Dooley: Mullen gets it, let’s give him time to fix it

Dan Mullen takes over as Florida new head football coach. (Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

Scott Stricklin heard from a lot of people from the state of Mississippi over the last 48 hours. Many of the texts and emails were less than complimentary.

But there was one message that stood out.

“He said, ‘I knew it was only a matter of time until some AD realized what Dan (Mullen) could do with elite talent,” Stricklin said.

He, of course, turned out to be that athletic director. But it was not as easy as simply going back to his alma mater to snatch a coach away.

In fact, that’s what made it more difficult.

“I was hoping to find someone better than Dan,” Stricklin said.

Before you read that the wrong way, here is what he meant — he didn’t want to do it to Mississippi State.

But with Chip Kelly opting for the more comfortable job and Scott Frost likely headed for his own alma mater, there was an obvious choice that checked all of the boxes for the biggest hire of Stricklin’s career.

It made too much sense. But he had to make sure.

In the press box in Columbia, S.C., a few weeks ago, Stricklin and I talked about Mullen. His admiration for the man as a football coach, organizer and motivator came gushing out of his mouth. He felt he almost needed to step back because he knew Mullen too well.

“I talked to a lot of people,” Stricklin said. “We had a lot of names, but we focused on very few. Once I came to Florida and got away from Dan, I admired even more what he was doing.”

So finally on Friday, he made the call. By Sunday, he had his man.

For some Gator fans, it was a cringe-worthy choice. It’s hard to understand why, except that Mullen was a bit aloof when he was at Florida and that was a time when winning wasn’t enough.

You remember. The good old days.

But I have sensed that as it has sunk in and the reality has enveloped the Gator Nation, they’re getting it more with every passing hour.

Florida’s new head coach knows the school, the fans, the traditions. He knows offense. He has nine years as a head coach in the toughest league and the toughest division in America.

He has a bunch of rings. He considers Tim Tebow a member of his family. He came off the plane chomping like a Rowdy Reptile.

Stop me when you quit checking off the boxes in your head.

More than anything, Dan Mullen wants to be here. Really bad.

That’s kind of a big deal.

It was a winning news conference Monday at UF with former players scattered throughout the crowd. He’s 0-0 as a Florida head coach, but let’s count Monday’s early victories:

  1. He didn’t mention his dog or claim it could run his offense. (The Mullen dog, for the record, is named Heisman and started his career in Gainesville. So it’s a homecoming for Heisman, too.)
  2. He gets that Florida’s strength and conditioning needs some strengthening and conditioning.

“I told (the players)  to rest up in the month of December, because it’s probably going to be something like they’ve never experienced in their life with our offseason conditioning program,” Mullen said.

  1. He’s willing to open up some practices to the fans, especially in the spring. (He will also let freshmen talk once they have played in a game).
  2. He does a pretty good Steve Spurrier impression.

Now, if he can only do a really good Steve Spurrier impression calling ball plays.

  1. Everything he said about developing a quarterback and adapting to his strengths made sense. And yet, “You just can’t wave a wand and fix anybody,” might have been the smartest thing he said.

In the end, Florida did not go for the low-hanging fruit from the Nick Saban tree and instead went for the Urban Meyer branches. And what they have is a coach who has been weathered at the ripe young age of 45 by the battles of SEC football.

“I left here nine years ago, we did all the media, the press, you know, the introductions, all of these things. I walked in my office, sat down in the chair and I went, ‘What do I do now?’ “ Mullen said. ”There’s nothing that can prepare you for that responsibility of sitting in that chair and being the head coach.”

This time, the chair felt like a much better fit.

You don’t like his losing SEC record at Mississippi State? Don’t blame you. You love the fact that Florida’s two highest scoring offenses in school history came when he was calling plays? It’s a great point.

But what you think and what I think and what your neighbor thinks really are irrelevant. What the rest of the SEC East thinks doesn’t matter. (In Knoxville, here’s what they think — “When did Florida hire a new coach?”)

The only thing that matters is that Florida has a new coach. Whether or not it was a home run, well, we’re still watching from the dugout.

And it will be a long time before it comes down.

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

 

Pat Dooley :

View Comments (100)

  • I posted this when it broke we were think about hiring Mullen and I was crucified for not drinking the Kool-Aid.

