It has turned into another one of those years for Dan Mullen and the Gators. High expectations flattened by a few losses that should’ve been wins. Seems like we hear this a lot around the Gators football program, but this is the week Mullen could set the tone for the future. Even if Georgia enters the game as 13.5 point favorites.
We’ve all witnessed this type of situation before with Mullen, while he was at Mississippi State. The decision then was about playing Dak Prescott and how it could impact the future of that program at the time. Now, we sit wondering aloud whether Mullen will make the right call and start Anthony Richardson against Georgia. It seems like the right pick, as Richardson continued to flash his skills in the 2nd half against LSU. But things aren’t always easy for Mullen, who seems to enjoy the heat that he stirs up on a weekly basis. Mullen is like the bad boy wrestler back in the 90s who enjoys the fans booing him so he can then turn around, save the day, and bring on a chorus of cheers.
Unfortunately, it’s way too late for the cheers this season. This is more about saving Mullen’s job.
During the bye week, Mullen was asked about the quarterback situation and whether both Emory Jones and Richardson would play against the Dawgs.
“We’re really fortunate. We have two really good quarterbacks here. We’ve played them both in every game they’ve been healthy. I see us continuing down that path,” Mullen said.
Mullen may be extremely quiet about who will start against Georgia, as it does no good to announce it before kickoff anyway. But he can’t afford to play Emory Jones just because the young man has stuck with the program through the years. It’s pretty obvious which quarterback gives the team the best chance to score against this daunting Georgia defense. The pressure that either quarterback will face this weekend will be something he hasn’t seen all season. The Dawgs are ferocious and will come at them from multiple different areas, hoping to contain whichever QB is in.
Let’s not forget, Georgia has already beaten Arkansas, Auburn and Kentucky, who all resemble the Florida offense in different ways. So the Gators can’t hope to catch the Dawgs off-guard. They’d better have a guy who can make plays out of thin air. Dan Mullen continued to talk about the combination of both Jones and Richardson getting snaps, but playing both could end up stalling any offensive production.
“Both guys have played a bunch. They have experience. You have two guys that are a pretty good combination out on the field together.”
Let’s make something real clear about the Florida Gators. There should never be a complete rebuilding year. We all know what they lost last season on offense, but other schools just plug in the next guys. So either recruiting is the real problem and this staff can’t develop players, or Dan Mullen is starting to make choices that are hurting the program.
I don’t imagine anyone thought this team would play for a national championship this year, but I can promise you neither did they expect the Gators to be 4-3 on the season and be eliminated from the SEC East by Week Five. I also don’t imagine Gator fans thought they’d be watching another horrid year on defense, which has to be getting old by now.
We should also note that Dan Mullen isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. He has the backing of Scott Stricklin, who went to battle for him at Mississippi State. So, let’s kick that can down the road for a later time.
But that doesn’t mean Mullen will have the support of the Florida fan base, which can get a bit testy at times, forever. He needs to get the recruiting back on track, which will help bring results on the field.
But it all starts on Saturday in Jacksonville, as the Gators try to scrum up some kind of momentum heading into the final weeks of the season. This is the one game that could potentially steer things back into safe harbors. Beating the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs would do wonders for this football team and for future recruitment. But they have to stay close enough with them to be able to strike when the time is right. If they can, we know which quarterback gives them the best chance of causing the Georgia defense a few headaches.
It should be the Anthony Richardson show on Saturday afternoon. But with Dan Mullen, I am no longer surprised by his decisions. So you’ll most likely see some kind of QB shuffle on Saturday, as it just fits him too well.