Five years later, The Athletic looks back on Dan Mullen’s hiring as Florida coach

The Florida Gators dismissed Jim McElwain during the 2017 football season after amassing a 22-12 record that included two SEC East division titles.

Afterwards, the Gators hired Dan Mullen to become the 27th coach in Florida history. Mullen left his position as Mississippi State head coach after eight seasons to return to the place he won two national championships as the Gators’ offensive coordinator.

At the time, the hire was a no-brainer. Mullen was the architect behind the high-scoring offense that brought the best out of guys like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, and Chris Rainey. He also rose the floor at Mississippi State, peaking in 2014 when Mullen led the Bulldogs to a No. 1 ranking in the inaugural College Football Playoff rankings.

His Florida tenure started off with a bang, going 10-3 in his first season including a Peach Bowl victory over Michigan. He followed it up by improving upon that record, going 11-2 in his second year and capping it off with an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia.

His third season fell short of expectations. After two 10-plus win seasons that ended with New Year’s Six bowl game victories, Mullen’s Gators went 8-4, losing multiple close games, and the team visibly gave up towards the end of the season. Mullen’s press conferences were filled with refusals to admit there were issues with the team, along with repeated deflections about the lackluster direction recruiting was going into.

Ultimately, Mullen was let go in the middle of his fourth season in charge. Lots of things were factored into the decision, with recruiting the topic fans latched on to in the aftermath. The Athletic’s regrade has the hire as a B. What was considered to be an A by multiple outlets at the time has to be brought down a bit given how the tenure played out.

Billy Napier is currently in his first season as Florida’s head coach. He started off strong with a summer that saw the Gators enter the top 10 in multiple recruiting rankings, and rode that momentum to a season-opening upset of Utah.

Napier’s next task is facing an LSU team that also has a first-year head coach in Brian Kelly. The game will take place at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm EDT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.


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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire