Dan Mullen wears a visor because he grew up a Florida fan and Steve Spurrier wore one. Much like the Head Ball Coach, Mullen used his play-calling acumen and creativity to go from offensive coordinator to head coach. Spurrier continued calling plays throughout his head coaching career because, well, if it got him there why would he entrust someone else with that responsibility.
On Saturdays you’ll find Mullen roaming the sideline with his play-calling sheet but he’s not the only coach that can or does call plays throughout a game.
Mullen has had the luxury of keeping the same coaching staff around him for more than a decade. They speak the same language and have the same ideas.
“We’re pretty fortunate to have guys that have been around each other for a long time, and so we get into a series we kind of look at things we want to do and you’re always trying to look three to four moves ahead,” Mullen said on Thursday at media day. “So here’s we you kind of have some of those pocket plays, okay, that here’s things that we feel good about going into this series, and then as a play caller you have the pocket one. So okay if these things are going well we’ve set them up for this, if these things are going well, we have set them up for if this, if these things are going well we have set them up for this. And that’s where I think we have had success is here’s the things we want to do to set them up and let’s see what happens well and then we’re going to at the right time call the play that we set them up for. The benefit also that we have is I think a coaching staff, a really good coaching staff offensively that have been around, where guys aren’t afraid to make inputs.”
Mullen has been with his co-offensive coordinators for more than 11 years. John Hevesy, Billy Gonzales and Mullen share a football mind but it’s not just those three musketeers pulling the strings on gameday. Greg Knox, who is coming up on his 10th season with Mullen and Brian Johnson get their chances as well.
In the Peach Bowl the Gators faced a 4th and 1 at the Michigan 35. The Gators were up 13-10 and trying to take advantage of a Chauncey Garner-Johnson interception but their offensive drive stalled. They could try a 52-yard field goal, Evan McPherson has the leg, but Brian Johnson came over the headset and told Mullen to run a jet sweep to Kadarius Toney. The formation had seven men on the line of scrimmage and Michigan stacked the box. Toney took the sweep and scampered 30-yards down to the Michigan five and two plays later Lamical Perine found the end zone. That one play changed the game and it was called by Florida’s 32-year old quarterbacks coach, not their $6 million dollar a year head coach.
“I think we have five guys on our offensive staff that would be pretty comfortable calling the game,” Mullen said. “When you have that and when you have those guys that have worked together and know the offense that well, and that are comfortable around each other, it’s really easy to make those inputs, not just between series with what we’re going to call but in the middle of a series if they think we have something they’re not, they’re going to step up and say, we should run this right now. I think that that helps us within our play calling.”
The only issue that could come is trying to beat the play clock. Obviously as the head coach Mullen has veto power when an assistant volunteers a play call but, for the most part, the five offensive coaches that suggest plays work as one.
“South Carolina we ran the same play six times in a row. And at that time you say, five guys called the same play. We ran the one play with a bunch formation to the right and we ran it. And five guys on the headset, do it again. Got I think 12 yards. Five guys on the headset, do it again,” Hevesy said. “So that was, at that point five guys called the same exact play the same exact time. And you get used to the offense, you know what our kids can do and so anybody can and it’s just, again, what you’re seeing and the good thing is there’s no egos in terms of, we’re not doing that.”
Every coach has their style. Mullen may have mirrored some of his off of the Head Ball Coach but when it comes down to micromanaging like Spurrier was notorious of during his time as a head coach, Mullen strays and that’s good. It’s worked for more than a decade, no need to stop now.