The Back Nine: Inquiries during coach search not job offers

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University of Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, left, smiles as he talks to Florida's new football coach Dan Mullen after Mullen arrived at the airport in Gainesville on Monday. (AP Photo/Mark Long)

The Back Nine comes at you a couple of days late, because something happened Monday and that sound you heard was the collective popping of corks by the legitimate media boys and girls because another coaching search has ended.

10. As this crazy carousel of coaching searches continues, there are two things to remember — 1. Not everything on Twitter is real (which I think you already knew); 2. When a school inquires about a coach or even talks to him, he is not being offered the job necessarily. Athletic directors talk to a lot of agents and a lot of reps and a lot of coaches before settling on the guy they want to go after. Certainly, there is some semantics in play here. An AD may say to a coach, “So if we offered you this and this would you be interested?” And the coach might say no and you move on. Florida was definitely interested in Chip Kelly, but he wasn’t about to go to the SEC when he could go to the Pac-12. The great Chris Dufresne of TMGSports wrote a terrific column about why Kelly is the smartest coach in the world because he didn’t fit in the SEC and preferred a job in a city where UCLA might be the sixth or seventh biggest story. He fits at UCLA. The SEC isn’t for everybody. Instead, Florida got a coach who knows the SEC, knows how fierce it is and how mean it can be and wants to be a part of it. In the end, things couldn’t have worked out better for the Gators.

11. I went back and looked at the over/unders posted in the preseason for all of the SEC teams and seven of the 14 teams actually exceeded their projected win totals. Four were under (Florida by a lot, Tennessee by almost as much, Arkansas and Vandy) and three of them will have new coaches next year (there were two pushes). The ACC likes to point out that their league has dominated the SEC at the in-state rivalry level over the past three years (13-3) but this year the SEC went 5-4 overall against the ACC, 6-4 if you count Notre Dame. We all know that the perception of the league will come down to the national championship, which is a little myopic. Bowl games are just exhibitions. And a special shout out to those of you who picked Auburn to win the West and you know who you are.

12. We all knew Florida would probably have a drop off defensively because the Gators were so young in 2017. Florida is 31st nationally with the championship games to go. That’s not a terrible drop off, but Florida’s last nine defenses have finished the season ranked 15th or higher with eight of them in the top nine. Still, defense wasn’t the problem, as you all know. The narrative on Florida for the last several years has been if the offense could just get into the top 50, the Gators could be a championship team. The final numbers on this season:

• First downs — 118th.

• Rushing — 78th.

• Passing — 101st.

• Total offense — 112th.

• Long plays from scrimmage — 107th.

If Mullen’s offense gets consecutive first downs next season, they may start work on sculpting a statue.

13. Some quick thoughts on college football before we switch gears:

• Agents are making a killing and certainly are making the sport disgustingly bloated financially. It gets more and more difficult to argue that players don’t need to be paid when coaches are getting paid millions of dollars and then more millions when they don’t do their jobs.

• The real winner in the coaching changes in the SEC East is Kirby Smart, because of Florida paying Mullen $6 million a year and Tennessee offered Mike Gundy $7 million a year, Smart, at $3.5 million a year, is about to get a giant raise.

• The early signing period really sped up the coaching searches to the point of being ridiculous. Scott Stricklin made this point the other night that Nick Saban was hired in January of 2007 by Alabama. You can’t wait that long anymore. If nothing else, the fan bases won’t allow it.

• Who would have thought that the worst thing Alabama could have done this season was make a tackle on FSU’s quarterback and knock him out for the year. What looked like a huge win now resonates with a loud meh for the College Football Playoff Committee because the Seminoles’ season went south after Deondre Francois went down. I think the Tide is out no matter what happens this weekend, because of the lack of quality wins. But the committee also seems to change its criteria week to week so we’ll see.

