Florida Football: Would expanded playoffs have saved Dan Mullen?

Based on the playoff format college football is going to use, Dan Mullen would have made the playoffs his first three seasons while at Florida

Nov 20, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen watches play against the
Nov 20, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen watches play against the / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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During his four seasons with Florida Football, former head coach Dan Mullen had competitive teams for three seasons before the bottom fell out during the 2021 campaign. Mullen's squads were always on the fringe of the college football playoffs, but never could piece it together to break through.

But with expanded playoffs on the way and a tweak to the format that helps a team like Florida, would Mullen still be the head coach at Florida had expanded playoffs arrived sooner?

Florida Football: Seat At The Table

We here at Hail Florida Hail have said our fair share of critical things when it comes to Mullen. At the core of the problem is that Florida had fallen into a gatekeeper category similar to what Penn State finds itself in under James Franklin.

During his first three seasons in Gainesville, Mullen finished the regular season 10th, 9th, and 7th in the official College Football Playoff committee rankings.

Under the announced format of 5 + 7 (top five conference champs plus seven at large bids), Florida would have made the playoffs for three straight years under Mullen.

Would that have saved his job even after the 2021 season went south?

Maybe.

The first huge caveat is whether or not Florida made a run in any of those playoffs. If the Gators had won a game or two in those playoffs, there would have been enough goodwill built up that most fans could shake off the 2021 campaign and regroup. But if Florida had gone 0-3 in those playoff appearances, the notion that Florida was a gatekeeper would have stayed intact.

The other caveat is whether or not those playoff appearances would have given Florida a boost in recruiting. One of the main reasons Mullen was let go was his open disdain towards recruiting and while Billy Napier has his fair share of flaws, it's not unfair to state that he was left having to overhaul the entire roster for Florida after Mullen left the cupboard bare.

If zero structural changes were made, playoff appearances feel like they would have been a band aid to mask the deeper problems that existed with the program. Coaches have commented that in the age of NIL they have had to grind even harder. Would Mullen have been up to that task when the rap on him was that he didn't want to grind pre-NIL?

If the endgame goal is to win a national title, expanded playoffs probably don't alter the inevitable ending for Mullen, even if it would have been further down the road. If the goal is to keep Florida respectable and not the punchline to everyone's jokes, expanded playoffs would have kept Florida relevant for longer and, by proxy, have kept Mullen around longer.