Mullen’s plans for winning have fans stoked

Head Gator Football Coach Dan Mullen. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in Gainesville magazine.

Everyone thinks they know how to do it. Your barber, the dental technician who cleans your teeth, the guy selling lottery tickets at the convenience store.

They all could give you a plan. Because in the Gator Nation, everyone has an opinion of what Florida needs to get back to where it once belonged.

But only one opinion matters.

Only one plan will be implemented.

Two plans, actually.

One plan for right now. One plan for later.

“You have a plan for this year, how we’re coaching and managing, making the transition and how to win with this year’s team,” said Florida football coach Dan Mullen. “And you have the long range program plan, which is to build this program to consistently compete for championships.”

He talks a good game.

And Gator Nation is listening.

Because he has the rings.

In four seasons at UF, Mullen was the offensive coordinator for two national championship teams. Sandwiched in between the 2006 and ‘08 titles was Tim Tebow’s Heisman Trophy year.

The credentials were never in doubt, especially when he made Mississippi State relevant in his first head coaching job.

“It’s amazing what he did there,” said Urban Meyer, the former UF coach who was Mullen’s boss. “When Mississippi State came up, I thought, ‘Here is a guy from New Hampshire. How is he going to recruit and finish there?’ But he did. Dan is a very intelligent guy.”

Mullen went to Starkville with a plan, some of it taken from Meyer, and elevated a once downtrodden program to the No. 1 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings at one point.

Here, at Florida, he brings some of it with him. But not all of it.

“It’s a little bit different, even though there are some similarities, because the program is different,” Mullen said. “The outline is almost identical but the how we implement the outline is going to be different because we have to adapt it to the program here because of what The University of Florida is.

“There are things that worked in Starkville that might not work here and things that will work here we didn’t use in Starkville.”

You remember Meyer’s Plan to Win that he always talked about?

Play great defense.

Win the kicking game.

Win the turnover battle.

Score in the red zone.

Pretty simple.

“It can’t be too hard to remember,” Meyer said. “You have to understand what you’re trying to do.”

But that goes back to the immediate plan Mullen is trying to install, one that will be in full use when the Gators open the season. At the same time, Phase Two has already been put to work.

“The plan to win that he had was very individually game-based,” Mullen said. “You can build your program with a little bit of that, play great defense to have a championship team.

“In the big picture, it’s a little bit different in terms of things I learned at Mississippi State and things I learned with Urban.”

The master plan isn’t very complicated either.

It starts with recruiting.

“The combination of evaluating the right players that fit the program and get the right players into the program,” Mullen said.

Then there is the unification of the Gator Nation. We’ve seen it at work already with Mullen’s visits to the student body, his tireless speaking tour, his efforts to get Gator fans excited again.

It has been awhile.

“I was a little bit surprised,” Mullen said. “It’s kind of a weird thing. There seems to be a lot of excitement. There are people who want to be excited. I probably haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about why they weren’t excited the last couple of years.”

Two four-win seasons in the last five years will beat the enthusiasm right out of a fan base. Don’t forget, these are fans who took SEC titles for granted and expected to play for national championships, so much so that just winning a couple of East titles in 2015 and ‘16 didn’t register high on the excitement meter. Since Meyer left, Florida football has been on a roller-coaster ride that left Gator fans with more queasiness than heart-in-your-throat thrills.

To build this program back to where the expectations used to be is going to be a process.

“A lot of it is making sure we all have to be on the same page to be successful,” Mullen said. “For us to win, we’re going to have to be the Gator Nation again.

“We’re going to need the student body, the administration. All of us working together is going to make us win as long as everyone understands that their personal investment in our success will be rewarded in the end.”


Because the biggest part of the big plan is to make Florida what it used to be, what everyone knows it can be, what everyone has seen it achieve under Steve Spurrier and Meyer.

That is job one.

“Get the program established and then build leadership from within,” Mullen said. “The players have ownership in the program. That is why we have brought so many players back into the program, to make sure our players understand what the program means.

