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The learning begins


If Jaguars players haven't yet had at least some contact with their new head coach, know this:

It's not because he hasn't tried.

Mike Mularkey, hired on January 11 as the Jaguars' head coach, has had an expectedly busy first three weeks on the job, but he said recently that time has been spent doing more than just interviewing and hiring assistant coaches.

It has been about more than cramming in film study, too.

Mularkey, who played nine seasons in the NFL, said he believes it's critically important for players as quickly and as fully as possible to understand what he is about, and toward that end, he has made an effort to speak with every player currently on the Jaguars' roster.

He said as of late last week he hadn't quite completed the task. But he also said he wasn't far off.

Mularkey said while much of the coaching and personnel staff was at the Senior Bowl last week, he not only put the finishing touches on the coaching staff, he called every player on the Jaguars' roster.

"I've either talked to them personally when they've been in the building – in the locker room, the training room, the weight room – or I've called them wherever they are and had a conversation," Mularkey said recently. "There have been a couple I have not reached, and that doesn't surprise me. They may not even have been in the country."

Mularkey said while much of the coming months will be spent learning the roster in greater detail, as quickly as possible he "wanted to get a feel for them over the phone."

"It's tough at this time of the year, because the players are getting away, and all I know is based on film study from before we played them and when I studied them getting ready for the interview process," Mularkey said. "I have a good feel for these guys, and I've talked to a lot of guys, but until you get with them and get to know them personally, it's tough."

Here's Part 2 of's recent interview with Mularkey:

I asked Jaguars General Manager Gene Smith at the Senior Bowl about the first few weeks of working with you. He said he has been struck by the level and ease of communication between the two of you. What's your view on that situation? What have you learned about him in terms of your relationship moving forward that you didn't know before?

We have communicated extremely well – extremely well. It's interesting, because I really did not know Gene – certainly not as I know him now, I can tell you that. We have been involved in a lot of things together these first few weeks. It has been very easy for me to go over there and for him to come to my office. We're not going to agree on everything 100 percent of the time but when it's all said and done, we've had a good level of communication and respect for each other. I know he's very passionate about what he does and he's very good at what he does. He likes to fly under the radar, but he's very passionate about doing things the right way. I'm kind of the same way, where you're not influenced by outside forces or make decisions that other people want. That's easy to do in these positions. He believes in what he does and I do, too. We're not saying, 'Look at us.' I like that we're laying low and having that mentality, and he's very much the same way.

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Communication – the ability to hear one another in those two positions – it's really key, isn't it?

It's absolutely important. During the interview, we spent the entire day together when I was with him and (Jaguars Owner) Shad (Khan). But other than that, this is really my first time to work side by side with him. It has been a great experience. I've learned some things already. I'm big on gathering information and I think he's the same way. I've learned some things already that I think will help our football team and certainly it will help me in this job.

In the coming days, weeks and months, you and the offensive coaching staff will go through the process of putting together the offense and the playbook. You have said that the former coordinators on the staff – coaches such as Sylvester Croom, Jerry Sullivan and Greg Olson – could bring creativity to the process. But you also are a believer that the offensive coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, has to feel at home and in control of what's going on. Talk about that a bit.

A lot will depend on the play-caller. The play-caller, Bob Bratkowski, has to get up in front of an offense and basically install it. He has to install it like he invented it, and he has to call it like he's the inventor. He has to call it so things flow quickly in your thought process. That's one of the things I struggled with in Miami (when he was the offensive coordinator in 2006), and I've seen a lot of guys try to come in and learn a system and call it. It's more difficult than I thought it was, and I'm not going to do that to Bob. He has our playbook and he has his playbook. We're going through and we've already changed some things up that I know I can pick up immediately, but I know he's more comfortable with them. It's a lot of the same things we're doing; it's just calling them different ways.  It has to be something the coordinator is very comfortable with.

The installation of a playbook – what goes into it – is an intriguing thing for fans. Is it an incredibly exciting time to be around an offensive staff? It must be a time of a great exchange of ideas.

It's going to take a couple of months, and it's going to be about watching cutups from previous years, and you get ideas from that. It's amazing how much football you really don't know until you get into one of those rooms with a bunch of creative guys. We'll do some things where they look at us and say, 'That's a great idea,' and they'll look at us sometimes and say, 'That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard.' It's interesting, because you're really plotting your scheme to beat somebody else who's in another room in another city in America doing the same thing.

You mentioned that the coming weeks will be about the staff learning the players. For you, how much of a process is that? How much learning is done? You've seen some game tape, but how long does it take for you and the staff to get an intimate knowledge?

That's coming soon. I'll sit down soon with the guys who have been here. I'll sit down with Gene. The scouts will be in. I will get as much information in regards to everything about them – their off the field, their on the field, everything I can know about them. That's coming up this week as well.

There are new rules in place in terms of the off-season with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. How will that affect your ability to get to know the team?

This is a whole new off-season for everybody. This is the first time we're going through an off-season when players can come in, but they really can't talk football with you until April. That will be an adjustment for all of us. There really are some new rules and restrictions that will play a factor in us being able to get to know them faster. It may take a little longer this time.

You mentioned the phone calls you made and the process of getting to know the players. How important was that for you to start the process of getting to know them and vice versa?

I'm probably even 10 days late, because I was so involved with the hiring process, but I needed them to know that I was on board with them and that I was going to do whatever I could to help them be successful. That's why I do this, and they need to know that right now in January; they don't need to wait to meet me in April. I put a letter together that went out Friday that will give them some off-season dates. It also will give them some rules for the off-season and I'm sure a lot of them didn't know those rules – as far as not being able to talk football, or even have a football on the field, which you cannot. I also talked a little about the direction we wanted to go. I wanted to let them know verbally it was coming and I wanted to let them know what was going on with the staff.

There's so much talk about Blaine Gabbert. Entering his second season as a starting quarterback, can you discuss just what his off-season will entail?

It might be a little early. Right now, he's just getting away from it, going back and visiting family. We can't talk football scheme-wise with him until mid-April. He's got some things I know he has planned. I know he plans to work out at some different facilities that work on techniques and fundamentals. They're allowed to come in and use our weight rooms and work out on our fields; they just can't be instructed doing it. He can be around. There's nothing we can do until April, but I think he's going to be involved in some of the camps that are going on.

You mentioned it's a shorter off-season. Is that a concern for you with Gabbert, or do you feel there's still time under the new rules for him to develop in the off-season?

There's plenty of time, and we're going to talk as a staff in terms of sending out information – drills and things we want to work. You can do that. You can send it out and put it on a DVD. There are a lot of things you can do as far as mailings to them, but you can't mail them a playbook, because whatever information you give them, you cannot retrieve back. You have to be careful what you give them. They can have it, but you wouldn't be able to get it back, and that's not good.

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