Buy-in factor a rare skill set

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Florida coach Dan Mullen, left, and coach Bill Belichick of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, talk during Florida's Pro Day on Wednesday. (Lauren Bacho/The Gainesville Sun ]

It was Wednesday, it was rainy and there were a lot of famous people in town. The red carpet to Florida Pro Day always has more A-listers when the team they are going to see won a bunch of games.

That’s a subtle part of the recruiting game these days, see which schools get Super Bowl champion coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots to be on the SEC Network’s coverage of men in shorts.

For Florida coach Dan Mullen, this was another important day (don’t they all seem important?) because he had some guys running around on the field who looked like pros.

“They helped me a lot,” said projected NFL first-round pick Jawaan Taylor. “We studied in the film room, learning more about the game, becoming a student of the game.

“And Coach (Nick) Savage changed my body.”

It’s kind of a cycle, one that places like Alabama and Clemson have perfected. You get good players, you win, you get better players, you win, those players buy houses for their moms with their NFL paychecks, you win.

You win, and people notice.

This, said Jachai Polite, would have been a different scene instead of mini-cams wrestling for space to shoot over the heads of NFL scouts.

“The reason all these people are here is because we won,” Polite said. “If we had been 4-7 again, it wouldn’t have happened like this. It wouldn’t be like this.

“Teams don’t like losing players on their teams.”

There’s another benefit of a crowded Pro Day — the current players see what’s happening.

“It helps these guys watching,” Mullen said. “It makes it easier to buy in. Look at what these guys did in one year. What can I do in two or three?”

What indeed.

Wednesday was another step, as necessary as Friday Night Lights and morning runs. Mullen and his players are still riding the high of 10 wins and the Peach Bowl, but it’s more than artificial euphoria.

And this is a long way to go to get to the point of this column.

There are so many things Mullen has done to get this program headed in the right direction. It’s not there yet, but it’s pointed the right way.

He brought the Gator Nation under the tent, played cheerleader when necessary and ran just enough trick plays to satisfy the base.

And don’t get me wrong, all of those things, all of those minute details and major recruiting meals, all of them matter a lot.

But I believe the most important thing he did was convince his players he knows what he is doing.

Not every coach has that ability. Some win because they just have better players than everybody else. Some get out of their own way.

But the really great coaches get their players to believe they have a path to victory and if you will just listen and do what I say we can win this game.

It happened for Florida against Vanderbilt, down 18 points and sinking fast, that they started believing. Coaches love to talk about the “buy-in”, but there are all kinds.

You can buy into the weight program and nutrition and being the first one at practice and sprints. But the biggest buy-in is believing that your coaches are good at their jobs.

When the play comes in, you have to believe it will work, not wonder why he’s calling a draw on 3rd-and-15. You have to sell-out in the blitz because you know it’s going to work.

I’m not sure if it’s an acquired skill. But it’s a skill to get young men to put their careers in your hands.

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

33 COMMENTS

  1. I have NEVER been more embarrassed as a Gator fan than on opening day 2017 in Dallas. We were there, when the teams came onto the field for pregame warmups and my wife, who knows next to nothing about football, turned to me and said “Their players look bigger and meaner than ours do!”

    Michigan proceeded to push around and grind our Gators into the AT&T Stadium turf for 3 1/2 excruciating hours. Their D line toyed with our “vaunted” OL. If it hadn’t been for a couple of pick-sixes from their inept QB, the humiliation on the field would have been reflected on the score board too. I guess Scott Stricklin must have been embarrassed that day too, and for the same reason, because it only took him 6 more games to get rid of McElwhiner!

    So, I bought into CDM the day he brought Coach Savage to Hogtown and turned that joke of a S&C program the Gators had into a team asset. Everything else CDM accomplished last season just reinforced my belief that we finally had the right guy at the helm!

    GO GATORS!!!

    • Well said, St.L Gator, And I’ve been sick of losing to Michigan as recently as…. oh, never mind! But a Christian Pastor once said, C.H. Spurgeon, and I’m paraphrasing for U.F. football, and sports. But it’s applicable everywhere, and definitely with this, Pat’s article’s subject: ”It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things, but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, in the ordinary places and times, and among ordinary people -and this is NOT learned in 5 minutes.” See the correlation?
      ”Be exceptional in the little things,” and it will shine through in the ”exceptional moments and times,” like in the S.E.C.C.G., NCAA tourney, etc… Go Gators!

      • Wow.

        Man, I love it when you two guys post in tandem. Now, I personally think all us Gators bought into CDM way back when, when he was the OC here, and then again when he was at MSU and for what he was able to do there. We, of course, flirted with a couple of hotshots after Mac got the axe…….but in the end we got the best choice so further buy in was easy (for most of us, anyway). Then watching the eventual buy in that Mullen got from a tired, whipped team in his first season — not only them but the coaches as well — that was magical indeed.

