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Dan Mullen: What went wrong?

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
What went wrong with Dan Mullen? How did it fall apart so quickly?
Looking back, I think Dan Mullen fell into the same trap as his two or three predecessors: even if his plan worked it was not built on a sustainable process. Maybe Mullen was not paying attention to the part where Meyer’s 2006 and 2008 teams were balanced on offense and defense, had top 10 recruiting classes and were at least in the top 40 in terms of fewest penalties. Off-field discipline was a problem he failed to fix at Florida and Ohio State. Meyer’s plan probably lacked sustainability that Saban’s plans have. Neither Muschamp nor McElwain has good plans to put in place or sustain over time.

Mullen fixed the offense, which made Gator football fun for the first time in a long time, but he let the defense and lack of discipline get worse over the years. He fixed off-field discipline for the most part. No need to rehash his lack of skill with recruiting. One thing he may take away from his experience at Florida is that loyalty to his buddies on the coaching staff should only go so far—as long as his hiring decisions do not get him fired. One thing he was never going to learn at Florida was innovation. NIL and facilities arm races may shape college football more than fancy offensive plays and exotic defensive schemes. This is not to say that innovation with offense and defense is not important, but I think innovation with talent management and facilities will overshadow innovation with new plays on the field.

What did Mullen do well? He certainly was familiar with the Gator Standard. Whether you like Urban Meyer or not, it was Meyer that restored the Gator Standard set by Steve Spurrier. Meyer elevated the standard set by Spurrier, but Meyer did not fully embrace the Gator culture that he had a hand in establishing. Mullen showed up in 2018 thinking he could dust off Meyer’s plan to succeed with high flying offense and that would have been sufficient. He knew defense was important, but he simply could not fire his buddy when the defense fell apart in 2020—as if COVID were a valid excuse for the defense. He knew offense alone could win games, but he failed to instill the foundational on-field discipline necessary to win games where the offense or defense was having a bad day. He arrogantly believed racking up more yards was sufficient to win games while overlooking the effect that penalties had on that slim margin of victory-or-defeat. He stubbornly remained loyal to a QB whose flawed fundamentals led to overthrows and interceptions.

How will Billy Napier avoid the mistakes made by Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and Dan Mullen? I think it will be a mix of Nick Saban’s Process and Napier’s Modernization to the Process that will overhaul the Gator program in the long run.
 

Leakfan12

VIP Member
Loyalty I believe was his downfall. Jones and Grantham, enough said. The Scary part is if not for two screw-ups by his DBs, Florida would have been in the playoffs and Mullen would be still there. The second was the DB fumbling the interception, recovered by Bama leading to a touchdown.
 

Escambia94

Aerospace Cubicle Engineer (ACE)
Moderator
Loyalty I believe was his downfall. Jones and Grantham, enough said. The Scary part is if not for two screw-ups by his DBs, Florida would have been in the playoffs and Mullen would be still there. The second was the DB fumbling the interception, recovered by Bama leading to a touchdown.
After I posted this I heard some podcasts discussing the same topic. What you are describing are three issues: 1) Mullen’s and Grantham’s lack of attention to detail in coaching and 2) lack of on-field accountability and 3) cronyism to a fault.

1. Both were good at Xs and Os, but neglected details that would let them overcome adversity. With both coaches the margin of victory was rather thin. When everything fell into place the offense and defense were both top-20. With a minor detail screwed up, either the offense or defense was crap. Only a handful of coaches focuses on those minor details, and by December 2020 it was not those two coaches.

2. Repeat my last paragraph but add in the lack of on-field accountability.

3. Now add loyalty/ cronyism to a fault.

Give them credit for coaching up 3 and 4 star athletes to perform head to head with 4 and 5 star athletes and for reducing the amount of off-field discipline issues. They failed at on-field discipline, and it really began to rear its head in December 2020. Maybe something happened in the personal lives of Mullen, Grantham, and Hevesy to led to those three factors being the downfall of Mullen’s Gators. Throw in the “recruiting bump” that happened in December 2020 that led to NCAA recruiting sanctions against Mullen and some of his staff and you have a broken Gator team from December 2020 to December 2021.

So far I do not see any signs of Napier’s staff having these issues.
 

DRU2012

Super Moderator
Staff member
Super Moderator
What went wrong with Dan Mullen? How did it fall apart so quickly?
Looking back, I think Dan Mullen fell into the same trap as his two or three predecessors: even if his plan worked it was not built on a sustainable process. Maybe Mullen was not paying attention to the part where Meyer’s 2006 and 2008 teams were balanced on offense and defense, had top 10 recruiting classes and were at least in the top 40 in terms of fewest penalties. Off-field discipline was a problem he failed to fix at Florida and Ohio State. Meyer’s plan probably lacked sustainability that Saban’s plans have. Neither Muschamp nor McElwain has good plans to put in place or sustain over time.

Mullen fixed the offense, which made Gator football fun for the first time in a long time, but he let the defense and lack of discipline get worse over the years. He fixed off-field discipline for the most part. No need to rehash his lack of skill with recruiting. One thing he may take away from his experience at Florida is that loyalty to his buddies on the coaching staff should only go so far—as long as his hiring decisions do not get him fired. One thing he was never going to learn at Florida was innovation. NIL and facilities arm races may shape college football more than fancy offensive plays and exotic defensive schemes. This is not to say that innovation with offense and defense is not important, but I think innovation with talent management and facilities will overshadow innovation with new plays on the field.

What did Mullen do well? He certainly was familiar with the Gator Standard. Whether you like Urban Meyer or not, it was Meyer that restored the Gator Standard set by Steve Spurrier. Meyer elevated the standard set by Spurrier, but Meyer did not fully embrace the Gator culture that he had a hand in establishing. Mullen showed up in 2018 thinking he could dust off Meyer’s plan to succeed with high flying offense and that would have been sufficient. He knew defense was important, but he simply could not fire his buddy when the defense fell apart in 2020—as if COVID were a valid excuse for the defense. He knew offense alone could win games, but he failed to instill the foundational on-field discipline necessary to win games where the offense or defense was having a bad day. He arrogantly believed racking up more yards was sufficient to win games while overlooking the effect that penalties had on that slim margin of victory-or-defeat. He stubbornly remained loyal to a QB whose flawed fundamentals led to overthrows and interceptions.

How will Billy Napier avoid the mistakes made by Urban Meyer, Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and Dan Mullen? I think it will be a mix of Nick Saban’s Process and Napier’s Modernization to the Process that will overhaul the Gator program in the long run.
What a great, in-depth analysis—and a very good place to begin to contrast the generation post-Spurrier with what our new Coach and staff are doing now...If you are right about the eventual outcome (which I am more and more coming to agree is at the very least his and their definite plan) of it aiming for a “mix between Saban’s Process and Napier’s modernization of it”, this WON’T be an overnight process—but success will come, and it will be solid and long term, when it does.
So far, so good. Admittedly, I WANT to believe; I have “believed before”, and been wrong, so I am consciously and intentionally cautious in how far and how FAST I go in embracing the growing optimism. But I am beginning to come around—thus far admittedly almost in SPITE of myself!
For the moment I continue to take things in stride, endeavor for now just to “let it all come to us”.
As long as this trend toward “attention to detail large and small”, in every phase, on and OFF the field, continues to be the focus, we should be OK.
 
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