Considering the situation, Mike Mularkey liked what he heard.
This was the Jaguars' locker room early Sunday evening in the immediate aftermath of a third consecutive one-sided loss at home. Mularkey, in his first season as the Jaguars' head coach, spoke with each player one-by-one.
They weren't easy conversations. It was far from an easy circumstance.
But Mularkey said what he heard makes him optimistic the season is not lost despite a 1-4 record, and he said what he heard gives him hope as the team heads into the bye week.
The players have not quit, Mularkey said.
Most important, they still believe.
"They all responded in a way that I thought was very refreshing for the moment," Mularkey said Monday, a day after the Jaguars lost to the Chicago Bears, 41-3, at EverBank Field.
"It could have been doom and gloom, so I felt good after I talked to every player on this roster."
Mularkey said he knows from experience that approach is key.
Mularkey, who spent the last four seasons as the Falcons' offensive coordinator, was the head coach in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005. His first Buffalo team struggled at the beginning of the season, starting 1-4 and 3-6 before winning six consecutive games. The Bills that season did not score more than 20 points in any of the first six games of the season, but scored no fewer than 33 in any game during the six-game winning streak.
Mularkey said his message to the Bills that season was the same as his message to the Jaguars thus far this season – stick to the plan, and stick together.
"It's not an easy task," Mularkey said, "but we stayed the course, and we did some good things. What was amazing is that when we started to do some good things, a lot of good things kept coming."
Mularkey said it's his belief that can happen again.
"We played better, and got more confident about what we were doing," Mularkey said, adding, "I said the same thing to them, 'We're closer than you think.'''
And while Mularkey said he understands that may be a difficult concept to grasp for people who see three home losses by a combined 75 points, he also said the reality is the Jaguars have hurt themselves too often at critical times with penalties and turnovers.
"Those are the things that are hard to overcome," Mularkey said.
And while a 1-4 start might seem equally difficult to overcome, Mularkey said he is not one to remove playoffs as a season goal five games into a season.
"I certainly hate to count us out," Mularkey said. "There's plenty of football still to go. There are plenty of things that can happen for us, but we have to improve. We have to play a complete game. We just need to put a game together where all three phases are playing like they are capable. I've said that. We haven't yet. We played a good half the other day and a half of the third. We've got to get a complete game in there. Let's see where we really are and where do we stand."
The bye week, Mularkey said, may be coming at a good time in that sense. He said the coaching staff will take a "good, hard look" at the team, including schemes and in-game situations, but stressed that improvement must come from within the team.
"I think the answers are in this building," he said. "I think they are in that locker room. They are in that staff room back there, they're in the meeting rooms, on the practice fields, during our preparation. I think the answers are all here and we've just got a find a way to get those to transfer over to games so we can play complete games and play like we're capable of playing.
"We've shown sporadically throughout the first five games that there have been good signs of good things. We just need to somehow find a way to do that for an entire game to see what happens."
Also on Monday:
- Mularkey said he doesn't believe quarterback Blaine Gabbert is regressing. Gabbert, in his second season, completed 17 of 33 passes for 142 yards and no touchdowns with two interceptions Sunday, with each interception being returned for a touchdown. "Blaine's still a young player," Mularkey said. "Each game is going to make him a better player. He still has things he has to do better." Mularkey said the first interception – on a pass intended for rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon – was a case of "two young guys, a quarterback and a receiver, making a mistake." Mularkey called the play a "tough lesson learned." Mularkey said he believes the way Gabbert was pressured in the past has "sped up the clock in his head," and he must learn to trust his protection better. He also said there were signs of Gabbert being patient and allowing routes to develop Sunday, but that it has to happen more consistently.
- Mularkey said he considered playing backup quarterback Chad Henne in the fourth quarter, but he wanted Gabbert to gain experience in the no-huddle offense.
- Mularkey said the team continues to hope linebacker Daryl Smith will return for the first game after the bye, at Oakland. Smith has missed the first five games of the season with a groin injury.
- C.J. Mosley apparently will stay in the starting lineup. Mularkey also said Mosley played well Sunday after replacing defensive tackle Terrance Knighton in the starting lineup, and that Mosley will keep the starting position. "It's really been a lot about the production when he's been in there," Mularkey said. "C.J. has made more plays when he's had opportunities and I think Terrance played well against Minnesota but has had somewhat of a drop-off since Minnesota. C.J. has kind of climbed his way up there and yesterday I thought he played outstanding." Mularkey also said he expects veteran Austen Lane to continue starting at defensive end. He replaced rookie Andre Branch in the lineup Sunday.
- Mularkey said wide receiver Laurent Robinson remains in the concussion program and will not practice this week. His status for Oakland is uncertain.
- Players were off Monday, and will practice in helmets Tuesday and Wednesday. They will be off Thursday through Sunday, with NFL rules mandating players have four consecutive days off during bye weeks. "They'll be pretty stressful practices," Mularkey said, adding. "We'll go back to little fundamentals and techniques and see all the little things better and hopefully execute better. That's what it comes down to, is execution."