As opposed to, say, a deflective Jeff Mullen, who did his best last season to funnel criticism his way, but also rationalize it when compared to expectations and results.
We forget and likely overlook 2008 was his first time as an offensive coordinator and while he’d been involved in game planning — to great success — at Wake Forest, he’d never called plays.
There has to be a growth period there, right? And maybe it’s now his time.
As Mullen looked back on his first season as offensive coordinator after coming over from Wake Forest, he is pleased that he felt the offense got better each week as the season went on. Even in some of the late-season failures such as against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, one has to understand that the Mountaineers were facing strong defensive teams.
Having had a full year to put in his system and to work with the players, Mullen believes that leads to a smoother running offense.
“It makes a tremendous difference,” Mullen said. “I know what the staff is about. I know what the players physically can do. And the players know us better. They know what we expect of them.”
You can argue and agree with that all you want, I’m sure, but this much is clear: He is on the public’s hot seat. His job might be safe, but heretofore disgruntled people are aiming at him. If the offense sputters similarly, watch out.
To me, it always felt like people were pulling for Mullen – he’s likable, funny, not egotistical, all the things we generally like to deal with — but perhaps because of that he became a really easy mark, as if the O.C. was some assailable figurehead for an offense that wasn’t as good as it had been, but realistically couldn’t be with all it’d lost from before. To those people, win right is never as important as win right now.
After the third game last year, Mullen appeared on WVU’s radio network and graciously took calls. One guy asked him — and I’m paraphrasing — how after such a short time he’d turned a Ferrari into a Pinto.
After Noel saved WVU against Syracuse and self-loathing coach Greg Robinson — you can’t dismiss how badly he managed that game, which his team could and likely should have won with some better sideline leadership — Oll Stewart praised Mullen for his third-and-7 play-call on the game-clinching TD … a simple run from WVU’s 8-yard line when a pass by injured Jarrett Brown was an absolutely no-no.
Devine made that play happen with a great cut into open space, but it was a safe, smart call that, at worst, would set up a punt and let the defense win or lose the game. Nothing wrong with that. To credit Mullen, though, was a tad odd. It just seemed like an “Atta boy” people were supposed to pick up on and run with to the presses.
Didn’t happen. From the back of the room came a question.
“Stew, what else could he have called?” a voice posed. (Wasn’t me!)
It got worse. Mullen should be given credit, maybe even a raise, for not completely snapping when he was asked if he was worried about his job after a 4-2 start. (Again, not me. I was stunned to witness it, though.)
When the TBA occurred, guess who wore the bull’s-eye?
WVU would have it’s highs — dismantled Auburn — but things deteriorated for Mullen and while I wansn’t there, it was told to me in Las Vegas he was totally and personally crushed after the Pitt loss. Optimists might look at what happened next, though. WVU regrouped and beat USF. Given time to evaluate what he had and what those parts could do against a defense, the offense more or less had its way against North Carolina. That was the first time Mullen could sit back, assess and project.
He’s had months and months to do the same now. Can similar results be expected? If not generated, what’s next?