David Wunderlich writes it’s his tendency to coach in a way that reduces his margin for error.
A second loss to Kentucky in four years gave Gator Nation the opportunity to air their frustrations with Dan Mullen. The grievances ranged from the details of individual play calls to the head coach’s overarching program management.
For as varied as they are, the complaints all boil down to one concept: margin for error. Mullen doesn’t always build it where he can, and he makes some decisions that actively reduce it. Without a large margin for error, unexpected events too often turn wins into losses. Let’s go from the small scale to the large to illustrate.
How many field goals get blocked? Not many. Then, how many of those blocked field goals get returned for touchdowns? Again, not many. The Wildcats’ second score on Saturday was an anomaly within an anomaly.
When you build up margin for error, low probability events don’t sink your team. That touchdown should’ve been a funny footnote that merely made the final margin a closer Florida win. Instead, it was a critical play that gave free points to a team that couldn’t score without a defensive bust or a short field.
Mullen played things conservatively all night, trying to trade some of the margin for error inherent in the quality gap between the teams for reducing the chances of a big play going against him. Such was even his actual explanation for not trying to score right before the half.
However, sometimes the universe doesn’t play along.
It’s a good argument, although I think I’d phrase it differently. Dan Mullen coaches Florida as if he’s still coaching at Mississippi State. There, it was all about avoiding the low percentage plays, taking few risks and maximizing a talent build up that would result in a great (for MSU, anyway) season every three or four years when the roster was experience-laden. It made sense there, because Mississippi State was never going to be a recruiting hotbed.
Mullen’s problem is that Gainesville, Florida should be a recruiting hotbed — it was when he was working for Corch a decade or so ago — but he’s not treating it like one. Old habits die hard.