4 Things Wrong With Florida Football Right Now
The Florida Gators just fired head coach Dan Mullen. What went wrong with a program which made the SEC Championship Game last year and scored 46 points against Alabama? How did this situation unravel so quickly? Mullen seemed to be doing a relatively good job, but then in a relatively short period of time, he went from respected coach to fired coach. What is going on here? A few answers rise above the others.
1 – Recruiting
The main reason Florida fell off the pace was recruiting. Dan Mullen had the view that he could scheme and play-design his way out of any trouble spot. He could win any game against any opponent by being more creative and clever than his adversaries. To be sure, Mullen is one of the best play-callers and X-and-O guys in college football. It enabled him to develop Dak Prescott at Mississippi State, where the Bulldogs were very briefly the No. 1 team in the country under his leadership in 2014. Mullen’s ability to develop quarterbacks was on display not only with Dak Prescott at Mississippi State, but at Florida last year with Kyle Trask. It’s understandable that Mullen trusted his own strengths a lot. However, he simply didn’t realize that he needed to keep pace in recruiting in order to remain at the top of the SEC. Mullen did win the SEC East Division championship last season, but he failed to beat Georgia and Kirby Smart the previous three years. Recruiting is the reason. Smart has destroyed Mullen in recruiting. Georgia loads up with five-star talent on par with Alabama. It’s why Georgia has a very good chance of making a second national championship game appearance in the past five seasons. It’s true that when Georgia has less-than-great talent, Kirby Smart doesn’t develop that talent. Mullen is good at doing more with less. The problem is that Florida consistently recruited less productively than Georgia over several years. That caught up with Mullen this year, and now he’s gone.
2 – Todd Grantham
The defensive coordinator is gone – he was fired just before Mullen was this November – but he left a lot of damage behind. Grantham could not coach defenses well enough to get off the field in third and long situations. Florida gave up too many long-yardage third down conversions to opposing offenses. Florida had a leaky pass defense and did not get the high-impact production it needed from its pass rushers. Grantham was not the elite coordinator Dan Mullen needed to create a larger margin of error for Florida’s offense. Instead, Grantham reduced that margin for error, and Mullen allowed Grantham to stay on the job far longer than he ever should have.
3 – Lack Of Accountability
Dan Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin had a very close and positive relationship, having worked together at Mississippi State University. That relationship might have been too cozy, because Stricklin did not hold Mullen accountable or demand change when things went south. This flawed dynamic was allowed to persist far too long. It hurt Florida in the end.
4 – Soft football
The Gators were not a very tough team in the Mullen era. It wasn’t just their defense under Grantham. Georgia physically bullied them in most games, and the Bulldogs have set the standard in the SEC East for physical football and greater brute strength at the line of scrimmage. Florida’s lack of recruiting prowess, combined with deficient strength and weight training, left the Gators at a clear disadvantage.