        So GI, your paraphrasing of Spurgeon is very applicable. Reminds me that a master is truly one who has learned the fundamentals, over and over again, until he can do it in his sleep. Simple formula, but hard for a lot of folks to get.

        And by the way, we Gator fans who I suppose consider the “base” aren’t really satisfied by trick plays. True, we may cling to our guns and Bibles and may indeed be a basket of deplorables to some folks north of Hog Town……..but we are not dummies either. No, I’d say we are satisfied by winning and competing for championship much more than by trick plays. Hrrrumph.

          • True that George, but those commenters back then could be forgiven for wanting flashy offense after the horror show that was the Gator O for 8 years going.

            Note you don’t see much complaining posted any more, other than about Franks missing WIDE open receivers… as he stares down the OTHER SIDE of the field! 😡🤬🤯

          • I bought in from day one (but I’m not a player so I don’t count) but I did not dream that he’d be this good, this quick. It is premature I’m sure, but CDM looks like he has the skill set and personality and talent to be an all-time great coach. I’m just as excited today on March 31 as I was last March 31. We talked on this site a lot last summer and by the beginning of fall practice our expectations had gone through the roof. I started out last year thinking 8-4 would be as high as they could go…and they blew that out of the water.

            After spring practice I’ll take a peek at the schedule and set my initial expectation but I think at this moment, 8-4 is the floor for what this team can do.

          • I think that’s normal to be negative or whatever you want to call it especially in the beginning after so many bad years that we had. It’s human nature. No one has a crystal ball to predict these type of things and if we started losing then someone might say I was right etc. All that matters is that we are headed right direction and it’s great to see!

          • I think there were some cynics here and some doubters as well. All of you have brought some great points to the discussion. When Mac was hyping the OL I didn’t believe him because of previous actions and who he brought in to lead the way. STL you are dead on about the posters complaining of CDM. I am not for blindly following and I think some on the team took a little longer to get on board. Can’t blame them as they were told things by (2 prior regimes) for some of them how good the team is/was or how good they were or going to be. I had read some stuff and live close enough to Gainesville in a town loaded with people who claim to know a lot. There were a lot of stories about Muschamp and MAC which may or may not have been true but over time when what I saw on the field confirmed what I heard the stories weren’t too far off base. CDM seems to be a straight shooter and when he speaks (think back to the MAC pressers which left me thinking WTF!! imagine what the players thought.)
            GI’s comment was awesome and home run.
            Side note on trick plays. Keep your opponent off balance and do the unexpected. Call it a trick play or whatever you want being predictable makes you vulnerable.

        • Kind words indeed. You folks making comments on these articles are far more interesting and informed than when I used to try to post on the forum. And as for Gator trick plays, my favorite is made by the baseball team. We have runners on first and third. The runner on first takes off to steal second and, OOPS! falls down. The man on third takes off and scores. And we did it against FSU once. I lmao!

    • I was at that game too but was late to my seat. Apparently my wife’s tiny purse was too big to bring in and we had to find a good hiding spot for it outside Jerry World. When we did get in and we’re walking to our seats We heard a humongous roar as Franks threw a deep ball to the side line to…well I can’t remember who. What I do remember is being pissed that I missed the only positive gain we made on offense all day (at least of note).

      Embarrassing indeed.

      • Being an engineer and my first time in Dallas (you live in a great town,) I had to tour Jerry World before the game. So we got in there well over an hour early. What a magnificent facility!

        Too bad our Gators were so awful that day. It really put a damper on an otherwise great weekend.

  2. “But the really great coaches get their players to believe ”
    For many years I have made this comment here and elsewhere… Good coaches can teach, great coaches MOTIVATE! …It is a rare skill; the ability to motivate. People are paid alot of money to make motivational speeches. When you get a coach that can motivate a team you have a treasure that you should do everything to keep them. I was one who supported Coach Mullen from the start. I also supported Coach Meyer for the same reason, he knew how to motivate and thus has been successful at every school he has coached, from Bowling Green to Oh St! A rare commodity indeed. We now have a treasure just like Coach Spurrier was, lets not run him off like we did Spurrier with escalating demands and pressure(for those who dont know, Spurrier commented on this after he left UF, that’s not my opinion, but his). I for one will be glad for a winning season each year and anything else I will be grateful. He wont always do everything I think he should , but then no one on earth does, for any of us. I will just trust in Mullen and enjoy the ride. Its so hard to find a great coach, as we know so well, so lets keep him as long as we can! When he stubs his toe, as everyone does , even Saban, lets remember that. Nothing worse for a coach than an over demanding fan base.(not referring , nor does this apply to McElwain. We we just looking for good and couldnt get it, Im referring to how we made Spurrier feel). Fans can make it a pressure cooker and take all the fun out of it for a coach.
    Im glad for what coach White gave us this year. Sure I would have liked to have gone further, but Im grateful to have gotten to the Big Dance and that we competed all year. Im not going to trash him for not living up to some level I think he should as many are doing on here. He is not awful and did pretty good with what he had. I actually think he did a better job than donovan, getting his players to buy into playing defense. we had the best SEC defense. Just going to be grateful when we have good or better, coaches. We really are blessed with many great coaches at UF. Cant think of another school with as many great coaches. We have at least 1 and sometimes as many as 3 national championships each year in some sport. I think we are spoiled by all that success. Some schools wait decades for just 1 N.C. .

