A decade later, Kordell Stewart remains a believer.
Stewart, who had perhaps his best season as an NFL quarterback playing for new Jaguars Head Coach Mike Mularkey, said while he hasn't played for Mularkey in nearly 10 years, there's no reason that what made Mularkey successful then won't translate forward.
An ability to communicate with players . . .
An understanding of the big picture . . .
A focus on discipline . . .
Stewart, who played for Mularkey as a Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback from 2001-2002 and who now is an ESPN NFL analyst, said Mularkey has all of those attributes, and said when it comes to a focused, smooth-running environment, Mularkey absolutely will create it.
Chaos, Stewart said, is something Mularkey "will not tolerate."
"If someone's creating chaos, they won't be there," Stewart said recently. "One hundred percent certain, Mike will not run his mouth in the media. He'll make sure his mouth is heard in those meeting rooms. He'll make sure guys understand their role. And if they don't get it done, the next man in line will."
Mularkey, who this week continues finalizing his coaching staff while much of the team's coaching staff and front office is attending the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., spent the past four seasons as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
He spent two years as an assistant with the Miami Dolphins before that, and was the Buffalo Bills' head coach from 2004-2005. Before that, his NFL roots were in Minnesota and Pittsburgh. He played three seasons with the Steelers, and spent eight seasons as an assistant in Pittsburgh.
He was the Steelers' tight ends coach from 1996-2000, and in 2001 he became the Steelers' offensive coordinator, a position with which he inherited Stewart, who struggled the previous season under former Jaguars offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.
Stewart in 2001 threw for 3,109 yards, was named to the Pro Bowl and was also named AFC Offensive Player of the Year.
Stewart said a key moment in his relationship with Mularkey came when Mularkey flew to Atlanta to spend time with Stewart shortly after taking the coordinator job.
"He knew me and understood how to get to me," Stewart said. "He does a great job of that with all of his players. He came down here. We played golf in Atlanta and talked and laughed and giggled. He assured me we were going to play some good football. Lo and behold, that 2001 year was my best year in Pittsburgh. It worked."
In 2002, Tommy Maddox – after being out of the NFL for five seasons – threw for 2,836 yards and 20 touchdowns playing in Mularkey's offense and earned NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors.
"Tommy Maddox, me – it didn't matter, we had success," Stewart said. "He knows because he was a player how to convey to his quarterback what's expected of him. He makes sure the quarterback knows it's not just about him. It's about the guys around him helping him."
Stewart said without question that's an attribute that will help Mularkey working with Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
"All he needs are the pieces to be able to be able to allow Blaine Gabbert to be the quarterback that organization drafted," Stewart said. "If they were unsure about him, Mike will make him sure of himself and let him know he's the quarterback of that franchise and he has to get it done. He won't let him worry about anything else."
Stewart said Mularkey's on-field approach may be equally beneficial to Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew. Mularkey's offense throughout his career has emphasized balance, which could be good for the NFL's leading rusher.
"I think you'll find Coach Mularkey using MJD not in an extreme way the way he has been used," Stewart said. "I think that's been a big part of why he has been injured. They have been relying on him so much. Mike with balance will help MJD to be able to last."
The Falcons under Mularkey ranked in the top half of the NFL in both rushing and passing offense from 2008-2011, and Stewart said such equality defines Mularkey's approach.
"He can take what he has and make a mountain out of a molehill," Stewart said. "Don't expect Jacksonville to look like Green Bay. You can't expect them to look like New England. You can't expect them to look like anyone else but themselves. That's what Mike brings – a great defense, an awesome running game with play-action pass that can throw the ball deep down the field.
"I know it's a copycat league, but you have to go off of what works long-term. It's good to throw the football. That's a great thing, but the team that has more balance is the one that prevails in the end. Come the weather time, if you're going to play the games in the cold weather, you have to be able to run the football.
"Running the football, you can take it anywhere. It positions your team to have balance. When it's time to unleash and throw the football, you can, but the balance is going to help you start off fast."
Stewart said beyond working specifically with the offense, Mularkey has a coaching style that likely will translate to the head coaching position. He said without question Mularkey's coaching staff, once completed, will be a solid one with the ability to articulate his vision.
Stewart also talked about not only Mularkey's attention to detail, but his ability as a coach to ensure each player working under his guidance was equally prepared. That's a quality Stewart said is crucial to success as a head coach.
"The one thing I remember about Mike in our meetings room is when he would talk to the starters, he would automatically flip a switch and go to the backups and ask a question you would normally ask of your starter," Stewart said. "I thought that was fascinating, because barring injury these guys weren't getting in the game. But you just knew at all times all the guys knew at any second they could get in, so they always prepared. No one was caught off guard if their number was called. That's how he coaches.
"To be able to have the range to succeed no matter what guy you have in there, that's what's important. The key to it is everybody understanding their role and their part in what's taking place. The teams that Mike has been a part of, they've always had balance and they've always been on the same page and there always has been something that has been consistent."