“We’re trying to set the bar as coaches and we want to get the players to buy in. They’re buying in but there are little things. How do we handle all the different adversities that we face. They’ve put in some work and seen their bodies change but how do they handle the grind? Can we handle pushing through and putting in the work to be a great team?”

In so many ways, Mullen was exactly the coach Florida needed. While the administration was pursuing Chip Kelly, there was hardly a unanimous feeling that he would be the guy to unite a fractured fan base.

UF needed someone who wanted to be at Florida, who understood Florida, who grasped what it meant to be a Gator.

More than anything, what Florida needed was a guy who would make the people who buy orange and blue everything feel they were as important a part of the program as any of the players or coaches. They had been pushed away and insulted by Jim McElwain, whose plan was to circle the wagons and not let anyone in.

Mullen wants everybody in.

And when Florida started talking to Mullen about the job, there were several calls to his old boss.

“I told him it was a no-brainer,” Meyer said.

Perhaps Mullen should have been brought back sooner. Doesn’t matter.

He’s here now.


  1. Dooley – I could care less about any opinion that comes out of the lying mouth of Urban Meyer. You persist to push his opinion on Gator Nation…and I challenge you to answer why. Why do you have such an infatuation with a man of such poor moral fiber who lacks a fundamental moral compass? Why Dooley??? I was enjoying this article right up until you started your Urban loving again.

      • And probably because regardless of his moral fiber, the man knows Dan Mullen and has a qualified opinion on whether CDM would be a good HBC for UF. I didn’t see any Meyer loving in this one but understand the reaction to want nothing to do with him in the current climate.

        • The current climate? What about the climate of 2009: “I quit! Oh wait a minute I changed my mind.” Or the climate of 2010 when Meyer phoned it in? And then there was the climate of 2011 when he told Stefon Diggs’ parents he wouldn’t let his son go to Florida because it was a, “broken program,” neglecting to include that HE was the person that broke it. It continued with the climate of 2012 when that paragon of virtue and integrity turned in the Gators for recruiting violations that turned out not to be?

          In all kinds of weather, Meyer is is a lying, dissembling, self-centered terminus of the digestive tract, and I would not cross the street to relieve myself on him were he ablaze.

          Rant over…

          • So I guess you would “gladly” give up the two national championships as well? You sound like a guy who is still mad at his ex-girlfriend for breaking up with him 8 years ago. Be glad we won, be glad he’s gone and get over it. It’s not not healthy brother. Sad for you reply over…

    • James, how much less could you care? since you said you could care less. The phrase is , I could NOT care less, meaning your caring is minimal or non-existent! Since you are trashing a man who gave this university some of the best years we ever had, I figured I’d give you an english lesson.

      • daz…..half the people need an english lesson when it comes to that phrase. If one says “I could care less” instead of “I couldn’t care less”, he is really saying there are a lot more things out there that I care less about, so this one is no big deal.
        Glad you pointed that out.

  2. James:

    Admittedly, Meyers’ departure didn’t sit well with the Gators and I felt the hurt both when he left and especially after taking the OSU position. But I also remember how tremendous the program was both with the national championships, the Heisman and the truly AWESOME football that we had here. I wouldn’t trade that for anything. Whatever he was going through during and after his time in Gainesville, I am glad Meyer was our coach and thankful for what he brought to the Gator Nation.

    • Good for you. You must also remember that roughly 1/3 of his recruits were arrested and that we were being compared to Miami of the 80s. Give me the dignity of Spurrier (and a lone NC) as our HC during the Zook and Meyer years and I would gladly give back the 2 NCs Meyer’s team won. How you win is important.

      • How you win is important, James — nobody is saying it isn’t, and nobody is disagreeing with you on that and related points. You are, however, letting your hatred of a man cloud your judgement regarding his opinions about the other part of his job: Coaching football. Take a breath, logic trumps affect in this situation and for you to trash Pat Dooley in the process is poor form, bud.

  3. Good article, Pat. I am all-in on Dan Mullen! It’s great being 0-0 as a head coach, but seriously, I feel like Dan’s doing things much better than they have around here in a long time. I wonder if the fans that are straight-up vitriolic about Urban Meyer are willing to give back the 2 National Championships and the Heisman he helped U.F. win? Sad there is so much unforgiveness, still, about Urban the coach.

