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Jaguars' assistants allowed to pursue other jobs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Jacksonville Jaguars assistant coaches are no longer in limbo.

Owner Shad Khan is allowing the assistants to look for other jobs while he continues interviewing general manager candidates, a person familiar with the situation said Friday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team has not publically discussed details of the process.

Khan fired GM Gene Smith on Monday and has since been crisscrossing the country interviewing potential replacements. He has spoken with Atlanta's David Caldwell, San Francisco's Tom Gamble and Marc Ross of the New York Giants.

The new GM is expected to decide the fate of coach Mike Mularkey, who went 2-14 in his first season in Jacksonville.

Since Mularkey's assistants are under contract for 2013, Khan could have prevented them from talking to other clubs. Instead, he's giving them an opportunity to line something up in case they are not retained.

Khan, however, still could block any of the assistants from leaving since they are under contract.

Mularkey, meanwhile, can only wait things out.

If Khan wanted to fire Mularkey, he probably would have done it Monday. So keeping him around and allowing him to at least meet with the new GM gives Mularkey a chance to stick around longer.

The Jaguars made little, if any, progress in his first season. They ranked 29th in total offense and 30th in defense.

Talent was the biggest issue, and Smith took the fall for assimilating a lackluster roster over the last four seasons.

Mularkey could be next.

For several of his assistants, this is the third consecutive year of offseason uncertainty.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, defensive line coach Joe Cullen, linebackers coach Mark Duffner and offensive line coach Andy Heck were unsure whether they would have jobs following the 2010 season. Owner Wayne Weaver decided to keep coach Jack Del Rio and his staff in January 2011, but declined to give them contract extensions, creating a lame-duck situation in 2011.

After Del Rio was fired, they again were left wondering about their futures. Mularkey ended up keeping them.

Now, though, they're back in a similar position.

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