After a tumultuous and exhausting month of rumors, innuendo and tweets from verified accounts reporting everything but the truth, University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin named former Mississippi State Head Coach Dan Mullen to the same position for the Florida Gators. The announcement was made on Sunday.
It was a move that spent less time on the radar than the University Athletic Association plan ever since the school parted ways with former Head Coach Jim McElwain mid-way through this season.
Sources who were supposedly close to the Florida coaching search were under the impression for more than a month that university officials were prepared to name Chip Kelly, former University of Oregon head coach and NFL-failure, to the position. Kelly, who spent the 2017 season as a college football analyst at ESPN, eventually decided to take his talents to California, choosing to become the head coach of the UCLA Bruins and seemingly spurning every source with knowledge in his path.
However, Kelly’s decision may have reminded Stricklin of one of life’s greatest lessons: that sometimes, the most obvious choices are right in front of us the entire time.
Mullen, who spent the previous nine seasons in Starkville with the Bulldogs, brings a familiarity and excitement to Gainesville that has not been present since the championship winning, high-octane offensive days of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.
That familiarity comes in the form of experience, knowledge and understanding of the tasks ahead, as it was Mullen, who served as the offensive coordinator at Florida for four seasons under Urban Meyer and those same championship-winning, high-octane offensive days that Gator players, coaches and fans cherish so dearly.
Mullen also brings a familiarity with Florida’s current administration, as Stricklin recently left Starkville for his current position in Gainesville. Although Stricklin was not responsible for bringing Mullen to Starkville, the two spent multiple years together in the same two positions they will now serve together at Florida.
Along with 13 consecutive years of SEC coaching experience, Mullen brings a wealth of established coaching accomplishments. His extraordinary ability to develop quarterbacks is now most evident on Sundays, when current NFL starters Alex Smith, Dak Prescott and Cam Newton continue to compete at high levels following coaching by Mullen at the collegiate level.
While Florida’s program remains desperate in its nearly decade-long search to find a quality quarterback, it may have finally found the missing piece that would complete the puzzle. The piece that fits perfectly and clears up any doubt that the image being portrayed could, in fact, be made whole again. The piece you’ve been looking for that simply got flipped over along the way, blended into the carpet and remained right in front of your face the entire time.
Yes, it feels like Florida finally found it’s man, and if his introductory press conference was any indication, Mullen sounds like a man who found his happy place. After all, it’s a place he’s been, a place he’s succeeded, a place that had multiple opportunities, and a place that had been right in front of his face the entire time.