Dan Mullen’s specialty as a football coach is on offense and in particular the quarterbacks. He’s graduated with a Master’s degree in education and has, on many occasions, discussed his love of being able to educate as a football coach.
Part of that is learning how to effectively reach a younger generation as the times and ways people grow up are changing.
“In today’s world, where you can get on Instagram and read about themselves, or I can Google my name and read how either great or terrible I am depending on the last 30 seconds in the world,” Mullen said.
That rang true last Friday when Mullen opened scrimmage to the media. There were restrictions (no video, photos or talking about scheme) but the media was allowed to live update what has normally been a closed portion of spring camp. By the very nature of spring practice there are winners and losers on every play. If a quarterback throws an interception, which happened four times, the focus isn’t on the defensive back for making a play but on the quarterback for making a mistake.
Mullen says he saw his two quarterbacks trying to make up for one mistake by doing too much on the next play.
“If I make a mistake on first down, human nature says on second down I’m going to go make up for that mistake I made on first down. OK?” Mullen said. “Nope, manage the game. Take what the defense gives you, to the right read, get to the right check and keep the right footwork. Same thing as if I just hit a big play before, ‘Hey, we’re in great shape.’ Nope, manage the next play. Take what the defense gives you. Put us in the best position to be successful. And that’s the learning curve they’re going through.”
It’s human nature to hang on to the mistakes and beat yourself up about them. In today’s world of instant feedback and instant gratification it’s tempting to go and check to see what people are saying about you, especially someone in the high profile position of playing quarterback at the University of Florida. Mullen knows the pressures well, and as an educator has tricks as to how to get around that and over that with his players.
“Have them realize it’s probably never as good or never as bad as you think. It’s always about moving forward and how good I can be the next time. And blocking that out and setting their standard — they want to perform at a high level because it’s important to them. That’s the hardest thing about human nature. ‘Hey, did I do OK? What do you think? What did you see? What are people saying about me?’ Instead of — what’s really most important — the self-evaluation. ‘Is that the best I can do? If not, how can I get better?’ When you start to figure that out, a lot of it comes through experience. A lot of it is a growing process.”
The Gators will meet Monday to go over the film from the first scrimmage. Mullen stood behind the quarterbacks during the scrimmage and helped them make checks and reads pre-snap, now he’ll be able to show them what he saw at the time that made him call those things out. It’s all part of the learning process in the spring. The group as a whole, and the team even, isn’t where Mullen wants them to be but there are more than 150 days until the Gators play a real game. That’s a lot of time to get ready and Mullen is using the spring to continue instilling the standard that is expected of his players.
“I still like the attitude our guys have,” he said. “You see a lot of them still trying to figure out what our expectations are and how we expect them how to act in everything they are doing. I like the energy our guys bring and the effort for the most part on how they’ve shown up and what they’re doing and how they’re attacking the learning process and the learning curve to figure out what our standards are.”