Why You’re Right and Why You’re Wrong about Dan Mullen


There are a lot of reasons to believe Dan Mullen is one of the best coaches in the country, but there almost as many areas he needs to improve as a coach.

The coaching carousel was operating at warp speed last week. Many of the numerous jobs that had been opened for weeks began to fill up. And Mississippi State fans began to take keen interest in the Miami job when reports were swirling Dan Mullen interviewed for the job.

Dan Mullen has always had his critics. Even inside Mississippi State’s own fan base, there have been fans who believe he isn’t that great of a coach, but most of them remained as close to silent as possible during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. A loss to Ole Miss combined with the report of him interviewing at another school has brought new life to those who have criticized Mullen over the years.

So how good or how bad of a coach is Dan Mullen? It’s a good question because the truth of the matter is simple.

Nobody knows.

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If you want to make the case that Dan Mullen is the best coach Mississippi State has ever had, there is plenty of evidence to do so. But the odd thing about Dan Mullen’s tenure as the head coach of the Bulldogs is there are a number of things critics can easily point to as well. Odds are, you fall into one of these categories. And if you do, you likely base your point of view on some of the following criteria.

The case for Dan Mullen being the best coach ever at Mississippi State
There’s a lot to love about what Dan Mullen has done at Mississippi State. He took a team that was reeling after the last three years of the Jackie Sherrill era and the five years of Sylvester Croom and has made them relevant in the ultra competitive  SEC West. Here is what he has done in his seven years as the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

  • Averaged just under 8 wins a season
  • Averaged just under 4 SEC wins a year
  • Had a winning record in six consecutive years.
  • Gone to six consecutive bowl games. No other Mississippi State stretch went to more than three straight bowl games.
  • He has a 4-3 record against Ole Miss.
  • Average finish in the SEC West has been 4.7 out of 7 teams. The previous seven seasons, the Bulldogs average finish was 5.7 out of 6 teams.
  • Mississippi State has been ranked at some point in the season for 5 of the past 6 seasons.
  • Guided Mississippi State to their only 10 win regular season in school history.
  • Helped mold Dak Prescott into a player who finished 8th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2014, the highest ever finish for a Bulldog.
  • Led the Bulldogs to their first ever top 5 and #1 ranking in program history.

And these numbers don’t account for the fact the SEC West is as strong as it has ever been under Mullen. Other coaches couldn’t match his success in their time on the job, and the SEC wasn’t as strong top to bottom as it is today.

To put things further in perspective, Mississippi State is about to play in their 19th Bowl Game, 6 of those bowl appearances will have been coached by Dan Mullen. And while it might be easier to get to bowl eligibility with a 4th non-conference game, Mullen has only had one of his six winning seasons that didn’t include at least three conference wins.

That is an impressive list. Doing what he has done at Mississippi State might not be impressive at a school like Alabama, but this isn’t Alabama. Mississippi State has a long and well documented history of being the doormat of the SEC. To do what Dan Mullen has done at Mississippi State is significant and shouldn’t be discounted.

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  • The case for Dan Mullen being highly overrated as a coach
    So why are there some fans who aren’t bending over backwards to keep Dan Mullen around? Because there are a lot areas Dan Mullen has to improve to be considered an elite coach.

    • Only 5 wins against trams ranked in the AP Top 25.
    • His record against Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M is 2-16.
    • His record against the SEC West is 13-26 and 13-4 against the far lesser East Division
    • Dan Mullen is 4-3 against Ole Miss, but is 1-3 against Hugh Freeze
    • In his previous 6 seasons, the Bulldogs only finished ranked in the final AP  poll twice, and will may finish outside it this season even if they win their bowl game.
    • Dan Mullen’s recruiting classes: never finished higher than 8th in the SEC.

    To sum up the argument against him is simple. Dan Mullen can win against teams that aren’t very good but he can’t beat the better teams he plays. And if Mississippi State is ever going to be more than a solid program but no aspirations for a division title, then Dan Mullen is going to have to start beating Alabama and LSU.

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    It’s odd for Mississippi State to have finished their 7th year under Dan Mullen and still not have a really good idea if he we have seen his best as a coach. And unless there is a serious regression from the past six seasons or a marked improvement, we likely won’t ever truly know. It’s why you’re going to have a real hard making a really strong pro-Mullen or anti-Mullen argument. Either way, you have a lot of things you have to ignore from the other side of the argument.