    • Daz …. you nailed it! Every fan wants his/her team to win it all..now. But that can’t happen. So in the interest of keeping very good coaches, fans should really learn to appreciate and be entertained by what great coaches do year in and year out and not run them out of town for an occasional down year.

      Now obviously when you have a coach that year in and year out recruits and coaches poorly, you need to make a change. But Coach Spurrier should NEVER have had to feel that kind of pressure. NEVER!!!

  3. I’ve been a Gator over 50 years, and I would have to say that the most disappointed I have ever been is when the HBC resigned and cited the unrealistic fan expectations ( pressure ) as the reason. Probably the 2nd most is when the same jacklegs that ran him off , refused to hire him back when he left the NFL a couple of years later. The man was and is our own personal “Moses” that led us out of Egypt ( SEC also ran’s ) and into the promised land ( multiple SEC champs and Natty ) so to speak, and should be cherished for the treasure that he is to our beloved University. He put us on the map , made us relevant and taught us how to be winners , both as a player and coach an everything that we are today, he laid the foundation for. At least to me, Urb for all the success that he brought us always felt like a hired mercenary, where as the HBC is a Gator to the bone and loves UF as much as we all do. He will always be my fave for these reasons. On a unrelated note, If he can just catch a break and stay healthy , I think Heggie could be our best O-lineman. He’s got the physical tools and the mean streak that is needed to play the position the right way. I really hope he can have a full year of 100% healthy to show us what he has. We shall see.

    • Pappa, us old timers who were around back then, remember those days sadly. However, if you go back and carefully reread SOS’s quotes from after his resignation, he very subtly DID NOT blame Gator Nation for his frustration. He’s a tremendous competitor who shared our desire to compete for NCs every season. He blamed the same “jacklegs” that refused to hire him back for not adequately supporting his holy mission in the first place. That’s why he delivered Mr. “Jacklegs” his resignation via cell phone… from a golf course… at the peak of recruiting season!

      BTW, we all know who Mr. “Jacklegs” is!!!

  4. Daz, with all due respect, the UNWAIVERING GOAL of the football, men’s basketball and baseball programs at UF IS to make THE FINAL 4 in their respective sport ANNUALLY. When IT happens with enough frequency over many years, the Gators will win our share of NCs in those 3 major sports and Gator Nation will be happy. When IT doesn’t happen with enough frequency over many years, Gator Nation is disappointed, demands change and usually gets it.

    Winning NCs in all the other varsity sports is nice, but will NEVER make up for mediocrity in the major 3 and particularly in football, which is king at UF. So, forgive Gator Nation if we don’t get all worked up when our teams just qualify for a NY-6 bowl, or the NCAA Tournament, or the College World Series. High fan expectation is the price of admission for any AD who want to run the UF Sports Department and any coach who wants to be in charge of one of the 3 major sports programs at UF. No whiners need apply (look up McElwhiner, James for my definition of a whiner.)

    Based on the above definition, the Gator basketball program, after 4 years under Mike White, is NOT meeting expectations. He hasn’t been able to recruit impactful big men, hasn’t made the Final 4 and hasn’t even made it out of the round of 32 the past 2 seasons. You can be satisfied with that level of performance if you wish, but to me, measured against Billy Donovan, Mike White has been average. And, average performers simply don’t hold onto head coaching jobs in the 3 major sports programs at UF… in the long run.

    Thankfully for Gator Nation, Mike White is a hard worker, not a whiner! That, and his youthful energy, are the reasons he’s still safely in his job after 4 very average season in charge of Gator basketball.

      • Thank you 6. The idea is to defend high standards without being negative. Trolling is way too easy.

        We shouldn’t try to run good coaches out of town after one or two bad seasons. Neither should we settle for average performances year after year after year just because we’re afraid to alienate good coaches. CDM could have gone elsewhere, yet he jumped at the chance to be the Gators’ HBC.

        There’s a reason for that!