Column: No, Dan Mullen Won't Leave Florida for the Dallas Cowboys
The most important thing to understand regarding the rumors going around of a possible Dan Mullen/Dallas Cowboys pairing, if and when the Cowboys fire head coach Jason Garrett, is that it all started as a hypothetical on a podcast.
"Our friend [NFL Draft analyst] Daniel Jeremiah made a prediction a week or two ago saying that he thinks it will be Dan Mullen, who’s an Urban Meyer protege, who by the way coached and developed Dak Prescott,” Bruce Feldman of The Athletic said on The Rich Eisen Show regarding Dallas' options.
“That’s what DJ said, I had not heard that from anybody else. But he kinda put two plus two plus two and got there."
The rumors should have stopped there. No, there is no way that Dan Mullen leaves Florida to coach the Dallas Cowboys.
As Feldman said, Jeremiah's prediction comes from Mullen's ties to Urban Meyer, who has expressed interest in the job and has been tied to it for months. There is nothing, at least of public knowledge or behind the scenes that has even come up in whispers, suggesting that Mullen actually has an interest in leaving for the NFL.
In two years at Florida, Mullen has lifted the program that gave his football career its big break in the mid-to-late 2000's out of the ashes and into a new era of winning football games. In back-to-back seasons to start his time as Florida's head coach, the Gators have reached New Year's Six Bowls. All while Mullen still lays the foundation for his program.
And his success has led to extreme confidence from athletic director Scott Stricklin and the University. In order to give Florida players top-quality treatment and woo recruits, the school has pledged $155 million in booster fundraising to build a brand new, state-of-the-art football training facility that will debut in 2021.
Mullen has also spent almost every day of the week and a half since Florida closed out its regular season on the road recruiting, with prospects posting pictures with him and other assistants on Twitter almost daily. Just yesterday, Mullen made the trek to Connecticut to visit defensive tackle prospect Lamar Goods.
That sounds like a lot of focus on Florida for a guy contemplating interest from the world's most valuable sports team.
And should Florida continue on the trajectory that it's on under Mullen, financial dividends will come his way. The moment he signed his deal with Florida, he became the fifth-highest paid coach in the NCAA. He now stands at 10th, and will probably be even lower after this cycle of head coaching hires is said and done, and is certainly a candidate for a raise given his performance.
Only three NFL head coaches: Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and Jon Gruden, make double figure salaries, and only Nick Saban does that at the NCAA level, so the money shouldn't be as drastic of a factor as some might suggest. Especially if Mullen does receive a raise and extension soon, which if he is to be put back in the top five NCAA coaching salaries would likely come in over $7m a year.
With a previous four years of living in Florida and choosing to come back eight years later as Florida's head coach, it's also important to remember that Mullen legitimately wants to be here for the long haul. He has had options in the past, and if the NFL was a place where he wanted to be - as a head coach or an assistant - he has had the track record to make the jump for a while now. But here we are.
While the idea of reuniting Mullen with one of the most successful quarterbacks he's ever coached in Dak Prescott - they were together at Mississippi State from 2011-2015 - is incredibly intriguing, there's no legitimate basis for these rumors.
Rumors like these come up every year in college football. Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has been the subject of NFL interest and rumors for multiple offseasons in a row, and he hasn't come close to making the jump. He has even said on record that the NFL doesn't really tempt him, yet Riley is the center of potential head coaching searches on a yearly basis.
That's all these talks are regarding Mullen: Rumors. The quote from the podcast even made that clear.
So let's leave them as that.