Originally created 01/15/04

Bills hire Mularkey as coach



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Mike Mularkey was hired as coach of the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday, his first head coaching job after 10 years as an assistant in Pittsburgh.

Mularkey, who spent the last three seasons as the Steelers' offensive coordinator, replaces Gregg Williams, fired after a disappointing 6-10 season.

Mularkey has ties to Bills' president and general manager Tom Donahoe dating to 1996, when the Steelers, with Donahoe in the front office, hired Mularkey to be their tight ends coach.

Under Mularkey, the Steelers' offense ranked in the top five for two of the last three seasons. The Steelers slipped to 22nd this season.

After having one of the best offenses in 2002, the Bills ranked 30th this season.

Buffalo finished 3-13 and 8-8 in Williams' first two seasons.

Mularkey becomes the 13th coach in the team's history.

In Mularkey's first season as offensive coordinator, the Steelers advanced to the AFC championship game, where they lost 24-17 to the New England Patriots. In that game, the Patriots were led by current Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who replaced the injured Tom Brady in the second quarter.

One of Mularkey challenges will be to try to improve the Bills' inept offense.

This season, Buffalo had 4,348 yards in offense, seven better than the franchise-low, and managed 243 points, the second-fewest in a 16-game season. The Bills also went seven games without scoring a touchdown.

Bledsoe threw for just 11 touchdowns, his fewest since the 2001 season when he played in just two games.

Most of the blame fell on the offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who handled the play calling.

Mularkey replaced Gilbride in Pittsburgh. No decision has been announced on whether Gilbride will remain on the staff.

Donahoe interviewed seven candidates for the Bills' head coaching position, including former Giants coach Jim Fassel, former Bears coach Dick Jauron, current Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis.