The Missouri Tigers upended the Florida Gators, 24-23, on a two point conversion on Saturday night. And that, if we live in a world that makes any sense whatsoever, will be the last time Dan Mullen steps onto the field as the head coach of the Florida Gators in an SEC game.
I will always have high regard for Dan Mullen for his time at Florida as the offensive coordinator in 2005-08. I will always be grateful for the enjoyable and exciting 2018-2020 seasons he piloted. And I will always be thankful for the way he resurrected the broken culture that Jim McElwain allowed to permeate the locker room.
But though he did fix the broken culture that McElwain allowed to permeate his locker room, he then re-broke it by leading by example and quitting on his employer. With a few exceptions- Zach Carter, Dameon Pierce, Mohamoud Diabate and Kemore Gamble- the team followed its leader and did the same. There’s no objective way the South Carolina or Samford games play out the way they did if that wasn’t the case. The talent gap is so astronomical (particularly with Samford) that those results aren’t possible. And now, after Missouri- the fourth team to beat Florida as an underdog of a touchdown or more- pulled off its two point conversion, the last remaining argument in favor of patience with Dan Mullen is on his way out.
There will be no “what if he wins his last two games?” hypothetical to muddy the waters with, not that that would have changed any of the multitude of problems with his program to begin with, but now the best record he can possibly finish the regular season with is 6-6. We didn’t learn anything new tonight against Missouri; we simply had our pre-existing notions reaffirmed. We didn’t change anything about the case to fire Dan Mullen. It merely enhanced it with one more data point. But the one thing this result did change is the likelihood of Mullen’s departure. Now the conversation starts to shift from “who should replace Dan Mullen?” to “who will replace Dan Mullen?” The word “if” has now been changed to “when.”
Sources tell me that Dan Mullen more likely than not would not have been Florida’s head coach in 2022 had Florida won its final two games and finished 7-5. This loss moves the needle there from “more likely than not” to “all but a certainty.” He now has too many bosses and boosters to win back that he cannot win back. Too much respect from too many players has been lost and cannot be regained. And too much irreparable damage has been done to this program’s image for him to fix.
And it’s for the best for all involved. Dan Mullen clearly has no interest in being Florida’s head coach anymore. The various play-calling missteps- not to mention falling on the ball with 64 seconds left in a tie game, and 35-ish yards away from field goal range- against Missouri removed the last shred of doubt about that. Florida fans, other than the wholly irrational ones, don’t want him back in 2022. And the administration- yes, the same one that hired him- has grown weary of his antics, his attitude, and the results that stem from both.
So, Dan Mullen: I wish you the best of luck. Thank you for your four years of service as Florida’s offensive coordinator, two of which resulted in national titles. I won’t forget that. And thank you for putting us back on the map, albeit briefly. I won’t forget that, either.
But sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be. And it’s past the point of debating that your continued tenure at Florida has cemented itself in that category.