Urban Meyer won two national championships and still had heart problems.
Will Muschamp was the coach-in-waiting at Texas and considered one of the biggest “gets” in college football — but in no time at all, he became a punch line.
Jim McElwain brought two national championship rings with him after learning under Nick Saban, took Florida to the SEC championship game in each of his first two seasons, then was ousted before completing his third season.
Heck, Steve Spurrier, the man who introduced Florida fans to competitive football in 1990, needed a break — and went to the NFL.
It’s no secret that the expectations in Gainesville make the coaching position at Florida one of the toughest in the business. Every coach who takes on the role expresses his understanding of the job, but few are able to truly live up to those expectations.
So, what does it actually take to succeed at Florida? It’s a fine balance between pleasing a demanding fan base and providing an enjoyable product on the field. And the most important question remains: Does Dan Mullen fit these qualities?
First and foremost, Florida fans want someone who actually wants to be in Gainesville. During the offseason after the Gators went 4-8 under Muschamp, I polled fans as to who’d they rather have as coach heading into 2014: Muschamp or two-time national champion Meyer? Muschamp won in a landslide. The consensus reason was that he wanted to be at Florida. Numerous Gators fans felt Meyer always had one foot out the door, and no amount of winning could ease that insult.
Mullen continually referring to this job as “coming home” has eased fans’ minds. Granted, as was seen with Muschamp, wanting the job isn’t enough to do the job.
Since Spurrier’s arrival, the Gators have seen some of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, and even the country, step into the orange and blue, so the bar is high. But recruiting good talent is only part of the project. They must be developed.
The quarterback can take just as much pressure and heat as his coach, and at few places is that more true than at Florida. If a coach can’t develop a guy to produce on the field and handle the scrutiny off it, that’s a big strike against his job security.
Sometimes that means taking a guy like Shane Matthews from fifth on the depth chart to SEC Player of the Year. Other times, it means taking a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Tim Tebow and adapting coaching styles to turn him into a Heisman quarterback (which, of course, is something Mullen had a hand in).
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