“Dan Mullen’s biggest problem is…”

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.


Filed under Georgia Football

83 responses to ““Dan Mullen’s biggest problem is…”

  1. David D

    I think Mullen’s fundamental issue is this: When the going weird, the weird don’t recruit. He’ll probably turn pro.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 81Dog

      MuLLen isnt Florida’s Mark Richt. He probably isnt even their Ray Goff (which I kind of considered yesterday). Both were somewhat likeable. He MIGHT be their Paul Johnson. An “offensive genius” so sure of his system that he’s an indifferent recruiter, shrugs off talent gaps by claiming to be a developer of lesser talent, occasionally beats a big boy, never really wins crap, surly to the point of rudeness with the media, who he considers beneath him, hated as a snarky asshole by everyone he plays.

      Dan’s biggest problem? Dan MuLLen.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Comin' Down The Track

      I love the smell of an HST reference in the morning.


  2. Terry McCullers

    Great analysis Senator. I also think he’ll be gone in 2 years. The recruiting thing just ain’t his bag #FTMF

    Liked by 2 people

  3. akascuba

    When the FU AD that hired Mullen also came from MSU he sees Mullen’s 9-3/8-4 seasons that gets to a NY 6 bowl game annually he sees success. Best wishes for a long tenure for both AD and Corch.

    Liked by 6 people

  4. practicaldawg

    When you don’t have a loaded roster, you are always vulnerable to these kinds of losses, especially with a coach that historically matches his prep and energy level to the competition week to week. You can’t just “out talent” the other team when the talent gap isn’t that wide. We saw that last year with Mullen’s teams and were seeing it again this year.

    Mullen is in his 13th year as an SEC HC and he follows the same script he always has. He’s not going to change. Even in Florida’s magical 8-4 year last year, they had inexplicable losses. Those will continue to be a feature of Florida football while he’s there.

    Liked by 11 people

  5. RangerRuss

    MuLLen is a shithead. That’s his problem.

    Liked by 20 people

  6. Hogbody Spradlin

    Dan Mullen is sort of like Jim Donnan: A good technical coach on one side of the ball who is one Peter Principle level short of the job. Mullen’s also prickly like Donnan.
    Not to overly dig at Donnan, who has grown comfortable with himself lately and gets credit for a favorite quip: World’s Smallest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek

      Yep. He’s one of those guys who should have said:

      “I am an OC.”

      He’d be making less but have a whole lot less headaches.

      Liked by 3 people

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Sorry, Donnan had his faults, but recruiting wasn’t one of them by any stretch of the imagination.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Donnan was also a fantastic talent evaluator. He just worked his way up to a job that was too big for him. Pissing off the good ole boys from jump didn’t help his cause any.


        • ericstrattonrushchairmandamngladtomeetyou

          I wish people wouldn’t badmouth Donnan. He’s actually the guy who turned the program around. If you take out his first season (to be fair you should give him 1 year to get the Goof out of the team) he was 35-13. That’s basically the same winning percentage as Dooley and Richt and only slightly behind Kirby. Donnan was unlucky because he came along at the same time that Spurrier was at FU and Fulmer (while he was still a good Coach) was at UT, plus Tech had its last good HC.

          Liked by 1 person

          • miltondawg

            I wonder if Fulmer would be considered a good coach by anyone outside of the UT fanbase if Clint Stoerner hadn’t decided to lay the ball down on 2nd and 12 around midfield with less than two minutes to play when all Arkansas needed to do was run out the clock or punt it deep and force UT to drive the length of the field.


  7. ugafidelis

    He’s gone from the hero to the goat. I guess he’s just not the Miracle Max that he’s made out to be. Thank goodness he’s not our coach.

    Liked by 5 people

  8. Ran A

    Call me crazy, but really do believe that Urban called Dan after last Sunday’s loss. Maybe while he was out partying with twenty somethings.

    Gators buy him out for maybe $10MM instead of $12MM at the end of the season. He does this knowing the deal with Jax is in the bag and that is announced right after the NFL season ends in January. That smile on his face after losing in Kentucky…

    Truth be known, that is where he belongs. He doesn’t have to ‘relate’ to players up there. All h has to do is help develop the type of offense they want to run, help with the draft and free agents and call plays. He gets his life back in the off-season, can even stay in Gainesville if he wants.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If he thinks he’ll have more of a life as a NFL coach than a college coach, then good luck with that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • gastr1

      I’m still in disbelief that Urban Meyer thought he could coach in the NFL, and that a team actually agreed with him. His bullshit is just so blatantly college, isn’t it? Aren’t fully-grown humans going to see right through his schtick?

      I look for another heart problem soon.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Yes. You can’t do rah rah with 33 year olds with kids, a mortgage, and a union who make more than you.


      • miltondawg

        Will be interesting to see if Urban winds up at Southern Cal next year. The Jags’ owner’s statement about Urban’s indiscretion was pretty damning (BTW, what NFL head coach doesn’t fly back with his team on the team plane after a Thursday night NFL game, goes up the road to Columbus instead, and winds up in a bar with a smoke show grinding on him?). Maybe Mullen will go with him as OC. I would say something about colleges first thinking about integrity, track record, etc., but then I remember that isn’t at all about integrity, track record, etc.

