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If Florida Drops One Of Its Final Two Games, Should Dan Mullen Move On?

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In what has turned out to be an interesting season in the SEC, with one coach already heading out the door with a huge buyout, we might not be done yet with coaching turnover. It’s become apparent that the situation in Gainesville with Dan Mullen is heading down a dead end road.

It was only one week ago that Mullen fired two assistant coaches in what looked like a coordinated play to keep his job for the 2022 season. Well, turns out that plan backfired on Saturday, as FCS opponent Samford went into Gainesville and put up 52 points on the Gators. Mullen called the comeback win a “great win for the program,” which riled up the embarrassed fan base and boosters.

He had just fired his defensive coordinator and then allowed a school that lost to VMI a few weeks ago to come in and embarrass the defense he thought was going to change. Not the best strategy for a coach whose momentum hit a road block just over one month ago.

When Mullen was asked about the horrid performance over Samford and whether the win was not all it seemed, he doubled down when he should’ve read the room better.

“Calling a win ‘disappointing’ is disrespectful to the game and our players.”

No, dancing around in your locker room, knowing it’s going to be put on social media to act like things are going great in Gainesville, is the disrespectful part. Don’t act like things are going according to plan when the house is burning down around you. When every comment you make falls on deaf ears, you know there’s a problem.

What he should’ve done is sprint to Emory Jones and give him a big hug, thanking Jones for saving his job. But let’s face the reality of the situation in Gainesville. It’s not about what you’ve done for me in the past, it’s about what are you doing for me now and what you will do for me in the future. So hold all the talk about how the team isn’t playing to the “Gator Standard,” which we’ve heard on repeat like the new Adele song that was released last week. I’m not tired of hearing Adele, but I would like to push the pause button on every clichéd phrase that comes out of a Mullen press conference. It’s not working anymore, and the players are proving the point.

So now the Gators have two games left in the regular season, and if Mullen loses one of them, then he will possibly be cleaning out his office around the first week in December. How is AD Scott Stricklin going to sell the program to the boosters who write those big checks or the fans who purchase those season tickets? The easy answer is he can’t, but nothing is ever easy in college football, especially with an athletic director and head coach who have been together for over a decade. But Stricklin knows that his job is to steer the football program in the right direction, which he thought Dan Mullen was handling.

In all honesty, this decision about the future of Dan Mullen shouldn’t rely on whether he beats Missouri and FSU, but that’s the world we live in, especially with a $12 million buyout on the table. If Stricklin doesn’t think Mullen can lead the program for the next 5-10 years, then there’s not much of a conversation to be had. He should ask himself this question: Do I see Florida playing for a national championship in the next five years?

Longtime SEC analyst and talk show host Paul Finebaun had some pretty telling words about Dan Mullen this weekend after the ugly win over Samford.

“He tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes and acted like there was something to celebrate when it was truly a disgraceful afternoon in the annals of Florida football,” Finebaum said on ESPN’s College Football Podcast. “I think he lost, I think he lost big, just perusing some of the content across the country (Saturday night) and (Sunday). I was on a plane coming back at the time, and everybody on the plane was laughing at Florida and laughing at Mullen. I don’t know where he is right now.”

I’ve covered programs where you know things aren’t going to work out, even if you slap a band-aid on it, hoping it will fix the problem in the short-term. I hate to break it to the folks who want to keep Mullen around, but how is he going to fix something that is already shattered? Oh by the way, if he does somehow return to Florida for the 2022 season, every question will be centered around Mullen being on the hot seat. So, if you thought recruiting was bad at the moment, wait until other schools start using all of this as proof that Florida is a declining program.

I am not saying Florida can’t compete in the SEC East every few years, but that shouldn’t be the “Gator Standard” and the folks in Gainesville know it. It’s pretty wild to think that the biggest games of the Dan Mullen tenure are against Missouri and Florida State. But if he wants to keep his job at Florida, it would be wise for him to have his team ready to win both games.

Having a few nice postseason appearances looks good on a résumé, but it won’t get you far with the “Bull Gator” club, who make some of the important decisions at Florida with their checkbooks. If Scott Stricklin thinks Dan Mullen can do it, then he will go down with the head coach if they don’t get it right.

I’ll be interested to see how close the AD and HC really are, especially if their legacies are on the line. It looks like we’re about to find out.

Written by Trey Wallace

4 Comments

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  1. This year has been a giant disappointment, but I think you give him an ultimatum in case there were issues in the assistant coaching staff or the players in the locker room that were the root cause. If Mullen cleans house and the same problems are seen again next year then can him. It’s just that changing coaches sets you back a couple years…AGAIN, so that should only be the break the glass option. Then there’s this dynamic. The AD (Stricklin also came from MSU) bears responsibility if Mullen gets fired. If your guy goes down guess who’s going with him? So you may be talking about hitting the self destruct button on the entire program if Mullen goes.

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