Florida coach Dan Mullen, assistant Todd Grantham listed as candidates for big-time jobs, per reports

By Adam Silverstein
January 3, 2020
Florida coach Dan Mullen, assistant Todd Grantham listed as candidates for big-time jobs, per reports

With the Florida Gators’ bowl game in the books, the NFL hiring cycle commencing and some college head coaching decisions still to come, the top two coaches on the Florida football staff are appearing on short lists for new openings. One is being named as a candidate for one of the top jobs in the NFL, while another is being mentioned for an open SEC head coaching job.

Gators head coach Dan Mullen has found a near-unanimous spot on candidate lists for the Dallas Cowboys job. ESPN’s Ed Werder and CBS Sports’ Patrik Walker — both of whom are connected to the Cowboys — mentioned Mullen as a legitimate option for the job, though both listed him behind Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, former Ohio State and Florida head coach Urban Meyer and Baylor head coach Matt Rhule.

With Dallas likely to extend Dak Prescott with one of the largest quarterback contracts in NFL history this offseason, Mullen is an obvious option as he developed the signal caller at Mississippi State. He is also revered throughout the coaching community for his playcalling and ability to get the most out of his players.

However, Mullen has never coached in the NFL nor expressed a particular desire to do so. His name had been bandied about for the Cowboys job over the last month-plus, and he actually addressed the speculation of an NFL future three weeks ago.

“I still haven’t had a second to even consider it and what it would entail,” Mullen said. “I don’t know. I know what I have [at Florida]. I love being here. We’re building a championship program here. At some point in my life, would it be something that, if I wrote it all down, sat down to consider it, that it would happen? But it’s nothing I’ve even thought of.

“I know how it works [in college]. I like it [at Florida]. I don’t want to make it sound too big, but you’re kind of like the owner, [general manager], vice president and head coach. I’ve got a lot of control about how the program works here. You’re in control of everything. That’s why everybody looks at it and knows the situation we’re in, knows the type of program this is. This is not a place you’re looking to leave.”

Mullen is certainly in the managerial chair for the Gators, and whether one is referring to owner Jerry Jones or CEO (and one-day owner) Stephen Jones, the ability to control the football side of the franchise is something head coaches do not historically get with the Cowboys. Still, Mullen would have to at least consider an opportunity to interview or potentially take the job leading “America’s team,” which is something even Meyer has discussed as attractive. Mullen has been mentioned as a potential future NFL coach going back to his days at Mississippi State.

It is interesting to see Mullen’s name mentioned on candidate lists, particularly considering two of the other four primary candidates do not appear to be leaning toward Dallas. Meyer is believed to be a serious candidate for the Cleveland Browns job, and Rhule is reportedly only interested in the New York Giants opening. (Riley seems like the most obvious fit, but one intriguing option for the Cowboys is Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who is often mentioned behind the four college coaches.)

As long as Mullen decides to remain at Florida, which is likely, a raise and extension are already in the bag. Mullen became the first coach in college football history to lead his team to back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl victories in his first two seasons, and he’s brought the Gators a 21-5 record with wins over every rival except Georgia to start his career.

At the same time Mullen is being mentioned for the Dallas job, suddenly his former position has opened as Mississippi State fired his replacement, Joe Moorhead, after two lackluster seasons.

Quickly “gaining traction” as a top candidate for that job is Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, according to Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. Grantham served in that role at MSU in 2017 before following Mullen to UF, and while he has never been a head coach, many wanted him to take over for Mullen in 2018 when the team instead decided to hire Moorhead.

There is no particular indication that Grantham is interested in leading a program, and he appears to be happy with the Gators after turning down defensive coordinator interest from numerous NFL teams last offseason. Still, serving as head coach of an SEC program is certainly attractive, and a move by Grantham would make sense considering the destination.

Needing to replace Mullen would obviously be exceedingly difficult and unexpected for Florida. Looking for someone to step in for Grantham with just a couple of weeks until National Signing Day would be relatively easier, especially considering there’s a strong option in the marketplace.


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