When reports leaked earlier this year that Dan Mullen was scheduled to interview with the New York Jets, people close to the Florida Gators' head coach very quickly worked to shoot down those messages.
In early December Mullen was asked directly about NFL interest and his response was, "if someone ever calls me, I would probably consider it then".
But when Mullen met the media this week on the cusp of his fourth spring as the Gators' coach, he did little to completely dismiss the notion that he might have interest in a future coaching in the NFL.
In fact, Mullen pointed to the uncertainty around college football – COVID-19 ravaged the sport's revenues on college campuses across America; it left almost every program asking its coaches to take “voluntary” pay-cuts; national Name and Image Likeness legislation likewise is at the forefront – as to why he more or less skirted the issue this week.
“I love being here at the University of Florida; I think we have a great program,” said Mullen, who's compiled a 29-9 ledger through three seasons in Gainesville, Florida. “We have a great fan base. A great history. The opportunity to become a championship program every single year.
“I think that there are concerns with coaches, it's what the future of college football is going to look like.”
Though Mullen did not directly identify those “uncertainties” in college football, the sport is facing the expected adoption of the one-time transfer rule in addition to the impact of COVID-19 and the burgeoning NIL issue that will, once finalized, allow players to profit off their name and images.
“Which, I think there's a lot of uncertainties to it right now,” Mullen said of the sport in which he has coached at some level of college football every year since 1994. “Of how that's going to shape up. That might not be completely answering your question, but I think that's probably the fairest way as I think people look at things, look at the future, what's college football going to look like in a three or four years.
“I think there's a lot of uncertainty with that that we're trying to figure out as coaches right now, to see what our futures are going to hold.”
Mullen, however, emphasized that he never conducted any formal interviews this offseason with any NFL teams. In addition to the Jets job, Mullen's name also was linked to the Jacksonville Jaguars position that went to his former mentor, Urban Meyer, in addition to the opening with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Mullen also often has been connected to the Dallas Cowboys position, presently filled by former Green Bay Packers Super Bowl-winning coach Mike McCarthy. Mullen's most high-profile former protege, Dak Prescott, is the Cowboys' franchise quarterback.
“You know what, I didn't speak, I didn't interview with any NFL teams this year,” Mullen said this week before his Gators' squad was set to open spring camp Thursday. “Most of my focus was on getting us back to Atlanta to get back to the SEC Championship game.
“Lot of rumors out there, but I didn't speak to anybody. I'll address it this way: I think one thing is really interesting is that I think a lot of people are trying to figure out what the future of college football is going to hold, and what that's going to look like going forward.”