The Back Nine: No worries, Gator Nation, Cowboys go different direction for coach

Florida coach Dan Mullen, center, watches from the sideline in the first half of Saturday's game against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Back Nine comes at you after an interesting weekend that included an amazing game at Exactech Arena and a wild, wild wild-card over two days.

  1. It feels like Florida fans exhaled en masse Monday morning when the news broke that the Dallas Cowboys were hiring Mike McCarthy, who is who I thought Jerry Jones would hire all along. Of course, the Dan Mullen speculation made Gator fans nervous and you can believe there was interest from the Cowboys. I’m not saying they would have hired Mullen, but they at least floated it out there and found out Mullen is happy where he is. The last thing Florida needed was to go coach-shopping again, especially at this late date. Instead, Mullen continues to keep the momentum going from the Orange Bowl win with transfers and recruits. Now, the big question concerns Todd Grantham, who is on Mississippi State’s short list. He would happily accept the job if offered, but you know there is also going to be NFL interest again. 
  2. I have to admit I was surprised coach Joe Moorhead was let go by Mississippi State, but chalk that up as the first win of Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss coaching career. It appeared Moorhead was safe until Kiffin was hired and for two weeks everybody was falling all over themselves because Kiffin was back in the SEC. That, and a bad performance in the bowl game, made Moorhead the fourth different coach to get canned in this conference this year. It’s a reactionary league and nowhere is it more reactionary than in the state of Mississippi. A Mississippi media friend and I were talking about where those two jobs rank and I decided to give my SEC rankings for best jobs. And it goes something like this:
  3. Alabama
  4. LSU 
  5. Georgia
  6. Florida
  7. Texas A&M
  8. Auburn
  9. Tennessee
  10. South Carolina
  11. Kentucky
  12. Ole Miss
  13. Missouri
  14. Miss. State
  15. Arkansas
  16. Vanderbilt   

Feel free to disagree.

  1. If it was the end of the Tom Brady Era in New England, it sure went out with a whimper. A lot of people still believe he’s going to stay in New England, but the truth is nobody knows. My daughter asked me Saturday night why the Pats wouldn’t keep him and I really didn’t have an answer. I have great respect for Brady (if only because of his appearances in “Ted 2” and “Living With Yourself), but a team would have to be desperate at quarterback to take him for a couple of years. (Jacksonville is on Line 2). Anyway, the first round of the playoffs was entertaining with three of the four road teams winning and the Saints getting their annual terrible no-call on pass interference. New Orleans fans should start referring to the NFL as the No Flags League. Which was more laughable — the NFL’s explanation of the no-call on Kyle Rudolph on pass interference or the explanation about why Jadeveon Clowney did not get a penalty for spearing Carson Wentz helmet to helmet? Discuss. Oh, and we’ll see the opposite this weekend with three home teams winning and the Seahawks being the only road team to win. Book it.
  2. This is ridiculous to think about, but today is the first day of game week for the national championship of college football. It feels like the semifinals were a month ago. Only the geniuses of college football could screw up a four-team playoff. This comes from the same group that gave you semifinal games on New Year’s Eve and a championship game in the college football hotbed of Santa Clara, Calif. Sometimes I think we should not go to an eight-team playoff because it only increases the chances for college football to mess it up even more. And I still believe LSU is going to kill Clemson. 
  3. The decision by Tua Tagovailoa to enter the NFL draft was neither the right one or the wrong one. It was his. There were a lot of people who love college football who wanted to watch him play for another year. This is a guy who changed the way Alabama played football, one of the biggest culture shifts in the history of the sport. But we all knew that a player who had dealt with injuries the last two years probably needed to go out. What will follow is a complete building up (he’s going to be the fourth pick in the draft) and a complete tearing down (nobody should take a chance on him in the first round) of Tagovailoa before the actual draft. All I know is that the NFL is going to be a lot more fun with Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow in the league.
  4. If you were at the O-Dome Saturday night for the double-OT thriller against Alabama, it probably made your weekend. If you were not, well, we missed you. It was one of the most improbable wins in Gator history and was much needed before UF goes on the road for two straight SEC games. Mike White said after the game that while he hopes this sparks the Gators to bigger and better things, “We’ve got to get over this quickly.” And one concern is that Florida will have five players who were on the floor for at least 30 intense minutes (Noah Locke played 44:35, Andrew Nembhard 41:01) while South Carolina will suit up tonight without having played a game in eight days. That last Gamecocks game was a stunning loss to Stetson, which came on the heels of a stunning win over Virginia. Yes, you can color me stunned. Bottom line — we don’t know what to expect from either team, so it could be fun? Maybe?
  5. There was an interesting column by ESPN’s Jay Bilas that topped his power rankings (Florida was No. 34) about officiating in college basketball. Of course, White received only his fourth technical in five years (and it was deserved) because he was so incensed with the officiating in the Florida-Alabama game. White does not get on officials that much, which is why I thought it was weak of Alabama coach Nate Oats to suggest White got a “T” to get the calls going his way. (If that was the case, why not do it every time you fall behind? Again, he has FOUR in five years, although Florida did outscore Alabama 54-35 after the technical). I’m getting off point here, which was Bilas writing about how officials have been let down by the people making the rules and that it’s gumming up the game. Again. “Freedom of movement on college basketball is dead,” Bilas wrote. “To be clear, this is not a problem with officials, it is a problem with officiating.” I agree the officials should not be worrying about flopping (who cares if a guy flops trying to draw a foul?) and enforcing the coaches’ box restrictions. My biggest issue with basketball officials is and always will be a lack of consistency. But that’s not an easy problem to solve.  
  6. The Tweet of the Week comes from @MasterTes from The Bleacher Report — “Nick Saban and Bill Belichick should film another HBO special with all this time on their hands.” Ouch. Yeah, it feels like a strange way to start 2020 with Alabama celebrating a Citrus Bowl win and the Patriots losing a home wild card playoff game. Can’t wait to see what is next.
  7. I hope everybody was able to “Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New” as the great George Harrison sang. I included a short video of that song on Twitter and then I started working on this playlist:

