Zach Smith calling out Dan Mullen and Florida is equal parts sad and pathetic
I feel like Zach Smith is in the midst of a free fall off a college football skyscraper.
It’s been a long fall. One that he started a year ago when he was fired following alleged domestic violence while he was the receivers coach at Ohio State.
During this fall, it’s like he can look into the windows and see people. By “people,” I mean coaches. His goal is simple, but a bit ambitious. While he’s falling, he’s attempting to drag those coaches out of the window and pull them down with him as he plunges toward rock bottom.
He made a lunge for Tom Herman. He took aim at Jim Harbaugh, too. Shockingly, Smith wasn’t able to reach into their penthouse suites of programs and pull them down.
That brings us to Smith’s desperate grab for Dan Mullen and Florida. In case you missed it, here’s what Smith had to say about the two his podcast “Menace 2 Society,” which is proof that podcasts are America’s greatest blessing and curse:
Co-host: “I’d be interested to hear your thoughts about Dan Mullen at Florida. He has a chance to get to that level. Why hasn’t Florida gotten back to (elite) level?”
Smith: “Yeah, we talked about that at length, and the biggest thing is Dan Mullen is thrust into this conversation only because he is the coach at Florida. He would not be in this conversation based off his successes on the field — based on his resume, but he gets thrust into this group because he got the job at Florida. Why did he get the job at Florida? Because Florida wasn’t an attractive job. It wasn’t. The stadium’s not selling out, where they have really fallen off. The recruiting has been down to some extent, especially from the Urban Meyer era. So, why did he get the job? He got the job because Scott Frost didn’t want the job. Think about that. This is a job that was top 5 in the country in 2005 when Urban turned down Notre Dame to go to Florida. … He didn’t have the resume to get the Florida job that Urban Meyer got in 2005. Dan Mullen had the resume to get the Florida job in 2018.
“I don’t think he (Mullen) has the swagger to be a great head coach or to be a great recruiting head coach, but he’s a really good football coach.”
Where should I start?
Oh, I don’t know. Let’s start with how the guy whose coattails Smith rode to reach the top of the college football skyscraper, Urban Meyer, was as much to blame as anyone for why the Gators program was a complete mess when he suddenly left after the 2010 season. Meyer’s lack of discipline within the program set it back years. Smith only had a job as long as he did because of Meyer’s lack of discipline.
It’s been widely reported that Mullen wasn’t the first or even second choice at Florida, but Frost was. Fair enough. Smith failed to mention that Frost turned down Florida because he wanted to rebuild his alma mater into one of the powerhouses of college football. Does that mean Nebraska is a better job than Florida? Absolutely not.
(As someone who lived in both Nebraska and Florida for multiple years, you can take my word that Florida was and is the better job.)
“(Mullen) would not be in this conversation based off his successes on the field — based on his resume, but he gets thrust into this group because he got the job at Florida,” according to Smith’s educated, totally unbiased opinion.
Right. Let’s pretend that what Mullen did at Mississippi State was nothing. Like, leading a program to 6 bowl victories when it had 6 bowl victories in the entire post-World War II stretch wasn’t significant. According to Smith, Mullen leading MSU to No. 1 in the country in the first Playoff poll in 2014 wasn’t a résumé-boosting accomplishment, nor was accounting for as many 9-win seasons (4) as the program had in its entire post-World War II history.
Anybody could do that, right?
That’s why when Mullen turned 4-win Florida into a 10-win team and led the program to its best ranking of the post-Meyer era, he was clearly just lucky, right? Give me a break.
You can say Mullen’s lack of division titles should keep him outside of the top 5 coach conversation, but to say he didn’t earn what he has is a joke, especially coming from Smith. You know, Smith, the guy who Meyer had to lie to his bosses to in order to keep him on his staff. Smith, the guy who admitted himself that he should’ve been fired from Ohio State in 2015 because of “how much of a mess he was.”
But sure, let’s hear more of Smith talk about who deserves what job.
If Smith’s whole deal was to try and just say that Florida wasn’t a top 5 job when Mullen was hired, fine. That’s really not that bold of a take when you consider the facility upgrades elsewhere … and the fact that Florida was coming off a 4-win season when Mullen was hired. You mean The Swamp wasn’t sold out after Florida fired Jim McElwain and was in the midst of a 4-win season? No way!
(Very few 3-6 programs could get nearly 85,000 fans to watch a game against UAB, though.)
Smith’s whole argument seems to be that Meyer was a better coach when he was hired at Florida in 2005 than when Mullen was hired in 2018. Cool. Sick brag, though some would argue getting MSU to No. 1 in the country in the toughest division in college football was more impressive than leading a Group of 5 school to an undefeated season. That’s neither here nor there.
This whole thing just comes off as jealousy from Smith. They were both on Meyer’s staff at Florida, with Mullen as the offensive coordinator and Smith as the special teams quality control coach (2005-07) and offensive grad assistant in 2008 and 2009. Or more important as Meyer later put it, Smith was the grandson of his mentor, Earle Bruce, and that played a factor in his decision not to fire Smith both at Florida and at Ohio State when he was informed of domestic violence allegations.
Smith wouldn’t know this because his ride up the elevator in the college football skyscraper — complete with him getting a piggyback from Meyer — never got to the “become a Power 5 head coach” floor. Mullen, on the other hand, spent 9 years elevating a program at Mississippi State. You don’t just snap your fingers and win national titles at a place like that.
For Smith to sit here and say that Mullen “doesn’t have the swagger to be a great head coach or to be a great recruiting head coach,” is nothing short of petty.
Why can’t Mullen be great? And why can’t he turn Florida into a top 5 job like the one Meyer took over?
With a $65 million football-only facility that’s expected to be ready by early 2020, that’ll be a major help. Mullen is still working to develop major recruiting inroads in the state of Florida, where he only signed one 4-star recruit during his time at MSU. That’s far from a finished product. And with what Mullen did by transforming the quarterbacks like Dak Prescott, Nick Fitzgerald AND Feleipe Franks, I’m not willing to dismiss him as a potential great head coach. Not yet.
Smith, however, is dead set on doing that. And, well, it comes as no surprise. He has nothing more to lose by taking shots at someone like Mullen (and whiffing).
Let the long fall continue.