    • Hindsight is 20/20. I loved what Urban brought to the table from a football standpoint. Obviously he looked the other way too often. That being said, it was a great 6 years on Saturdays. Wouldn’t trade it away. I don’t mind his opinion from an x’s and o’s standpoint. Anything else, I could care less.

      • SoCal Gator. Very well stated. Urban Meyer is a great football coach and he was at Florida as well. One can separate the coaching from the character of the man. Would I want Urban Meyer back at Florida? Absolutely not. Would I give back the two NC under Meyer? Absolutely not. I feel very strongly that Mullen is going to bring championship football back to The Swamp, with coaching and character. Absolutely yes.

        • I wouldn’t give them back either and am thankful he came AND left. By his own admission, the program was broken and he couldn’t keep up the success the way he mishandled the program…but it sure was fun going into every game knowing he had a good chance to win instead of hoping our defense can stifle the other team’s offense just enough so that we can score with a pick six.

          I will also ALWAYS remember the extra timeouts against Georgia. I had a grin on my face through the night sleeping.

        • Tampa…Meyer’s last year at Florida was not an example of great coaching. His heart was not in it but he took his job back to collect one more big paycheck before abandoning the program. His failure to stay on top of things at the end and his obvious weak-backboned disheveling about his reasons for jumping ship made a lot of gator fans turn sour on him. Hard to get that bad taste to go away.

    • “…are willing to give back the 2 National Championships and the Heisman he helped U.F. win?”

      In a word, “Yes!” if it could erase the stain of Hernandez, the Pouncey twins, and the other thugs that he allowed into our university.

  4. Urban made mistakes. He left us in a manger that became the dumpster fire we’ve been in. But he coached us well. Did he sell his soul for some of the recruits? The more time that passes says yes. At least for me I didn’t learn much of the info until later. His ethics were not what we think of as Gator fans. I think his leaving was a sign his conscience was eating at him for his transgressions. For some there are physical issues that arise from guilt. Maybe he learned from his mistakes maybe not. Her lead us willingly to two NC. That is fact. Because of what we’ve learned in the time since he wanted to win at all costs. Mullen was here in that time. He seems to be of much better moral character. I hope he has learned from his boss mistakes and will bring us back to relevance with a moral compass.

  5. Coach Urban Meyer is and will always be one of the Foremost Gator HB Coaches to ever walk the UF sidelines!

    Thank you Coach Meyer for 3, 13-1 seasons, 2 SEC – 2 National Championships and a Heisman Trophy Winning QB! Coach Mullen in my opinion will follow with Championships of his own like SOS and Meyer Go Gators!

  6. A dental technologist (dental laboratory technician) is a member of the dental team who, upon prescription from a dental clinician, constructs custom made restorative and dental appliances.

    Dental hygienists clean teeth, examine patients for signs of oral diseases such as gingivitis, and provide other preventive dental care. They also educate patients on ways to improve and maintain good oral health.

  7. I and other fans did not support Yellow Teeth because he was a liar and an incompetent boob. He sucked as a head coach, and it was obvious in those mediocre teams that stumbled into SEC East titles due to the fact the other teams were even worse. Coaches who suck will not be supported anywhere! No fans at any school cheer for coaches suck! That is reality. It has nothing to do with Gator fans being different. It has to do with a very simple fact– no one wants a coach who sucks. No one! That’s why even the worst programs in AMERICA fire coaches who suck. No one wants them. No one! It made zero difference to me that he circled the wagons or was mean to the assistant lacrosse coach.

    If Yellow Teeth had won an Sec title or at least competed for one no one would care that he didn’t know how to be nice to assistant coaches. But he sucked and the team did not come close to wining the SEC and it did not improve but got worse instead of better. Baka exposed the yellow toothed wonder as a fraud and a clown and that is why he is gone — because he sucked not because he was bad at telling jokes at booster barbecues.

