"A year ago, when I came here, the organizational judgment was we were a pretty good team, just a few players and a draft away from really competing for a playoff spot," Khan said. "As the year progressed, it was pretty obvious that was not the case, and we would need a fresh start and a rebuild from the ground up."
Mularkey signed a three-year contract on Jan. 11, 2012, getting a second chance to be a head coach six years after resigning with the Buffalo Bills.
His return was shaky from the start.
His best player, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, skipped offseason workouts as well as training camp and the preseason in a contract dispute. His first draft pick, receiver Justin Blackmon, was arrested and charged with aggravated DUI in June. And his team was riddled with injuries, including key ones to linebacker Daryl Smith and Jones-Drew.
Even things Mularkey had control over went awry.
He had to backtrack after saying Chad Henne would compete with Gabbert for the starting job in March. He created a stir by threatening to fine players up to $10,000 for discussing injuries. He initially played rookie receiver Kevin Elliott over Cecil Shorts III early on. And he really irked some players with tough, padded practices late in a lost season.
Throw in the way he handled injuries to receiver Laurent Robinson (four concussions before going on IR) and Jones-Drew (admittedly should have had foot surgery sooner), and there were reasons to doubt whether Mularkey was cut out to be a head coach. Dating back to his final season in Buffalo, Mularkey has lost 20 of his last 23 games.
Caldwell and Mularkey spent four years together in Atlanta, getting to know each other well enough that Caldwell didn't need a sit down with Mularkey after he got the GM job Tuesday.
"It was tough," Caldwell said. "I have a ton of respect for Mike. ... It's never easy and that's probably the worst part of the business."
Potential replacements for Mularkey include former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Schottenheimer was up for the Jacksonville job last season, and Roman has been linked to the Jaguars since Caldwell became the leading candidate to replace Smith.
Roman and Caldwell were teammates and roommates in the 1990's while attending John Carroll University.
"I think Greg is a heck of a coach," Caldwell said.
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