JACKSONVILLE – Finding the Jaguars' next head coach is Priority No. 1.
But new Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell said Thursday while that's true – and although he has a list of candidates in mind – he has yet to set a timetable, and there's no specific experience level required.
"I'm looking for the right person," Caldwell said
That became necessary Thursday morning.
Caldwell, in his first major move as general manager, met with and dismissed Mularkey around 10 a.m. Thursday, ending the latter's tenure after one season. The Jaguars went 2-14 this past season, the worst record in franchise history.
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan had hired Mularkey last January 11, six days after taking over ownership of the franchise.
"The season was a major disappointment for all of us," Khan said, "but Mike gave Jaguars and the community everything he had. I'm absolutely and deeply grateful for that. His efforts were second to none and I know he'll be back in the NFL soon."
Mularkey spent 2008-2011 as the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator, with Caldwell working with the Falcons for the last five seasons, first as their director of college scouting and this past season as the director of player personnel.
The pair met early Thursday, and the team released a statement announcing Mularkey's dismissal at 11:01 Thursday morning.
"It was tough," Caldwell said. "I have a ton of respect for Mike. He's a great man. He's a good football coach. It's never easy and that's probably the worst part of the business. It's a big part of the business as you all know but it's very difficult."
Caldwell on Thursday said while he had a list of potential candidates, and while the wheels have begun on the process, he didn't want yet to discuss specifics.
"We're not going to set a timetable," Caldwell said. "We're going to do our thorough research and detailed research to find the right person."
San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, widely respected in coaching circles and Caldwell's roommate at John Carroll University, has been mentioned as a possibility, as well as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Asked about Roman, Caldwell said, "Greg and I went to college together, we worked together in Carolina. He's a good friend of mine. We have a good friendship."
Caldwell said previous head coaching experience is "not a prerequisite," citing the success of former Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Smith, a relative unknown with no head coaching experience before coaching the Falcons to the playoffs the last four seasons.
"He obviously has to have certain qualifications," Caldwell said. "In terms of previous head coaching experience, not necessary."
Mularkey became the 14th NFL coach since 1984 to be dismissed after one season. The franchise's first two head coaches had extended tenures, with Tom Coughlin coaching from 1995-2002 and Jack Del Rio holding the job from 2003-2011.
"Mike is a great coach, and I think he'll have great success," Khan said. "Our record was still 2-14 and regrettably this is a league that demands winning. What we have to do is win, obviously. About the coach, we went through a coaching search which was led by Gene (Smith) at that point, and this time will be led by David (Caldwell).
"Circumstances are a little bit different. How we view the team, what stage we're at and so, it's a different day, a new start."
The Jaguars' assistant coaches have been granted permission to speak with other teams, and Caldwell said the assistants must speak with him during the process.
Also on Thursday:
*Caldwell moved to put to rest rumors and speculation that New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow could join the Jaguars this off-season. "He's a member of the New York Jets, so I can't imagine a scenario where he would be a Jacksonville Jaguar," Caldwell said, adding, "Even if he's released." The Jaguars pursued a trade with the Denver Broncos for Tebow last offseason before the former University of Florida quarterback chose the Jets. There were reports late in the season that it was a virtual certainty that Tebow would be with the Jaguars in 2013. "I have others in mind and I'm comfortable with what's here," Caldwell said of the quarterback position.
*Caldwell said he has yet to make decisions on others in the front office and scouting departments. Former Colts General Manager Chris Polian, now with the Atlanta Falcons, worked with Caldwell in Indianapolis and the two attended college together. "Chris is a good friend of mine and is currently working for the Falcons," Caldwell said. "I need to evaluate everybody here first to give everyone an equal opportunity to get on board." Caldwell added, "Right now I know we have a good scouting department. I'm very familiar from my time on the road with the scouts. I want to give everybody a fair share of getting on board with our system and winning their job."
*Khan thanked former Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith for his 19 seasons with the team. The Jaguars parted ways with Smith on December 31, the day after his fourth regular-season as general manager. "Gene was dedicated along with everybody with bringing championships to Jacksonville," Khan said. "He was just as disappointed with the results as I was. It was hard for both of us, but regrettably, it was a change I felt we had to make."
*Khan also credited Jaguars President Mark Lamping with a positive year for the team's business operations, and for a season of sold-out games.