14. I have had a bunch of people say this to me — “So Florida is a Final Four team, huh?” Well, no. There are no Final Four teams. You might think you know who will be there at the end, but that’s the beauty of March Madness. Nobody knows. Florida is a really good team that is exciting to watch, but we all know it comes down to match-ups, last-second shots and avoiding upsets if you are a high seed. If John Egbunu comes back in January and is the same player he was when he was injured last year, it helps solve UF’s biggest defensive problem. In two games at the wonderful PK80 tournament, the Gators gave up 69 points and 27 rebounds to the ridiculously talented Johnathan Williams and Marvin Bagley. That’s a problem. Egbunu should make a difference, but who knows if the Gators will see two guys like that in March? The point is that there are no guarantees in The Dance. And it’s a long way to go.

15. Count me among the golf geeks who is excited about Tiger Woods teeing it up today. Not that anybody should expect too much even if the word out of the Bahamas is that he’s looking good. “I’m winging this,” he said, “because I don’t know what my body can and can’t do yet.” I just hope he stays healthy. Golf is much more interesting with Tiger playing. If he’s legitimately competing, man, you may have to switch over from the boring NFL games Sunday.

16. We would be remiss not to grasp the incredible Mary Wise and what she has done at Florida. To win 900 times is ridiculous and Gator fans should treasure her and what she has meant to volleyball and to this community. Tonight, she takes her team into the jungle that is postseason play and she and this team deserve your support. Again, she has a Final Four-type team but there are no guarantees. The only real guarantee is that she’s a tremendous coach and a better person.

17. The Tweet of the Week came from James Guarantano, the father of Tennessee quarterback Jarrett (you knew it had to be Tennessee related) — “I have a fair question for all the Vol fans that protested the (Greg) Schiano hire. When our AD hires our next HC, and if all of you ‘like’ the hire, are the players allowed to protest and say that’s not who they wanted? Get ready cause Pandora’s box just got opened!” Ya think?

18. Maybe now we can go back to important things such as Christmas shopping and Camellia Bowl prep work. Seriously, we are 16 days away from the opening of bowl season. At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and that your seat belt is correctly fastened. And check out this playlist:

• “Midnight” by Tor Miller.

• “Nothing Without You” by Big Moon.

• “The Joke” by Brandi Carlisle.

• “Zombie” by Langhorne Slim.

• And for an old one from one of my faves, “A Well Respected Man” by The Kinks.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

41 COMMENTS

  1. ”…a (clean) tackle on FSU’s quarterback and knock(ed) him out for the year.” ~Pat Dooley.
    Goes to show us (football fans) what we already knew, the Q.B. play is so very important in all of football (just ask Archie’s son). And Lord willing, FLORIDA FOOTBALL will have much improved play at that important position… and hopefully, by as early as ”the Orange and Blue game” in April 2018.

    • Yes – perhaps in 2018 our first team will solidly defeat the second team in the O/B game – and if the coach says the OLine is a strength, the coach knows what he is talking about. I for one am very hopeful.

  2. The truth is hard to come by. Saving face is much easier.

    The whole school flew to see Kelly because they wanted to test his interest level. Don’t think the whole school flew to see Mullen because they didn’t want to test his interest level. Frost I think fits the gauging of interest; Kelly not so much.

    Supposedly black and white but really nothing but gray. <<Journalism

  3. The Dog and Pony show for Kelly was sad to see just to gauge interest. If would have been done for Frost, he would be the head coach. Willing to give Mullen his due and chance at the wheel. QB is the key, which one ? Corral, Fields, Trask, Allen ? Not sold on Frank’s being salvage material. Cannon Arm/Head Case. May need to transfer. Played right and Gators are a win/win on Dec. 20th. Wrong and Gators lose Corral and Fields. Very troubling thought.

    • How about to gage suitability rather than just interest. Typical interviews for critical individuals who have no background have a large and diverse group. That is what most likely happened, interviews are always a two way street, or at least they should be.

      • Spot on Vulcan. Though action past, action completed, now time to focus on the future. Thank God we didn’t have to go through what the Vols are facing now, there’s an athletic department that used to be among the nation’s finest, currently in so much dysfunction that they probably need to clean house and start all over again.