    • I agree that MAC was a disaster of epic proportion. If we look at this a different way of our coaching past. SOS great Coach and recruiter brought us to relevance with class NC
      Zook couldn’t get it done but was a great recruiter and left the cabinet full for Meyer.
      Meyer great coach 2 NC but little moral fiber.
      Muschamp Poor Head Coach would have been a great DC. Too fixed on his ways to see that things weren’t working. May mature in a less pressure intense environment. May not
      MAC Awful head coach who must have had a great interview to get the job. An old phrase if you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance. Baffle then with your BS. Personal note. I have never watched interviews that left me with a what was he talking about response every time. Dazed and confused.
      Mullen good head coach (may be great but time will tell) Seems like he is pointing us in the right direction. Cannot let things slip through the cracks. He has said these are young people that will make mistakes As long as he doesn’t lose his integrity for a win (it could hurt us in wins) and sit someone out or remove them from the team, we as fans can take the high road.

    • Yellow Teeth sucks and he has a weird obsession with shark erotica!!!!!!! Also, his teeth are stupid and he needs to brush them new and then with some sort of acid that burn the yellow fish juice off his deformed teeth! This is the reality!

    • Tampa, very well stated! The facts clearly supported the conclusion that Mac was not a competent head coach, and his dismissal was much needed. Personal attacks on him such as Jaws continues to throw out on this site are unwarranted. As I have stated on this site previously, we are excited about having Coach Mullen on board, and we should be moving on from the constant attacks on Mac, Musch and even the Zooker. The future for Gator football appears bright, so let’s embrace the present and look forward to once again enjoying Saturdays in the Fall!

      • Dude your cracking me up. I would normally agree with the “way to serious about everthingers” but the way Chester Cheetos Teeth disgraced our program with fake death threats and poor dental hygiene makes me think anything is fair game. Plus the man couldn’t put two complete sentences together so there’s that too.

    • There must be no age restrictions to post on this site or else the new enhanced bot has been turned off. It’s letting men stuck in the adolescent stage who migrated to another site (hint: it has the letters h,a,t,e,r in the middle of its name) in protest against Gatorsports return to spew and spread their vitriol.

  8. The whole force behind Pat’s article is that the right man for the job has finally arrived in Gainesville. Too bad Foley set us back for a decade, but we can now start to build with a guy that doesn’t need a learner’s permit or OJT to figure out how to win in the SEC. Dan clearly understands what Zook and Champ didn’t and MacTard never could.

  9. Dooley all that matters is winning. He can do all the gator chomps and talks to all the people he wants. If he doesn’t win he’s not welcome as a gators coach. I’m a die hard gator. Mullen is a nice energetic guy no doubt about it. But his rings don’t matter so quit bringing that up. Those teams were Urban Meyers teams. Whether we like Meyer or not; Meyer won those NC not Mullen. And Meyer went on to win another at another school. I’m suspect of Mullen. I’m not the biggest fan of the hire Becuase I’m not impressed by his credentials. I accept him Becuase I guess he was the best of the leftovers after frost and Kelly turned us down. But with a career 7-5 record in 9 years. A losing record in the SEC 33-36 in 9 years. Never once finishing higher than 4th out 7 teams in 9 years in the SEC west. 7-34 against Top 25 teams in 9 years. Being a QB guru; however his last two years at Miss State his teams finished below Florida in NCAA passing rankings. That’s bad guys. I apologize if I hold my excitement until I see it proven on the field year after year like it was by Meyer and Spurrier. I’m not going to appoint Mullen the next Spurrier or Meyer until he earns it. Speaking and talking is just that. He’s got to earn this Bull Gators respect. I’ve been down this road too many times as a gator fan. I will except leftovers for now. Time will tell if it is truly leftovers or actually a 5-Star meal.

    • Bobby, I sure as hell respect your opinion despite disagreeing with it. But while this may be a mouse turd as we enter a new era, we always knew Frost was a Nebraska guy in the same way Spurrier was a Florida guy before he came home. And, I think the record clearly shows that while we flirted with Kelly, we in the final analysis passed on him — not the other way around as has become the popular misconception. I don’t believe in any way, shape, or form that makes Dan Mullen a “leftover”.

