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Browns coaching search: Falcons’ Mularkey has shown he can win as a head coach

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Mike Mularkey doesn’t have the Super Bowl pedigree of favored Browns coaching candidates Jon Gruden and John Fox, but he may have the most impressive resume of the next group on president Mike Holmgren’s short list.

Mularkey, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, interviewed with the Browns on Saturday in Atlanta, the team confirmed. He’s the second confirmed interview, following Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur on Friday. Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is expected to interview this week.

Mularkey’s resume begins with a nine-year playing career at tight end and includes several years as an innovative and successful coordinator. What separates him from Shurmur, Fewell and Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg - expected to interview this week - is a winning season as a head coach.

Mularkey led the Bills in 2004-05. They went 9-7 in his first year, including six straight wins. They slipped to 5-11 in 2005, and he resigned after Marv Levy was hired as general manager and it appeared they couldn’t work together.

Buffalo hasn’t made the playoffs since, and the organization has been described as dysfunctional, making Mularkey’s decision look wise. He remains respected in Buffalo for his integrity.

Mularkey, 49, is preparing for the Falcons’ second-round playoff game. As the NFC’s No. 1 seed, they had a bye this weekend. Mularkey canceled an interview with the Broncos to concentrate on the playoffs, but met with the Browns because they were the first team to call, ESPN reported.

Mularkey’s first coordinator job came with the Steelers in 2001 after serving as their tight ends coach for five years. During his three years as coordinator, Pittsburgh finished third and fifth and 22nd in the NFL in total offense. The Steelers led the league in rushing in 2001 with 173.4 yards a game as they went 13-3.

Mularkey was known for his trick plays, creative formations and use of quarterback Kordell Stewart and receiver Antwaan Randle El in multiple roles.

Mularkey took the Atlanta job in 2008, teaming with rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. He’s taken advantage of running back Michael Turner and receiver Roddy White - he led the NFL this year with 115 catches - as the Falcons have posted three straight winning records for the first time.

The Falcons have ranked second, 15th and 16th in yardage during his three years and 10th, 13th and fifth in points. They averaged 25.9 points a game this year and ranked 15th in passing (222.9 yards) and 12th in rushing (118.2).

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.



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