    I love how the people on this board call you a troll if you give them fact’s that substantiate your belief that this hire was a total cluster and only made out of desperation. Gilmore and the rest of you dolts probably have never attended a game unless you were able to get someone to cover your shift at the burger joint you work at. As a 1990 graduate who also has a daughter who graduated from UF in 2015 and a son that is a junior @ UF who also owns 4 season tickets and has since 1992, I have just as much right (if not more based on the amount of money I have give this university) to make my opinion known. With a degree in engineer, I deal with facts, not hope. I can’t design a building hoping it will withstand hurricane force winds when all the #’s say it won’t. So, when all the numbers say we made a REALLY, REALLY bad decision on our head coach, that is what I am going to believe and what formulates my opinion. Obviously, many of you don’t have to deal with factual data in the decision making processes of your life. You make decision on “culture”, “fit”, “potential”, and other esoteric concepts fed to you by the company people (Tebow, SOS, Danny, etc). What do you expect them to say? They must toe the company line. The reality is we hired a coach with a 14% winning percentage against ranked opponents and a 45% winning percentage against SEC opponents. He has never had a recruiting class in the Top 30 and has singed exactly 2 5* recruits since 2012 (1 – 2013, 1 – 2016). He has had one 9 win season, his best season as a head coach. He has lost 21 times to unranked opponents @ home including South Alabama to open the season last year and Kentucky…the same Kentucky team we have beat like 30 times in a row (something like that). Those are the facts. If you were building a program to win NC’s, you would look at those stats and say, this isn’t going to get it done. And if that makes me a troll….so be it. At least I am not delusional.

    As will conclude this with the following invite to Albert that I extended to Rick Gillmore as well. Please feel free to meet me at the mezzanine area at the top of the stairs to Section 221 @ the Orange and Blue game. I will be wearing a long sleeve white shirt and a blue Gator cap. This will be your opportunity to be as brave in your name calling in person as you are on social media. I also will invite everyone else to come and watch Albert and Rick (one at a time please) maintain their bravado in person that they have here.

    • "Cover your shift at the burger joint you work at."

      Project much?

      I'm a season ticket holder from 81-95 when I moved out of state. As for working at a burger joint, no I went to UF not the clown college, where I believe fast food is a major course of study, probably more popular than the clown curriculum.

      No thank you Mikey, I think I will pass on the fries.

      Threats of physical violence...the last resort of those with caverns between their ears.

      Have a nice day...

    • Mikey
      1- degree in engineer??????????????????
      2- calling out internet posters to a physical confrontation?
      3- numbers and statistics can be manipulated to prove the point you are trying to make
      4- this is not science or "engineer" that deals with absolutes, you have to take those numbers in perspective. Did they come from a MAC program or from the SEC west? The same numbers tell a different story depending where they come from.

      • Previously you called Mullen a "mercenary" who "went to the highest bidder" and when you say stupid things like this is when people can mistake you for a troll and if not a troll then someone who says stupid things. Going from MSU to Florida alone is normal and anyone would do it. Getting a pay raise to boot is just icing on top. Again anyone would do it. A mercenary would have been Mike Gundy if he had left OSU to go to UT there he would have gone from a good, winning program to a dumpster fire and he would have done that solely for the $. Don't say stupid things if you don't want to be called a troll or worse.

        • You do realize that Tommy Tuberville was the first to label college football coaches as mercenaries? It was further used by Bobby Petrino at a news conference when he took over Louisville. If you wish to deflect (common approach of the undereducated and overwhelmed) the statistics provided on our new coach because I used a "possessive" punctuation on the word facts and my phone autocorrected engineering to engineer then so be it. Just because the truth in analytical form conflicts with your innate desire to be right does not make my position of standing in support of the statistics and record of our new HC "stupid" or make me a "troll". Sometimes you have to meet someone face to face to see just how much they believe in the insults they launch at you and the level of courage they can muster to support those insult when confronted in person.

    • Oh hell, I'll be there too Mike. I'll be the one wearing the Groucho Marx glasses and nose. Rick and Albert will probably be the two guys in gorilla suits, but I ain't sure yet.

      • you know we are good Gator. I am just sick of the attacks on me when I try to engage in an argument that is metrics based. Hope you have a great holiday season Gator and l am always up to meeting fellow Gators so please stop by and let's shake hands and root on our team together.

        • I just might fly out next year for the O&B. Would love to chew the fat over numbers and their meanings, plus get a chance to go see my FSU cousin and lord it over him! Especially if Jimbo actually does bolt, which I doubt he will, but c what's left for those guys to pick from by then may be a very sad situation out there.

  • I woke up this morning to a beautiful sun rise and realized I'm not a UT person in football hell with no way out or a Semi-hole waiting for the final word on A&M Jimbo. Praise the Lord for being a Gator with hope. I've been down on the UF process and now retreat to hope for the program. I believe Dan will be successful. Can he get us beyond the thresh whole of MSU W/Ls?

    I have a feeling Jimbo maybe thinking this is the time for BIG $$$ (+$7mil/yr, go for it). If he waits another year, you never know what might happen. The A&M Bird in Hand looks pretty good.