      I think you’ve got it backwards as far as earning your respect. Dan Mullen should have your respect automatically as the choice for head coach, with the reserved provision that he can damn well lose it. That is what you meant, I’m sure.

      • Nice reply and again we can agree to disagree. I agree 100% frost is like spurrier. No ill will there. I’m a Florida alumn and die hard gator. I always respect the gators and the university. But it doesn’t mean I blindly have to support a coaching hire I’m not that thrilled with. I’m a scientist by training and a former collegiate athlete. Stats speak for themselves. There is nothing sexy or encouraging about Mullen’s stats. I’m also open minded. I’m subject to change my opinion if Mullen proves himself to be Gator caliber. Mullen has done nothing to receive the hype and praise he has received. His stats are all just over or just below .500 which makes him mediocre by definition. I apologize if mediocrity does not get me excited. I’m always excited for Florida, just not for this staff yet. So I will reserve my respect for them once they earn this alumns respect.

        • Fair enough Bobby — I’m a scientist-professional too by training, and I will never throw rocks at you for going by what the data tells you. Just that when you partial out certain things, it may tell you something different is all, and this is a case where that portion of subjectivity clearly meets with objectivity. Like you say, we’ll just agree to disagree until all the data are in one way or the other (ahem…at which time, of course, I’ll be right and you will have been wrong!). Note: If I wasn’t stuck with an outdated version of Windows 7, I’d insert a little smiley face emoji here so you’d know I’m only kidding.

      • 6 If someone looked at Mullen’s record in the SEC 33-39 over 9 years if you looked at it a little closer there is a pattern 2010,2014,2017 he had great years in the west. Why that is how the recruiting cycle fell and his top players went to the draft or aged out. That has been his problem in that division. So much so that even at 4-4 in two of those years MST was nationally ranked. For those looking for flashy I believe Muschamp was supposed to be that the great coach in waiting from UT and that got us? Tampa is more than right about lack of depth at MST. To compare Mullen to Richt is unfair. Richt had a huge pool of recruits often better than us and couldn’t get to the big dance. Mullen didn’t have those resources. Look at the geographic location of MST 2017 est 25K+. UF has more students than the population of the town. Totally different in resources. To recruit someone to go there is a challenge by itself. Bobby he has to earn all our respect. Left overs I do think so. Meyer went 57-10 with Mullen as his OC over all 32-8 in the conferences they were in together. Frost had two good years at UCF but that conf. isn’t in our league. We to Mac because he had some success in the mountain west and look where that go us. I would take a couch from the SEC over most in the country. Not because I am an SEC homer. This conference is a juggernaut and one of the hardest places to be on top. If Mullen or any coach stayed at MST they will never be perineal leaders in that division let alone the conference. Yet Mullen had one of the best runs in their school history.

  10. Agreed, I think Dan Mullen puts us in Richtatory, the purgatory for an championship program. Becuase he doesn’t know how to win the big game we will consistently be 8-9 win team with an occasional double digit win season. But he’s no spurrier or Meyer. I see Mullen as a stop gap until the we find the next championship coach. Also as a result I see a reversal of the 90’s for us. Florida fans better get used to losing to Georgia and FSU. With a record of 7-34 against Top 25 teams it’s hard to imagine us coming out the victors routinely against these programs. Don’t get me wrong he will beat them on occasion. But based on 9 year stats, it definitely won’t be the norm.

    • Bobby. Mullen recruited and coached at the highest level in Mississippi State football history, and he left MSU with talent good enough for the new coach there to compete for the West title this year. If you watched the Bama vs. Miss. State game last year, MSU dominated that game for three quarters on both sides of the ball and Mullen had Saban going out of his mind, as his team was being controlled physically by Mullen’s players for those three plus quarters. But MSU did not have the depth, because no MSU coach can bring enough top players to hang with teams like Bama for four quarters most of the time, to close out the game in their favor. You could see that the lack of depth wore them down and Bama and Saban took advantage late to win the game. Mullen is a brilliant head coach and can match coaching wits, game day, with any coach in America. And he will rebuild the Florida program into a national title contender. I would not be surprise if Florida wins 10 or 11 games this year, if Franks or one of the other QBs makes a big leap in performance this year and the OL plays decently. Big ifs, but these new coaches have the skills to make it happen. But the other question is, does this year’s Florida team have the depth and enough experience in that depth to win the East. We will soon see. Go Gators.