    • In that case I’m glad it wasn’t done for Frost. We got the proven SEC winning coach not the young hot-in-the-moment coach coming off his one excellent season at a scrub school who may or may not be able to replicate that success at the next level. If you think about it Frost is Mac 2.0

    • Frost was never interested in the UF job. He is going to Neb to restore them to their former glory. What alumni would not want to do that (ala SOS). The Florida job was merely a neg tool.

  4. Do you see Mullen’s staff focusing less on defensive recruiting?

    All I’ve heard about so far are offensive players.

    Is Grantham a good recruiter?

    • Todd, I think his history at MSU says otherwise, but really when you look at the defense, the expected slippage this year wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Pathetic offense has been the main problem though, so I imagine that’s the main effort right now. I hear Grantham is a recruiter, but all I’ve consistently heard about him is that he’s mean as a damn snake as to aggressive defenses.

  5. From the day he committed, Corral has expressed his excitement and eagerness to get here and play for the Gators, and has reportedly been encouraging other prospects to join him here. Fields has already said “no thanks”. Everyone keeps shouting how important it is to really WANT to be a Gator, and this re-recruitment of Fields seems like a real slap in the face to Corral. Hard to ask for loyalty when you show little in return. Just my thoughts.

    • How well did 5 Star John Brantley work out in the Spread Option?

      Did you learn anything from that fiasco.

      The formula to Mullen’s offense isn’t a mystery. A big tough QB. Corral may not be that guy. Fields might.

      • BBQ Sauce, I try to learn new things every day. No doubt Brantley was a bad fit in Meyer’s spread offense following Tebow. But from everything I have read, Corral is a much better athlete and stronger than Brantley. There are many versions of a “spread” offense, and Mullen has stated that he adapts his offense to the strengths of his players. I won’t argue that Corral may not be “the guy” and Fields might. I’m simply commenting that the treatment of Corral feels a bit low brow to me after the way he has so positively embodied what we want to see from Gator players.

    • I worried a little about the same type of thing, Dan, when Mac was going so hard to get Ziare, when Franks looked to be the real deal. See your point though….hard to say these days who gets their nose out of joint and who doesn’t.

  6. Your sermon on what people should is a little beyond your job description. Mullen was not my 1st choice mostly because it’s difficult to gauge success when viewing through the prism of MSU. He has swayed me with his passion to except challenge of all that encompasses Gator Football. In spite of my being swayed by the new coach whom I hope becomes very successful I do think Stricklin made a number df miscalculations on his 1st big hire. That given most people are not perfect the 1st time out. The only thing that truly matters will be the coaches record and championships obtained. For anyone to proclaim this hire to be the best or worst is either a fortune teller or an idiot. What I will say is the coach seems to be embracing the job and is a high energy traits which have been lacking for awhile. Hopefully these attributes will translate into championships. Go Gators Go Coach Mullen

  7. Agree with your sentiments on agents, salaries for coaches, and buyouts. Major schools, however, do not appear to be going into debt to pay the salaries and buyouts. These traditionally “non-profit” institutions are awash in cash from media rights deals, shoe company sponsorships, booster contributions, etc. The unanswered question in this industry is what will be the effects of cord cutting on future media rights deals? If the effect is a reduction in dollars from these sources, then how will the schools pay for the palatial facilities coaches demand, and will coaches salaries be impacted?

  8. In retrospect, even though I think Kelly is a good coach, it doesn’t look like he had the stones to coach in the SEC. He doesn’t want any part of that. Our conference often makes these pinball offenses in the West look mediocre. Look at last year’s OK/ Bama game .Look at the 714 points OK scored before they met us in the NC game in 08. They scored, 14–about 35 below their average. Kelly will look better in California, and I’m sure he’ll hope he doesn’t have to play a team from the SEC in any playoff game if UCLA is lucky enough to get there.