    • Tell you what DeWayne, if he goes to College Station to be close to the best medical care for his son, more power to him, good man. If he goes because he thinks it'll be a great job, then I don't know what to say about it other than he's probably going to wind up disappointed. Living here in Texas only an hour and a half way from TAMU, being an SEC guy to the core and as such a fan of the Aggies except for when they're playing Florida, I still say that.

  • I think most of us agree this guy needs three years to bring us "back". But if he doesn't there's not much likelihood a fourth, fifth, or sixth season will get us there. Isn't his contract for six years?

    • You know, I've been trying to think that through too, Black Dahlia. Now here's the rub: I think if he holds this current class together and maybe even adds a little to it, we'll be knocking on the door inside of 3 years and be very consistent thereafter. But if the on-hand talent is as bad as a lot of people think, and the recycle back is longer than that.....well, I hate to think of him being nipped in the bud before he gets the full, allotted contract time in. At least A&M gave Kevin Sumlin that, and despite everything negative said about him he's a pretty damn good coach but one who just couldn't get it done in the time frame he had. Dunno, maybe I'm off base c all that, but A&M has nearly about as dysfunctional an athletic department as the Vols do, and I'd sure hate for us to fall into that mold as well.

    • And yet, Butch, people still criticize it!

      (Damn, I wish I could stop doing that....I'm even annoying the hell outta myself!)

  • I was a bit disappointed at first as I wanted Frost. But now thinking it through, Mullen has the history here, knows this place, knows what he is getting into (again) and has 9 years of HBC experience at MSU. All good things, but the kicker was his thoughts and actions on Day 1 with the dedicated speech, Gator Chomp at the airport, wearing the 2009 Natty Championship ring (probably first time in forever). The guy WANTS TO BE HERE and showed it on Monday. I'm not disappointed anymore. This man is 10X the coach that Mac-in-the-Crack is. He knows football. He's our Head Gator, he's our Man, he GETS IT, we will have more trophies in the case because of him. GO GATORS!!!

  • I NORMALLY DO NOT AGREE WITH MUCH OF WHAT YOU SAY - THIS TIME WE ARE ON THE SAME SHEET OF GATOR MUSIC!

  • Pat, I know it's a moot point, and maybe I'm just being anal, but the two highest scoring offenses in Gator history were not Mullen's. They may have scored the most total points, but they were not the highest scoring in terms of points/game. From '06 forward teams have played an extra game, so Mullen's '07 and '08 Gator teams had added opportunity to score more total points. Mullen's highest scoring team, the '08 team at 43.6 points/game, is actually fourth all time behind Spurrier's '96 (46.6), '95 (44.5), and '01 (43.8) teams. Mullen's Gator teams are still in great company and were far better than we've had since he left, but give the HBC his due.

    • You're being anal and faithless. Have you ever even played the game of football? Or as Mike would write, "plaid"?

      • Yes, I've "plaid" a little, albeit high school, and watched a lot. I concede that Mullen's UF offenses were way better than we've had the last 8 years, I'm just partial to SOS. However, I don't think it's "faithless" to be concerned that MSU's passing offense is currently averaging fewer yards/game than UF with Franks at QB. That's not encouraging to me.

  • There should be some discussion of how we got here, and how drastic of a measure it was to short-circuit the season by firing the coach. I don't see why it couldn't have waited until the end of the season, to give the players the best chance to succeed. That's done.

    Dan Mullen should have been offered the job three years ago. He was then, and is even more so now, the ideal head coaching candidate. No one will out work Dan Mullen. He's a direct connection to a period of Gator greatness.

    His history with developing Gator QBs and an offense for them is enough to get him the Florida job. Chris Leak, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton are all on his resume. We've drifted in and out of different offensive schemes since he left Florida. He's got a handful to sort out in the off-season.

    You know and I know, and especially Dan Mullen knows, fans are not patient. They weren't patient for any Gator head coach, not even Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer who delivered national championships. They won't be patient for him.

  • I am excited by the change that will occur for the Gator Nation as we watch Coach Mullen rebuild our team from the ground up. Coach Mullen is a high caliber very focused HC who knows what changes are needed to return the Gators to the Top 10. He brings with him some fine coordinators, one of whom was our receivers coach during the Urban Meyer Era. His DC rescued the MSU Bulldog defense, reversing course in a single year from not being ranked in the top 100 to being ranked # 10. I have full faith and confidence in Coach Mullen. I agree with Dooley - we must give him time - you cannot fix a dysfunctional team overnight. There is plenty of talent already on the team, and DM and his staff will add more for next year. I predict 2-3 years and UF will be playing for the SEC title (remember that UGA has a jump on us right now). I predict that in 4-5 years UF will be in the national playoffs. DM could prove me wrong by doing it sooner! College football has become highly competitive and there are a lot of really good coaches and teams. GO GATORS!!!