Dan Mullen: The Next Head Football Coach at Florida
That is the single word that will be attached to Dec. 26 eternally in Florida Gator football history. Walk into a Florida sports bar and hear the silence of 100 people texting everybody that they know. Step outside and see if you can hear the fingers of every sportswriter in America clacking on the nearest laptop.
Urban Meyer is no longer the head football coach at the University of Florida.
Meyer resigned on Saturday in a startling move that draws eerie comparisons to the move made by former Gator coach Steve Spurrier on a January day in 2002. The difference is that Spurrier's resignation was partially inspired by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder's wallet. Meyer is citing health conditions.
Sports Illustrated was the first major source to report a brain cyst that has given Meyer trouble throughout his coaching career in an early December article. NBC Sports has said that this decision may be due to an existing heart condition.
"I have ignored my health for years, but recent developments have forced me to reevaluate my priorities of faith and family," Meyer said in a press release.
Meyer will coach his final game as a Gator in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, but the search for a healthy transition will likely begin immediately.
As successful as athletic director Jeremy Foley's ability to sign Meyer was, his hiring of Ron Zook in 2002 remains one of the most controversial decisions in Gator history. The Zook hiring will serve as a painful example of how this transition period could go wrong for Foley.
I think there is one option in the coaching search that completely out-shines the rest.
That option is Dan Mullen.
Mullen, the former Gator offensive coordinator and current Mississippi State head coach, should be the next head football coach in Gainesville.
Just one season removed from serving as one of the most efficient offensive coordinators in Gator history, Mullen will likely be on Foley's select list of candidates. His hiring would mean a continuation of the Meyer offensive mindset and would likely lead to the firing or demotion of current offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, something that many Gator fans are clamoring for.
Sure, Mullen is only one season into a four-year deal that he signed with Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs better raise their stakes higher than $1.2 million annually if they plan on keeping up with the orange and blue. Mullen was popular amongst the players in Gainesville and would be a welcome returning figure to the locker room.
His familiar name and positive record in Gainesville would please the boosters that immediately rioted upon hearing Foley mention Zook's name in 2002. Mullen would also be the smoothest way to entice recruits to not cancel their commitments.
When denying an interest in the Notre Dame job earlier in December, Meyer said that he would be the coach at Florida as long as they would have him, and stated that he would like to pass the whistle down to quarterback Tim Tebow or linebacker Ryan Stamper one day.
Neither of those two are likely to become the legacy that Meyer had suggested as they will both be just one year removed from their college careers. However, in Mullen, Meyer has the closest thing to a coaching legacy that he will ever have.
Mullen coached along side Meyer at Utah and moved with him to Florida. Together, their rendition of the spread offense terrorized the Southeastern Conference for four seasons.
It would not surprise anyone if Meyer tried to play a part in pulling Mullen back to Florida to replace him. Meyer said that he plans on remaining in Gainesville and staying involved with the university.
However, there still could be the question of whether or not a Meyer protege would be best for the Gators right now. With John Brantley, a redshirt junior pro-style quarterback, taking over for Tebow in the 2010 season, another run-based spread offense might not be what Foley has in mind.
Florida may decide to change directions and go back to a 1990's-esque "fun n' gun" approach. One would only assume that that would be a better fit for Brantley to step into. Gator fans watched Chris Leak, a quarterback similar to Brantley, run the spread uncomfortably for two years before Tebow perfected it.
It will certainly be interesting to see how Florida factors current offensive players into their new coach assessment.
Until Foley steps behind the lectern beside a fresh - or not so fresh - face in a suit adorned with an orange and blue tie, his plans are nothing more than a media guessing game.
Gator fans everywhere will be waiting.
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