No malarkey from Mularkey
Q: What were your feelings after the slow start? Did you think you had what it took to be where you are now? Mularkey: I did. I think we all did to be honest with you. There was never anybody showing signs of waver when we were down. That would be easy to tell with the way they came in and approached meetings and approached practice. Really, there were sure signs ... you know, those games that we lost early on were close. I think these guys realized that we got to overcome ourselves before we can overcome our opponent. I think we've done that as of late. They saw it and recognized it and there was no panic. Q: Did it take a while for your players to buy in to what you were trying to teach them? Mularkey: I hope it's kind of been a gradual thing because I've been saying the same thing since the very first time I called them on the phone when I got hired. I felt like they were into it early. The more I preach and the more things develop like they do, I think it just helps confirm what we are doing as a staff is the right thing and it's going to help us. Q: Can you pinpoint what happened on the field to help turn around the season? Mularkey: Well, I think there has been a couple of things. Obviously with the slow start and winning a couple games after the four losses. Then coming home and actually being down 10 on the road, which our road history is not very good, and being able to overcome 10 points and face adversity and win a game. We've won some things that we haven't done in the past. I think it might have been that time. Actually, we were at home against Rams against a high-powered offense and we lost a week before against New England on national TV pretty badly. For guys not to give in at that point, I thought was a defining moment. Q: What has Willis McGahee brought to the team this year? Mularkey: He's obviously been very good for our running game. He's been a part of it. There is no question about it. I think there have been a number of things that has helped us overcome ourselves. I think our offense has improved from the start of the year. A lot of that is just because they've had time to play together, which they did not up into really early in the year when they were together based on injuries or other issues that kept them from working in the spring and in the minicamps and training camps and everything. The line had a lot to do with it. I think Drew did and the emergence of Lee (Evans). I think everybody kind of complemented each other and that has helped Willis shine like he did because we had other guys standing out as well. Q: What about Lee Evans? Mularkey: Lee is one of those kind of guys that I wish we had a team load of them. Every play, whether he is in or not, he stands right behind the huddle. If he's not in, he wants to know what is going on and wants to learn. He's constantly asking questions. He studies film. He's just a true professional. For a young rookie receiver, he approaches the game like a guy that has been around awhile. I think he has improved every game. Q: Is that unusual for a rookie? Mularkey: I think so. Especially at this level and the number of games and the timeframe put into the offseason, it's easy to hit a wall at some point. I think Lee recognized at one point during the year what could have happened to him and didn't let it, which isn't just a natural thing. That is unusual. Q: How much did you look at Rashaun Woods in the draft? Mularkey: We looked at all the receivers extensively because we were looking in that direction early. We liked him, but I think we just had our sights set on Lee. If he was going to be available around that pick, we were going to hopefully get him. Q: Has Evans emerged as deep threat and Moulds emerged as possession guy? Mularkey: Lee has obviously deep-threat speed. The thing that is unique about Lee is that he is extremely fast and catches the ball extremely good. Those two things aren't always common with speed guys. He has excellent hands. I think what it has done is ... I wouldn't call Eric (Moulds) a possession-type receiver because he has caught more underneath stuff as of late. But, he is dangerous deep. I think what it does is that it takes a little bit of the focus off of Eric. Now that Lee has emerged as a dangerous receiver, I think it has helped Eric in his game. Q: What kind of danger do you feel in facing the 49ers? Mularkey: Every game we played has been such an important game. We've really been playing a playoff game for the last six weeks. I've told these guys and the way they've approached the games, at one o'clock you can throw away the records, the rankings and the stats and all those things that fill up the paper everyday and throw them out the window. You got to execute regardless of your opponent every Sunday because that will be the difference. I believe in that and I think they do too. Q: What are some of your recollections of playing in San Francisco? Mularkey: It was hot in Rocklin. I probably felt like I had my best training camp out of my nine years in the league. Obviously, I didn't make the team. I got cut during the last cut, but it was a good experience. I took some things I learned in my short training camp from coach Walsh and I still use them in our offensive philosophy. Q: What was the 49ers team like back then? Mularkey: Well, they just came off a Super Bowl, so I was in a little bit of awe as a rookie coming into the huddle with Joe Montana, Dwight Clark, Russ Francis, Billy Ring and all those guys. I think every rookie is like that, but probably more so because what they've accomplished up to that point. Q: Were you confident that you were destined to stay in this league longer? Mularkey: I didn't know. I had hoped. I wasn't going to give in even if I didn't make it. That has kind of been my history playing and coaching. I did the best I could out there. I had hoped to stick, but I also understood the circumstances with some of the things that were happening at tight end. If it wasn't there, I was hoping to continue to play not knowing Minnesota was going to pick me up, which they did. Q: What stuck with you from coach Walsh over all of these years? Mularkey: Just that he would think of some things even on the practice field. It was like you were in the backyard where you draw it up on the dirt. Some of the things that I know that he thought of on the practice field I've still seen being used today. Formations and his philosophy of getting the ball in the players hands and letting them make the yards. You don't have to make the yards in the air. He preached that and I believe it too. It always stuck with me. Q: Do you employ the West Coast system? Mularkey: I wouldn't say it is West Coast offense. I would say it is the philosophy of trying to get the ball in guys hands. I believe in that and I always have even since I was a coordinator. There is a lot to be said about it. Obviously, the success has proven that it was a pretty good idea. Q: When you started off the season and named Travis Henry the starter, how did that affect McGahee and Henry? Mularkey: I really didn't have to name Travis. Travis was the starter. He was a starter the previous two years and he was very effective as a back. So, it wasn't like there was a competition to start the season. I was basing it on performance and what I had seen at this level. Travis would continue to be productive as he was. He was dinged early in the year. Still, we tried to get Willis the reps and the experience because I'm not sure Willis was ready to go physically or mentally when the season started. So, they both knew that we were going to go with — and this is at every position which was told to every position — that we were going to go with who we felt was going to give us our best chances. At the time, Travis was running effectively, but when Willis got his chances, he was making more yards after first contact. That was really the first difference in the two. We were getting more positive yards and there wasn't anything there. That was why I made the change when I did. But Travis was just as involved as the third-down back. We still use him to spell Willis on a couple of series. There really was not a competition going into camp. Q: How much bigger is McGahee than Henry? Mularkey: Willis is 240. They are both cut like rock. It's amazing. I don't think people realize how physically big they are. I said to Willis, ‘why does your 240 look different than my 240?' It's just that they are physical specimens. He's (McGahee) is only about 15 pounds heavier than Henry. Q: Is the NFL too tough a game for smaller backs? Mularkey: That depends on a lot of things. Some of the smaller backs are scat backs. They don't take a lot of punishing hits. Other guys are not afraid to stick their nose up in there and hit the piles and try to make something out of nothing. I think based on size, you wear down. You really do. You wear down over time. It's just tougher. I'm not saying that you can't do it. But, it's tougher. Q: What do you see in Shaud Williams? Mularkey: He could possibly be the starter. Fortunately, he's gotten some snaps the last couple of weeks. It's not like he's going in fresh off the cutting block. He's fast. He's got the good vision. He is one of those guys that I know that if he doesn't feel like there is anything there, he is not afraid to hammer it up inside and take what he can get.
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