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Anticipating change


Aaron Kampman heard the news Wednesday morning.

Driving to EverBank Field, the Jaguars veteran defensive end's cell phone rang. It was his wife with some pertinent news:

"Hey, you have a new head coach."

"Really, who is it?" he replied.

His wife told him: Mike Mularkey, the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator the past four seasons.

"I just said, 'It's my third head coach named Mike,''' Kampman said with a laugh, referring to his two head coaches in Green Bay, Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy.

"I had some good success with other guys named Mike. Hopefully, this will be another opportunity to do that."

Such was the reaction of Jaguars players Wednesday to the news that Mularkey, the Buffalo Bills head coach from 2004-2005, had been hired late Tuesday evening as the new Jaguars' head coach. There was interest, there was anxiousness and a lot of unknown.

Defensive end Austen Lane, like many fans, learned of the news while on Twitter and Facebook Wednesday.

"Everyone started posting, 'Welcome Coach Mularkey,''' Lane said.

Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew posted the following via Twitter Wednesday afternoon:

"Hey jags fans talk to coach mularkey last night and this am. Very excited to work with him and learn his offense. Top 6 defense great special team and an explosive offense. That what we will be about."

Among Jaguars players Wednesday, not knowing much about Mularkey on a personal level, there was a wait-and-see approach, with a sense of looking toward the future.

"I don't know too much about him, but it's always obviously interesting when there's something new," Jaguars cornerback Derek Cox said. "You're curious about what his philosophy will be and how his order of operations will be run.

"It's exciting, the anticipation of it. The excitement builds naturally."

Mularkey became the third permanent head coach in Jaguars history. Tom Coughlin coached the team from 1994-2002, with Jack Del Rio coaching from 2003 until November of this past season.

Mel Tucker coached the team on an interim basis the last five games.

"It's kind of wait and see," Lane said. "It's hard to have a reaction when you haven't met him yet, but from what I've heard he's a good coach and he's going to do some exciting things. I welcome him with open arms and I can't wait to start the season.

"Every year there are going to be changes, whether it's players or coaches. There's hardly an instance where a team stays exactly the same. You always have to adapt and that's what we'll do this off-season. It's about adapting and going with the flow."

Said Kampman, "There's a sense of newness. That goes on for a while, and then you get to know what someone's about over time and see how their actions match up with their words.

"That's how trust is developed."

Lane said a question among defensive players is the status of Jaguars interim coach Mel Tucker, the team's defensive coordinator before he moved into the interim role upon Del Rio's dismissal. The defense this past season ranked No. 6 in the NFL.

Tucker interviewed for the Jaguars' permanent head coaching position, and also reportedly has spoken to the Minnesota Vikings this week about an assistant coaching position.

"You hear reports, but you can't put too much stake in them," Lane said. "People ask me and I say, 'I'm just going to wait and see.' It doesn't pay to speculate or say, 'I heard this,' or, 'I heard that.' Until I see it official, that's when I start believing it."

Cox and other players said they are most interested to see Mularkey's approach to the day-to-day operations of running the organization.

"That changes based on a head coach's philosophy," Cox said. "You know that from your experience from high school to college and so forth."

Kampman previously played for not only Sherman and McCarthy in Green Bay, but for Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville the past two seasons.

"To me, the best head coaches I've been around are guys who are consistent in their approach, and who do a great job developing trust and communication with everyone around them," he said.

Kampman said while players will walk into the same building when they return as a group for off-season conditioning in April, they will in fact walk into a new structure.

"Even if Coach Tucker had been the head coach, there would have been a newness even though we knew him," Kampman said. "Every man who is the guy setting the tone as a head coach will have his own spin and his own philosophy. He'll take bits and pieces from what he hears, but in the end, those decisions will be his."

Kampman said while General Manager Gene Smith's presence helps maintain continuity within the organization, Mularkey – as is the case with any coach – will establish the day-to-day tone of the franchise.

"Absolutely, it will be a new feel," he said.

Kampman was entering his fifth season in Green Bay when McCarthy took over for Sherman in Green Bay in 2006. McCarthy at the time was a relatively unknown, having previously been the coordinator in San Francisco. In 2005, McCarthy's offense was ranked last in points scored and total yardage.

The Packers won the Super Bowl with McCarthy as head coach last season.

"In Green Bay, there was some reaction," Kampman said of McCarthy's hiring. "He was the coach at that time of a not-so-great offense. In the end, leadership from the head coaching position is more about managing people well, creating that culture, breaking down barriers of communication.

"It's not as much Xs and Os in the head job. It's more about making sure it looks the way it's supposed to look."

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