  9. Pat, thanks for the facts, namely the absolutely putrid offense stats of the last season. In my mind you are digging the dark hole of Foley’s legacy that much deeper. With DM we are on a road of recovery and it will be fun.

  10. I’m still trying to get the concept that it is the AD’s fault that a coach such as Chip Kelly or Scott Frost chose to take jobs other than UF.

    • Ludacris, I know!! Kelly and Frost were never really interested in UF. It was just a negotiating tool. That is how things are done these days. See Willie Taggart’s agent leaking UF being interested in him and how that and FSU sniffing around got him a raise. The agent gets a piece of that!!!

    • Well, they both ignored all the media outlets saying Florida was by far the best job when comparing UCLA and Nebraska. Frost swayed by his alma mater – understandable. Kelly? He just ducked us so doing a short stint in coaching UCLA (he won’t be there long) and drinking wine on the left coast is what he needs to do. Most people out there don’t give a rats azz about CFB. Most students at UCLA wouldn’t know Chip Kelly from a telephone pole.

  11. a lot of good comments from dooley and #16 gets special mention. #17, that’s quite a question 2. for now, the gator management, has probably recruited 200 guys in 8 years, I bet 100 made it to the nfl and 40 are still there. that’s a 50% shot at a 500k career, free education with some status, and the extra status of fans knowing you…ok if you don’t pay the guys I get it. I get supporting the athletic dept. because they are doing this in sport after sport. Baseball? natl championship, elite draft picks, etc. basketball, same, and some guys making 100 million. and with coaches who produce really big money guys (mullen has $200 million of qbs if you include cam newton that he brought to UF, billy Gonzales with odell beckham, harvin and others, another 50 million). so lets just have the fans pick the coaches for a while, please. sure I’d do it different, but my guess is UF has to be the best overall in terms of how well its athletes have done after leaving school.

  12. After UF’s meeting or interview with Kelly, I am thinking the committee didn’t like what they saw and decided to move on. Thank god.

    Had Tennessee cleared the Jon Gruden frenzy off the table, like Florida did Kelly, maybe things would have worked out better for them and Greg Schiano Go Gators!

  13. Pat, as usual, doesn’t have a clue when it comes to football. To claim that Chip Kelly was just the subject of an “inquiry” and not offered the UF job is ludicrous, and it’s just another example of how stupid Pat really is. The same thing can be said for Scott Frost, although it never got that far since he made it clear he wasn’t interested in coming to Florida. In the real world, not the fantasy one that Pat lives in, Mullen was, at best, the third choice to become UF’s head coach. Now, it is true that he may turn out to be the best choice, but this nonsense about “inquiries” is just another sign that Dooley should have retired a long time ago because he’s past the point of even caring about about reality. Also, he’s dumb to quote stats about UF’s defense. In aces any of you are as dense as pat, yards don’t determine the outcome of a game, and there’s only one stat that does. You play to win, and points determine who wins. UF, as of now is 109th in points on offense and 73rd in points allowed on defense.
    It’s silly to talk about yards, such as the nuts, like pat, who boasted about FSU only gaining 216 yards against UF, while UF had 280. FSU moved the ball when they needed to, and the game was over midway through the second quarter when FSU went ahead 24-7. UF was done then, and everyone knew it. UF out gained FSU 280-216, in yards. But 72 yards came on UF’s final possession when they scored a meaningless TD in the waning seconds to make the score 38-22, instead of 38-16. But, if you pay attention to yards, like the clueless Dololey, UF won the game, instead of getting boat-raced by FSU. The only person I can think of that’s more out to sea than Dooley is Bob Redman, who should be institutionalized because he’s completely insane. He said UF “outplayed” FSU “a bunch” … Is it a prerequisite for Gator Beat writers to be basket cases? You have to wonder when guys like Zach Alboverdi and the rest are scrutinized for what they say. What’s amazing is that they have no shame. Like the psychopath in the White House, they seem to not ever remember how ludicrous they look.

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