      • Tampa agree 100% I have followed Mullen since he left and when possible watched those games. Bobby is correct in stats but in that division ALA, AUB, LSU have all the recruiting momentum and now A&M (not sure they were there when Mullen started.) Mullen did and amazing job. He recruited here, Knows what we want, Wants to be here. I don’t feel by any means he was a left over. I personally would have had an issue with Kelly (wavering moral compass would have lead us astray). Frost wanted to go home and even though he coached UCF to a perfect season he may be (I don’t think so) lucky. I think we can be a top 10 team in short order. I think we can be a top five team with a little more time. The whole Div. I is always changing everyone wants to be on top. Our time is coming. Go Gators!!!🐊

    • I just don’t see that at all. At this point, I really can’t think of another coach in America not named Saban that I’d rather have as the Gator Coach. This is probably an 8 win team this year, but the coaching staff is a clear improvement over last year and there is talent on this team so 10-11 wins would not be impossible. If this team shows marked improvement and dare say if they win 10+ games, look for recruiting to get back into Top 5 territory every year, sooner rather than later.

      Coach Dan Mullen will win championships at UF (and I’m not just talking about the SEC East). Take that to Vegas.

  11. Personally, at this point, I do not like Urban Meyer. I think that he is a liar that would do whatever necessary to push his agenda, which is winning. That being said, I appreciate the fact that he was able to coach here and bring 2 national championships. I liked him while he was here and what he did for the program. Now that he is gone, good riddance. I don’t need to hear his opinion. Pat won’t say any disparaging remarks about Meyer because he still wants to be able to text him and get a response back. Pat needs to take a page out of Mike Bianchi from the Orlando Sentinels playbook. Bianchi minces no words when it comes to exposing who Meyer truly is.

  12. Funny to see folks salty about Meyer leaving us. You are the reason why. You act like you’ve never lied before. Get over yourselves already! Great article Pat, no matter what some of these chucklehead say. Not going to lie, I felt like it was a bit of a let down when they hired Mullen. I like most wanted to see a “splash” hire like Kelly or Frost, but we have Mullen and perhaps it is for the best. He def understands UF and if he could play down roots here like he did at MSU that’s a plus. Tired of coaching searches every few years. For this year all I expect is a team that gives relentless effort as he had promised they will. A offense that ranks, oh I dunno, in the top 50? But most importantly I want this team to stop being a team other teams can circle on their calendar as a easy W. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think, so I will be eagerly watching this season. Keep up the good work Pat, enjoy your articles like always.

    • I would never grow tired of a coaching search to replace our fake bb coach, little Mikey White.
      One more season and hopefully he’s out! This season will be much like last when he loses too many times when favored. I think of White as being like a docile Don DeVoe — clueless without the vitriol. White is not qualified to be HC at any SEC school, let alone a heavyweight like Florida, and should never have been hired.

      • bf: White’s resume at UF:
        2015–16 — 21–15 overall, 9–9 and T–8th in the SEC, reached NIT Quarterfinals
        2016–17 — 27–9 overall, 14–4 and 2nd in SEC, reached NCAA Elite Eight
        2017–18 — 21–13, 11–7 and 3rd in SEC, reached NCAA Round of 32
        Pretty solid accomplishments to be a HC at any big-time program. Strong hire.
        This site has grown into a No Troll Zone.

        • When you reply, I know I’m doing something right. Trusting also that you don’t consider my post as trolling. Just stating my opinion, as many here do. Or, is it trolling to post about basketball on a football story?

          We just disagree about his “accomplishments.” As mentioned in many of my posts, it’s one thing to lose games as underdogs or slight underdogs, but he loses too many when favored. You can check that he lost more games last year as a favorite than any other major conference, Div. 1 HC.

          He has a roster this season that probably should be a Sweet 16 team — won’t happen under White.