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Was 2020 a One-Hit Wonder for Florida Gators' Dan Mullen?

July 19, 2021

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HOOVER, AL - How will Florida Gators coach Dan Mullen follow what was, by at least one metric, his best year in coaching, and will his program have enough to take down Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs for good?

In 2020, Mullen had one of the most explosive offenses the Gators have seen in nearly a decade - having functional play at quarterback helps with that. He had a come-from-behind blowout win over Georgia and Kirby in Jacksonville, an appearance in the SEC Championship Game against the Tide and an appearance in Texas for the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma. 

Those three things - particularly the way the Gators played against Georgia and Bama - are usually reasons to be optimistic about the future. But this is Dan Mullen, and there is always some bizarre to go with the good. 

First the halftime fiasco in the win over Missouri; then Darth Mullen right after that game. Then the bizarre loss to LSU, which involved a shoe being thrown as if a middle eastern dictator had been toppled and Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” was playing the background. And then the Cotton Bowl - where a group of young men showed up in Gator outfits, but didn’t seem interested in playing that game or being concerned with its result. 

"That wasn't the 2020 football team you saw tonight,” Mullen said. “We had 25 guys missing. That was kind of a kickstart for the future. The last game the 2020 team played was 11 days ago.” 

Lots of problems with that statement, but the most obvious being, as the late Donald Rumsfeld might say, you go to the bowl game with the team you have. And the team you had got pummeled by Oklahoma. 

Florida then “rewarded” Mullen after his four-loss season with a contract bump after his sniffing around for an NFL gig didn’t pan out. 

Yikes. Gator fans have had an adventurous past decade with their coaches. Needless to say that continues with Mullen.

But the question is if the Gators’ 2021 team will be like the Cotton Bowl team, or something very different. Because the Gators won’t look like they did in Jacksonville or Atlanta this fall. And they probably won’t collapse the way they did against LSU. 

The defense is going to have to get figured out. The Gators gave up “at least” 35 points in half of their games last year. That’s five touchdowns. That’s a lot - I don’t care how good your offense is. And the Gators had firepower last year. They could score quickly with a slew of gifted players who have since left for the NFL. 

Mullen did a heck of a job developing Kyle Trask, but he’s gone, and even Trask wasn’t so legendary without stars surrounding him… see the Cotton Bowl. It happens. You need great players to win big, and you need to consistently recruit effectively to do that. 

That’s the worry about Mullen and company. Have the Gators done a good enough job at recruiting to develop Mullen’s program into being a program that can get to Atlanta in back-to-back seasons?

2021 will be a great judge of that. 




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Tags: Dan Mullen
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