Marc Daniels: Florida Could Have Hired Kirby Smart, They Chose McElwain

Georgia v Florida

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On Monday's "Bridge", I told Mike Bianchi I think Dan Mullen may be done. Done because the narrative has reached a point that Mullen can't control it. Once the media turns on you from a local, regional and national level- it's hard to change it and that media is feeding an angry fan base as well. The "recruiting" angle of comparing Florida to Georgia is snowballing. Add Mullen's responses at press conferences and it has a bad look. 

The media has started with the stories about internal issues, other coaches in the SEC mocking Florida's recruiting and the very well respected Andrea Adelson of ESPN, who tweeted that Florida was hoping Mullen took an NFL job last off-season. 

There are no big wins remaining on the schedule to calm the waters, only a potential loss to turn this into a tidal wave. I don't think Dan Mullen should be fired. He is 33-13 at Florida and it's insane to think someone with that record must go. But my guess is the Google searches for "Dan Mullen buyout" have increased in the last two weeks. By the way, the buyout is $12M.

Everyone is praising Kirby Smart for having the top ranked team in the country and being recognized as one of the top recruiters in the country. Florida had its chance seven years ago. It could have hired Kirby Smart as their head coach but chose...Jim McElwain.

Gator fans might remember when Dan Mullen's name was on the rumor list of coaches to replace Will Muschamp when he was fired in November that year. When Florida let Muschamp go, Mullen's Mississippi State team was ranked number one in the country and 9-0. When asked about the Florida job, Mullen said this would be a lateral move to go from Starkville to Gainesville. My good friend, Mike Bianchi, wrote about Mullen and his personality that rubbed many in Gainesville the wrong way when he was Urban Meyer's assistant and wondered how that would play with the Gator faithful. 

Some of the other names the media speculated back in 2014 included Lane Kiffin(was his first year on Saban's staff at Alabama as the offensive coordinator), Dan Quinn(was a former defensive coordinator at Florida, who was in Seattle at the time), Duke's David Cutcliffe, Jim McElwain(who when Muschamp was fired, had Colorado State 9-1 at the time) and...........Kirby Smart.

In 2014, Smart was in his 8th season as Alabama's defensive coordinator. Smart was a name that had popped up before for coaching vacancies, including in the SEC. Known as a great recruiter, Smart is a defensive guy and Florida was looking for an offensive name after Muschamp's run and that's where McElwain- the other one-time Alabama assistant- emerged. 

Respected former NFL executive Gil Bryant wrote a column on names he thought might fit at Florida. Interesting to note, he thought a young Lincoln Riley might be a worthy choice along with Kirby Smart.

Who knows what would have happened if Florida went defensive again and hired Smart. Maybe he would have the same results that he is having at Georgia. Maybe he would have flopped. But McElwain didn't last long as he was fired in October of 2017. By then Kirby Smart won a national title as an assistant at Alabama in 2015 and was hired by Georgia after that game. He went 8-5 in his first season before playing for the national title game in 2017. Smart is 60-14 at Georgia and has it rolling on the field and on the recruiting trail. 

When McElwain was let go, the names whispered to replace him included: Chip Kelly, Scott Frost, Matt Campbell, Mike Gundy and Charlie Strong. Florida's AD Scott Stricklin eventually chose the guy he had at Mississippi State and Mullen finally came back to Gainesville.

And here we are with a coach snapping at a media who has turned on him and a fan base frustrated because of the results on the field, recruiting rankings and the fact that their rival is the darling of college football.

Life can be about the "what if" but it's also about the now. Now, Florida wonders if Mullen can fix what's wrong or will it once again be looking for the next coach to restore Florida's program among the nation's best.

Final thought: Most popular ice cream flavors in the world: 1. Vanilla 2. Matcha (Green Tea- I know, right?) 3. Chocolate 4. Coconut 5. Strawberry

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