        Liked by 3 people

  9. I feel like that critique of his in game coaching is probably accurate.

    However, what’s going to get Mullen in trouble is something Richard Johnson had been on for a while: the man cannot triage losses. At all.

    He never takes responsibility, and never gives his opponent credit. He makes lame ass excuses about crowd noise in 1/4 full stadiums, asks for a packed house in the middle of a global pandemic, and shows up in a Darth Vader mask after instigating a brawl.

    All the shit is embarrassing and would get old, even if he were crushing teams. It’s going to be his undoing if he keeps losing.

    There is a reason he is pretty universally disliked by all fellow coaches.

    Liked by 10 people

    • That’s the main reason I despise dopey the dipshit clown, it’s his hubris…he’s done all the things you mentioned and more (like trolling UGA about how many years since we won a NC and Justin Fields transferring, etc) but he hasn’t dominated on the field. He’s so fucking arrogant in front of the cameras but hasn’t backed it up with wins at FU. EE and Scoob have shown time and time again his head to head record, and let me tell you it ain’t anything to be arrogant and all high and mighty about. You don’t see Saban and Smart being dicks…but let me tell you, they have the resumes to back it up if they so choose to be that way. The older I get, I have no time for blowhards.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Not sure why I dropped the let me tell you line twice…Gatri, you are spot on though…the losses further expose his inadequacies and make his bullshit intolerable


        • kirkwooderson

          I think this speaks to how the “margin for error” concept plays out in the macro sense as well, beyond the in-game/game theory sense. Because he is such a monumental prick, he does not have any margin for error or goodwill banked with the powers that be. If he was well liked and respected, he may get by with results like this. As it stands, the bullshit is not worth it.

          Liked by 3 people

      • classiccitycanine

        Clearly you haven’t watched Saban or Kirby in their press appearances. They absolutely have their dick moments. They just get away with it because they win a lot. That said, by all means carry on with the Dan Mullen hate.

        Liked by 1 person

    • He never takes responsibility, and never gives his opponent credit.

      Agree so hard. He will never be able to surround himself with a top notch staff or land a full batch of recruits with this absolute lack of personal accountability and humility.

      He is an arrogant asshole with a grossly exaggerated sense of his own talents and accomplishments. That’s not something top notch people want to be around.


  10. I keep thinking back to that Athletic article you linked recently that detailed USC’s descent into irrelevance. Those coaches thought that with SC being such an easy sell to recruits, they could virtually coast into the Rose Bowl each year, but their lax attitude got a rude awakening.

    I get the impression that, after the success he had as Urban’s OC and subsequently as the guy who elevated Mississippi State out of doormat status, Mullen acquired some of that same arrogance. There’s a part of him that probably thought his brilliance plus Florida’s built-in recruiting advantages would equal automatic success. But as Wunderlich explained, his in-game coaching lacks urgency, and the laziness he and his staff exhibit on the recruiting trail have had Gator fans tearing their hair out for several years now.

    It all makes me wonder if Florida’s gonna find itself in the position Auburn found itself in for several years with Malzahn—too many wins to fire but not enough to be satisfied. You love to see it.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Texas Dawg

      Urban has his (MANY) faults but recruiting was not one of them. Mullen was working with a level of talent as an OC that he will NEVER EVER have as a HC because he is unwilling to put in the work to recruit. You look a whole lot smarter when you are scheming against overmatched opponents.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. moe pritchett

    Where are all of those “Mullen is a better coach than Kirby” assholes when you need em?

    Liked by 13 people

  12. archiecreek

    Bingo Cholly (Moe)!!
    Fuqing idiots can’t see that recruiting in college is just as important as coaching…
    Not more important, just as important.
    Last year for muLLLet was lighting in a bottle, minus a shoe!!
    This year, FU gets a whupp’n,
    Then, let’s read the comments.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Texas Dawg

    Dan Mullen’s biggest problem? Simple… Dan Mullen
    He has NEVER met anyone as smart as he is. If he did he would make sure not to hire them so he would not look like he wasn’t the self perceived smartest football coach that ever lived.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

    …just another yankee asshole living in Florida.

    Liked by 8 people

  15. D.N. Nation

    “Playing for a low margin of error for no good reason and getting bit in the ass” is 2019 UGA/SCAR defined. Coley took every second of the playclock to get plays down in the second half, the team looked bored and confused, mistakes mounted on mistakes, and all of a sudden there’s only a few minutes left and UGA has to have a miracle drive just to tie. And in OT, all bets are off.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. W Cobb Dawg

    Duh. Mullen’s coming off a 4 loss season. He just ain’t that great a coach.

