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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Mularkey growing on me

By Marla Published: January 7, 2011

End of the week musing on recent sports headlines:

1. The idea of Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey as the next Browns coach is growing on me. While my first two choices would be Browns president Mike Holmgren and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, I love the creativity Mularkey brought to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense when he was coordinator from 2001-03.

Under Mularkey, Kordell Stewart passed for 3,109 yards in 2001. In 2002, the Steelers succeeded with Tommy Maddox at quarterback. The Steelers finished third and fifth in the league in total offense, respectively, in 2001 and 2002, and led the NFL in rushing in 2001 with a 173.4 average.

Mularkey also found a way to quickly integrate Antwaan Randle El into the scheme when the former Indiana quarterback was drafted in the second round in 2002. Randle El caught 84 passes for 853 yards his first two seasons under Mularkey. He would inherit similar talents in the Browns' Joshua Cribbs, and perhaps quarterback Seneca Wallace, if he returns.

Mularkey, 48, also has two years of head coaching experience with the Buffalo Bills in 2004-05.

Although Mularkey cancelled an interview with the Denver Broncos because he wanted to focus on the playoffs, he kept his commitment to talk to the Browns because they called first. He did not rule out interest in the Broncos after the Falcons' playoff run is over.

After years of watching a predictable Browns' offense, the innovation Mularkey would bring would be a breath of fresh air.

2. It appears that some big-spending TCU alum couldn't resist the chance to skewer Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee after the Horned Frogs defeated Wisconsin 21-19 in the Rose Bowl.

This week, 20 electronic billboards in the Columbus area popped up that read: "Congratulations to TCU for their Rose Bowl victory. -- Little Sisters of the Poor.'' 

In late November, Gee took a shot at non-BCS qualifiers like TCU and Boise State.

"I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it's like murderer's row every week for these schools," Gee said. "We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor. We play very fine schools on any given day. So I think until a university runs through that gauntlet that there's some reason to believe that they not be the best teams to [be] in the big ballgame."

Gee is well-traveled, having served as chancellor at Vanderbilt and president at Brown, Colorado, West Virginia and in two stints at OSU. But when it comes to athletics, he's a fan first. I once saw him get into an argument with a man impersonating Woody Hayes at a Buckeye tailgate party when Robert Smith played for OSU. On that day, Gee sounded like any other member of Buckeye Nation.

3. Quarterback Andrew Luck decided to stay at Stanford because of the bond he's developed with his teammates and his desire to win a Pac-10 championship, along with completing his degree in architectural design in the spring of 2012. While Luck surely will take out an insurance policy in case of injury, he clearly values his time at Stanford and could encourage more athletes to take the same chance. It's one more indication why Luck deserves to be the top pick in the NFL draft.

Not sure fans of the Carolina Panthers see it that way, though. In North Carolina, Luck's decision is probably viewed more as a referendum on their franchise, which owns this year's No. 1 pick.

As Scott Fowler wrote in today's Charlotte Observer, "This was an enormous blow to Carolina, far worse than any of the 14 losses it sustained to earn that No.1 pick in the first place. The next Peyton Manning just walked out the door.''

Former Ohio State All-American LeCharles Bentley also noted Wednesday night on ESPN 850 WKNR that Terrelle Pryor's chances for the 2011 Heisman Trophy also went up in smoke with Luck's decision. Pryor's odds of winning would seem slim, anyway, unless the NCAA reduces his five-game suspension.

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