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at



  1. On #11, I agree with Pat on the top 3 jobs in the SEC. It’s reflected in their annual recruiting rankings the past 5 years. I might have placed Texas A&M ahead of Florida, strictly based on their commitment to spend whatever it takes to give their HBC all the support he needs to win championships, but I guess they don’t have the modern championship tradition the Gators have, so its close either way.

    I’m a little surprised at how low he ranked the Arkansas job. Although, I guess any program that doesn’t give their new HBC at least 3 seasons to implement his program must be in pretty bad shape indeed… which brings to mind that dumpster fire in Tally, but I digress!

  2. I’m not sure exactly what criteria comprise a “best job”.

    At first blush. given that these are SEC rankings, I took it as somehow indicating that Alabama is the 12th best job in the country and so on……but that can’t be what it means.

    And I fail to see the nexus between Kiffin and the firing of Moorhead. Explanation for us idjuts?

    • 6, I think Pat was jokingly following his Back 9 format and he was already up to #11. So, #1 went down as #12 and on from there. Bad joke if it must be explained.

      On Moorhead, my guess is that the MSU admin was already unhappy with their bowl loss as icing on an unsatisfactory season, on the heels of an equally unsatisfactory 2018. Their main source of dissatisfaction is his boring, low-scoring offense. Sound familiar?

      Then, Ole Miss comes along and hires Kiffin. That delivers a clear message that THEY will have an exciting, wide open offense (plus whatever other flash and antics come along with the Kiffin package.) And the MSU administration decided right then that it was time to cut their losses BEFORE Kiffin got a year to make the A-B comparison to potential recruits.

      The problem MSU now has is the same as that of Arkansas. What promising young coach will gamble his promising career on a second tier program that won’t even give him 3 or 4 years to get his recruits playing in his system before judging him. Notice Arkansas didn’t hire a promising young coordinator or Group of 5 HBC.

      • Thanks, I get the reasoning now.

        Had he been given more time, Kiffin or no Kiffin, might he have turned it around? Pruitt appears to be on the verge of doing just that, and surely MSU wasn’t in those kinds of dire straights when Mullen left for Florida.

        • Hard to tell. Moorhead went from Penn St to MSU with an excellent OC pedigree and some HBC experience, but he ran more of a pro-style offense. Perhaps, he didn’t have the right personnel for his offense, perhaps he didn’t hire good defensive assistants. He definitely didn’t get enough time.

          Regardless, IMHO, Moorhead’s biggest failing was on defense, not offense. In the 7 games MSU lost, their opponents averaged 38 points allowed. You’re not going to win too many games while allowing 38 points a game.

        • And now, as the late, great Paul Harvey used to say, we get “the rest of the story.” Apparently, MSU just lured Mike Leach out of Washington St to take over their HBC job!

          With Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss and Mike Leach (the crazy pirate lover) at MSU, the SEC just got A LOT more entertaining!


  3. Tau: Everyone on TV has been discussing NFL verses Staying. Well, there is one obvious issue nobody seems to want to even mention: What if Tau has played his last football game ever??!! I bet “the Doctors” aren’t guarantying Tau anything concerning being to safely play NFL football with his major broken hip injury. Hopefully it a option? Everyone needs to get real about the situation. Reading between the lines a Saban interview yesterday, he seemed to vaguely address the fact they just don’t currently know.

    Obviously the USC job is the best SEC position…no winning season, no worries, LOL, easy money.