    The reporter is picking at flaws as if Mullen is gonna read this shit and change. Mullen seems quite happy being slightly above average. He’s not gonna lose a minute of sleep due to a Kentucky loss or a top in-state recruit signing elsewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Charles Jackson

    MuLLLen will not be the coach of the gators in 2022!


  18. Charles Jackson

    At UF, an 8 and 4 season is tolerated as long as 8 includes a win over UGa. Whereas, 8 and 4 may as well be a losing season with a loss to UGa. No way he survives.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Bulldawg Bill

    Problem with Mullen is that he’s a chicken shit little bastard.

    Liked by 7 people

  20. Corch Irvin Meyers, Former Jags Corch (2024)

    It’s absolutely perplexing why Cousin Eddie’s biggest myth-making cheerleaders in the media never acknowledge that it is HIS FAULT that he less to deal with in terms of player talent level at Floriduh.

    He’d rather relax at the lake while Kirby is hitting the road. He’s lazy. He’s a lazy COLLEGE coach.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wonder if this will finally disabuse the fans on the Gator message boards of the delusional notion that Mullen’s somehow a better coach than Kirby. They’ve insisted for years that Mullen has the edge because he’s a better Xs-and-Os guy (on offense, anyway) and that Kirby is only good at recruiting. But as the Senator has said many times, recruiting IS part of being a good coach at the college level. Trying to separate the two just means you’re trying to spackle over the fact that your guy sucks at an integral part of his job. Saying that Mullen’s a great coach except for recruiting is like saying Carlos Mencia was a great comedian except for writing original material.


  21. paulwesterdawg

    Great article. One of the best observations on Mullen that I’ve seen.


  22. uga97

    Just like so many coaches agents, Mullen & Stricklin’s agent sold FU the story, they escape the shithole Mississippi, then got paid dearly & now lost their hunger. Pretty common these days for agents to pull the wool over University Presidents, ADs & Boosters. It’s a gamble & roll of the dice each time. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not, but eventually the frauds get exposed …and the good ones stick. But They can only hide the bs for so long. Look at UTknox, Texas, FSU, Michigan, Miami, USCal, etc…all has beens. Florida is now just the next big program stuck in over a decade of decline and denial.. Rinse & Repeat. Maybe they just like hiring coaches whose last name starts with the letter “M”. Who knows, but for now F You, FU & Go Dawgs!!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • iusedtopostasmikecooley

      Like hiring coaches with a last name that starts with M. I laughed hard at that. Mullen has managed to fool a lot of people and get people to pay him a lot of money for really not doing much. If he wasn’t so arrogant and just so dang weird in a make you want to smack him sort of way I could kind of get a kick out it. He’s very easy to dislike and he is perfect for them. I just want to point out once again that when Greg McGarity fires Mark Richt, Dan Mullen was who he had in mind. I’m so glad he failed and am so glad he’s gone.

      Liked by 2 people

  23. armydawg

    If FU decided to kick him to the curb, would they try to get the old ball sack to be an interim coach? That would be interesting.


    • Russ

      I’d love it if they did. Would be fun to hang a few more whippings on his tired ass before we made him quit again.

      Liked by 7 people

      • RangerRuss

        Damn right, my bruthafromanuthamutha. I’d be good if he never coached again though, as he went out the way I want to remember him; book end losses to UGA and sniveling and whining. Yeah, he was better during his heyday at sucking it up and taking responsibility for gaytard losses. In the end he was nothing more than a whiny has been.

        Liked by 3 people

    • whybotherdude

      If they fire him, which I doubt it will be soon, I think they hire Kiffin. Then Ole Miss hires Mullen just to piss of MSU fans.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. scottg818

    Honestly, this analysis reminds me of late era Mark Richt, without the off field clown behavior. I felt like Richt’s teams from about 2008 on were always trying to just be good enough to win the game, rather than to play up to a standard in every game no matter the opponent. If your goal is to just be good enough to win the game, it doesn’t take very many weird things to happen to find yourself in a dog fight to win…and weird things happen a LOT in football, especially college football.

    ::insert the “I love Coach Richt, and he’s a DGD, but…” disclaimer at the top if you’d like::

    Liked by 1 person

  25. PTC DAWG

    I took the wrong job path.

    Football coach Dan Mullen has received a three-year contract extension through the 2026 season that raises his annual salary to $7.6 million a year.

    The new annual salary will make him the third-highest-paid coach in 2021 in the SEC, behind Alabama coach Nick Saban ($9.1 million) and LSU coach Ed Orgeron ($8.7 million). The salary also ranks him No. 5 nationally. Florida released the information Tuesday in response to a public records request.


    • Texas Dawg

      Mullen-contract extension with raise. Jimbo-contract extension with raise. I saw one writer yesterday posted that if being an agent came with a NC then Jimmy Sexton would be the undefeated champion for many many years in a row now. Getting teams to bid against themselves by giving raises and extending contracts to keep a mediocre underperforming coach that nobody else is clamoring for is pure genius.


  26. whybotherdude

    I was told this weekend that MuLLen will never get hemorrhoids, because he is the perfect asshole.

    Liked by 3 people