Eighteen hours after an overtime loss to Missouri, the Dan Mullen era at Florida is officially over, according to multiple sources and corroborated by numerous additional reports. The firing is effective immediately.
Greg Knox will serve as the interim head coach for Florida’s season finale against FSU. He previously served one role in that game at Mississippi State, beating Louisville in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.
The Gators seemed to experience a Renaissance under Dan Mullen when he took over for Jim McElwain. Florida was flying high in the rarefied air atop the sport for the first 2.75 years of his tenure. In that time frame, Florida reached- and won- two New Year’s Six Bowls, and overtook a top five Georgia team to finally reclaim the SEC East in 2020. Heading into the 2020 season finale, Florida sat 29-6 under Mullen, and seemed poised for a de facto national quarterfinal game against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
But then Marco Wilson threw a shoe, and everything came unglued.
Florida sits a paltry 2-9 against Power Five opposition since then, with those of those two wins coming against a Vanderbilt team that East Tennessee State ripped apart 23-3. With recruiting in the tank, the team as a whole not looking interested in competing on a weekly basis, and losses piling up like autumn leaves, Florida had no choice but to make a move.
And for all the frustration that Dan Mullen has been responsible for in the last 1.25 seasons, there’s no other way to categorize this. It had to be done. It sucks. But it had to be done. There will be more time to unpack and eulogize the Dan Mullen era later. For now, though, suffice to say one thing.
I’m relieved that Mullen’s time at Florida is over. I’m not happy about it. I wanted to see him thrive. It simply wasn’t meant to be.
Mullen had a great situation going at Mississippi State, and willingly took the plunge at Florida. He had done great things in Gainesville as the offensive coordinator, but to take the head coaching job was an entirely different animal. He took that job with grace, but also with energy and excitement that had the fan base roaring with approval. Hell, he was my first choice to replace McElwain. And for 2.75 years, he delivered results that validated the hire, and the hype that came with it.
It would be very easy to blame Marco Wilson for the downfall of the program, and I will go to my grave believing that he did the single stupidest thing I have ever seen on a football field. But the truth of the matter is that Mullen did it all to himself.
His failure to fire Todd Grantham after the 2020 season, his various mishandlings of his personnel- most notably the burial of Kyle Trask until a broken leg forced him into action- and his general snark, arrogance, and unwillingness to adapt when the same things kept going wrong were what did him in. Mississippi State beat writers and fans even warned us about this when Florida first hired him.
He had to do things his way. He was always right, everyone else was always wrong. He knew best, nobody else knew anything. Until he didn’t, and losses began raining down on the program. Only when it was too late did he finally part with John Hevesy and Todd Grantham. Only when Feleipe Franks broke his ankle did Kyle Trask get a chance. And that’s no way for a football program to operate.
Everyone but Mullen knew the things he had to do to succeed at Florida. Or maybe Mullen did know and refused to do it. Regardless, he didn’t do those things, and thus, he crashed his own plane. He drowned himself. He caused his own demise. And for a man who showed so much promise, that’s nothing but disappointing.
I wish Dan Mullen and his family nothing but the best. I really think that Mullen did enjoy being a Gator, at least until things came off the rails. I’ll remember that. And I’ll remember the way he served as Urban Meyer’s right hand man at Florida from 2005-08, winning two national championships along the way.
Thank you, Dan. Good luck.