Mularkey could be good fit to coach Tebow in Denver

Mike Mularkey
Mike Mularkey

In this July 28, 2008, file photo, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, left, barks out instructions during NFL football training camp, in Flowery Branch, Ga. The Denver Broncos will interview Mularkey for their vacant head coaching position this week, the team announced via its official Twitter account on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

Published: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2011 at 9:29 p.m.

The first candidate on the Denver Broncos' official list of potential head coaches is one who might intrigue Tim Tebow.

Broncos officials will travel to Atlanta to interview Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey on Friday, the team announced Tuesday.

Mularkey, 49, has coached Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan since Atlanta drafted Ryan with the second pick in 2008, helping develop Ryan into one of the league's most promising young passers. Ryan threw for 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns this season while leading the Falcons to the top seed in the NFC.

The Falcons have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Coaches on teams with a bye can interview during this first weekend of the postseason, but not again until their teams are eliminated.

Mularkey, who played tight end for the Florida Gators, also is scheduled to interview with the Cleveland Browns by the end of the week. The Carolina Panthers also could be interested.

Mularkey has been an NFL head coach, with a 14-18 record at Buffalo in 2004-2005. He could not be reached for comment.

Mularkey confirmed his interviews to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday.

The Broncos, especially because of Tebow, could be that place for Mularkey, who coached and called plays for Kordell Stewart at Pittsburgh a decade ago.

Stewart, who had a similar dual pass-run skill set to Tebow, thrived in the partnership. Stewart threw for more than 3,100 yards and rushed for 537 yards while leading the Steelers to the AFC title game in 2001.

"He understands from an offensive standpoint how to keep defenses off balance," Stewart said of Mularkey on Tuesday. "Look what he's doing now, look what he did with myself. Tim Tebow is the Broncos' future, and Mularkey being to be able to use Tebow's talents is obvious based on what he did with me. If anything, he could enhance and strengthen what Tebow does."

Stewart described Mularkey as a "player's coach" because of the way Mularkey prepared and supported his players. Stewart recalled being impressed when Mularkey flew to see Stewart when Mularkey was promoted to Steelers' offensive coordinator. At that meeting in the spring, the pair went through the offense Mularkey envisioned for the Steelers and how he would tailor it for Stewart, with more bootlegs and quarterback draw plays.

"He made me understand that all the guys were on board, making sure I was comfortable and that I knew he had my back 100 percent. That was a relationship he was trying to establish," Stewart said. "I would have to know my assignments and be accountable, but he was going to try to do everything to make me the best quarterback I could be."

Mularkey also could be an intriguing prospect for the Broncos because of his head coaching experience. He led the Bills to a 9-7 record in 2004 in his first year, but resigned after a 5-11 season the next year. Bills owner Ralph Wilson had committed to bringing Mularkey back in 2006, but Mularkey opted to quit after former general manager Tom Donahoe was fired. Mularkey then went to Miami for two years as an assistant. He was hired by Atlanta coach Mike Smith in 2008.

Broncos general manager Brian Xanders was in the Falcons' front office when Smith and Mularkey arrived, though Xanders joined the Broncos in May 2008.

Mularkey has been part of the massive — and rapid — rebirth of the Falcons' organization that was in shambles after the 2007 season, when quarterback Michael Vick was sentenced to prison and coach Bobby Petrino left for the University of Arkansas before the season was over.

Since that point, the Falcons have won two NFC South titles and won 13 games this year en route to the No. 1 seed in the conference.

Broncos officials are expected to interview numerous head coaching candidates over the next couple weeks once John Elway officially joins the management team. Interim head coach Eric Studesville is scheduled to be interviewed Monday.

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