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Florida Football: 5 Reasons the Gators Were Justified in Firing Dan Mullen

Dan Mullen, Florida Gators Football

Less than a year after playing in the SEC Championship Game, Florida parted ways with Mullen following a discouraging loss to Missouri

On Sunday, Florida fired Dan Mullen as its head coach following a 24-23 loss to Missouri and a 2-5 run over the Gators' last seven games. Running backs and special teams coach Greg Knox will lead the team for the remainder of the season.

Most programs suffer tough years and Mullen (34-15 overall, 21-13 in SEC play at Florida) was only a season removed from winning an SEC East title, but the Gators were justified in parting ways with him. Here are five reasons why.

5. Success was waning

Mullen went 10-3 and 11-2 in his first two seasons in Gainesville but finished second to Georgia in the SEC East. Granted, the Gators did win the division in 2020 during an 8-4 season and played national champion Alabama closer than any other team when they met in the SEC Championship Game. But since that loss, Florida has gone 5-7 and has not beaten a ranked opponent.

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4. Georgia

In the 1990s and 2000s, Florida dominated its rivalry with Georgia. However, the Bulldogs have led the series 7-4 since 2011. Mullen went 1-3 against Georgia and the Gators' 34-7 loss this season was an indicator of how far Florida could be falling behind in the SEC East.

3. Oklahoma and Texas

The SEC's addition of Oklahoma and Texas has generated controversy, but everyone can agree that the conference is going to realign. Whether Alabama moves into the SEC East or Florida finds itself in a division with Oklahoma, the Gators' path to success is going to be a lot harder and they need a coach who is up to challenge.

2. Florida doesn't have to wait on a head coach

Given its proximity to recruits and facilities, Florida is a destination where coaches are expected to win, and the program does not have to wait on a head coach who is struggling. For example, when Steve Spurrier left in 2002 after winning a national championship and six SEC titles, the Gators hired New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Ron Zook, who went 23-14 over three seasons. He was fired and replaced by Utah head coach Urban Meyer, who went on to win two national championships in six seasons in Gainesville. While Gator fans would say they have struggled to find the right coach since Meyer left, Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain, and Mullen have all won at least a share of an SEC East title. That gives you a sense of the expectations in Gainesville.

As we head into the final week of the regular season, there are currently 10 coaching vacancies, including openings at major programs like LSU, USC, and Washington, and four jobs have already been filled. If Florida wants to find the coach, the program's leadership needed to get its search started sooner rather than later.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.