ATLANTA — Mike Mularkey likes to keep his focus on the Falcons’ next game.
Receiver Michael Jenkins on Wednesday called Mularkey “meticulous.”
Atlanta’s offensive coordinator is all about the details. He’s all about the now. Thanks in part to Mularkey’s focus, the Falcons are all about winning.
Mularkey’s offense ranks fifth in the NFL in scoring and is a big reason the Falcons (11-2) have the NFC’s best record — and poised for a Super Bowl run.
“He’s just real meticulous with his work,” Jenkins said. “He likes to go over everything to the finest detail. If you’ve heard it 30 times, he wants to go over it 31 times. That’s just the way he is. He strives for perfection. And he does a great job of feeling the games, knowing when to put us in no-huddle, when we should continue to run the ball. He has a good sense of that.”
It’s as if Mularkey can make no bad calls.
His offense wears down defenses with a power running game led by 1,000-yard rusher Michael Turner and a dangerous passing attack. Matt Ryan, in his third season, is having his best year while throwing to Roddy White, who leads the NFL with 99 catches.
With Hall of Fame-bound tight end Tony Gonzalez and a line that has been together for three years, Mularkey has a variety of weapons at his disposal.
“I think he tries to be unpredictable,” Gonzalez said. “He tries to keep the defense on their heels with different formations. I think we go into games with like 15 different groupings. Not plays, I’m talking about literally sets, names of groups where like each group is different players in the game. Different sets.
“We never really run anything twice, and that keeps a defense on their heels. That comes from his preparation.”
Mularkey was the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins and the head coach at Buffalo before joining Mike Smith in Atlanta.
He said he’d like to be a head coach again but he insisted he isn’t thinking about his next possible career move. For now, he’s consumed with devising a plan for Sunday’s game at Seattle.
Mularkey, zoned in on the Seattle defense, was caught off guard this week with a question about his future: Was he aware that he was mentioned in a TV report as a possible candidate to be the next head coach in Denver, where Josh McDaniels was fired and Eric Studesville is the interim coach?
Mularkey seemed to be genuinely stumped by the question.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said.
Mularkey’s success in three seasons with coach Mike Smith in Atlanta is likely to ensure his name continues to be included in speculation about head jobs.
“I’d like the opportunity again,” Mularkey said. “I would if it ever presents itself.”
He was 14-18 in two seasons with the Bills, including a 9-7 record in 2004. In Atlanta, he has been part of a three-year run of winning seasons — especially impressive considering the Falcons had never before managed back-to-back winning records.
Ryan said he “absolutely” would not be surprised to see a team interview Mularkey for a head coaching position.
“That’s part of this industry,” said Ryan, who has thrown for 3,147 yards with 22 touchdown passes and only eight interceptions “That’s a great thing. He’s a great coach. He’s a great person. Obviously, I’d love to have him stick around here my entire career, but that’s not always the case.”
Ryan said his goal is to make the most of this season with Mularkey.
“One of the things I’m excited about is this year and not looking too far down the road, and knowing that Mike will make a good decision for himself and his family in the future,” Ryan said. “But I’m glad that we have him for this season.”
Mularkey said he has had no reason to consider how he would approach interest from another team.
“No, to be honest with you, it hasn’t even crossed my mind,” he said. “We’re trying to win this football game. I’m telling my players to focus on the now, don’t worry about anything else, don’t worry about what anybody else is doing. You have absolutely no control over what anybody else is doing, in regards to jobs or any of that.”