. "Mike has a really good understanding of that, and that has really been key to the success we've had here in Atlanta."

A priority for Mularkey is the development of rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Mularkey, who last week hired Bob Bratkowski as the offensive coordinator, said last week he also plans to hire a quarterback to work with Gabbert and the other Jaguars' quarterbacks on a daily basis, but Jaguars owner Shad Khan last week said Mularkey's work with quarterbacks played a role in his hiring.

It's an area in which Smith said Mularkey has the necessary touch. Not only did quarterbacks such as Kordell Stewart and Tommy Maddox have some of their best NFL seasons in Mularkey's offenses in Pittsburgh, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan played under Mularkey in his first four NFL seasons, developing into one of the NFL's top young quarterbacks.

 "He (Mularkey) was very integral in the development of Matt Ryan," Smith said late last week.  "One of the great traits that Mike has is he can identify the strengths and the weaknesses of the quarterback, and put his game plan together to accentuate the strengths of the players."

Smith said perhaps Mularkey's strongest attribute as a coordinator was working with the talent he had and not forcing a system onto players.

"You can't say, 'This is my system,' and fit the quarterback into it,'' Smith said. "That's very important. You have to say, 'Hey, this is the quarterback's skill set and we're going to work to those skills and not the other way.' I think that was the thing we've done very well here with our quarterback."

But as much as his work with the offense, Smith said Mularkey's strengths as a head coach lie in the ability to understand the entire team. It was an area in which Smith said he depended on Mularkey at times the past four seasons, and Smith said it's a reason he believes Mularkey will excel with the Jaguars.

 "There's obviously three phases – offense, defense and special teams," Smith said. "You have to understand how they interact. In addition to that, as a head coach, you have to also understand that you're very involved in the decision-making process with regards to personnel.

"He has a great work ethic, and that's one of the key skill sets you have to have. Mike is a tireless worker and he always is very innovative in his thinking, and he's very forward thinking. There are a lot of dynamics that go into a coaching staff. There are certain members of the coaching staff that you have more in-depth conversations with. With Mike's experience, he was a great resource for me here.

"I have no doubt he'll be very successful in Jacksonville."

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