The Next Coach at Georgia – Before Hating on Dan Mullen, Look at What He’s Really Done
Dan Mullen is not Mark Richt. Let’s get this out of the way. He’s not Mark Richt in a thousand ways—and that’s not a good thing or a bad thing in and of itself. But he’s especially not Mark Richt as it relates to the narrative of losing to too many good teams. He’s not Mark Richt, because Mississippi State is not Georgia and it never will be.
When looking at Mullen’s track record at Mississippi State relative to Richt’s performance over the same time period (2009-Present), Richt wins every time:
|Overall Winning %||60.67%||68.48%|
|SEC Winning %||46.43%||63.79%|
|Top 25 Winning %||15.15%||32.26%|
But that isn’t a fair comparison.
First and foremost, let’s consider Mullen’s talent at Mississippi State relative to Richt’s talent at Georgia. To do this, I looked at two samples of similar data:
- Trailing 4-Year Period of Recruiting Class Ranking
- Trailing 4-Year Period of Recruiting Class Player Rating
I drew both of these numbers from 247Sports.
At worst during this time period, Richt’s Georgia teams boasted an average 4-year national ranking of 9.25. At best (right now), Mullen’s teams ranked out at 25 nationally.
And on an individual player-by-player basis, Mississippi State has a decisive disadvantage as well.
The gap is as narrow as it has ever been right now, which is a testament to what Mullen has done in Starkville. But for context, the gap between where Georgia currently stands (90.11) and where Mississippi State is (85.93) is a gap of 4.18 points. That’s about the difference between landing Jacob Eason and landing 4-star quarterback Jack Allison, a Miami commit. Tell me those points don’t matter when that gap applies to 25 or 30 guys in each class. The only way you can do that is if you throw out ratings and rankings altogether.
Also working against Mullen is the strength of the SEC West. Mullen has won fewer than 50 percent of his contests in SEC play while over the past seven seasons Richt won nearly 64%. Some of that, possibly a large portion, is due to a talent differential. More still is due to a much stronger SEC West.
Over this time period, SEC West teams have finished ranked in the Top 10 (by the coaches poll) on 12 different occasions. That’s happened nine times in the east. On 17 occasions, West teams have finished in the top 15. In the east, that number stands at 11. On 22 occasions West teams have finished ranked in the Top 20. In the east, the figure is 13. On 25 occasions, West teams have finished ranked in the Top 25. In the east, the number is 15.
And Mullen has also surpassed expectations quite often (based on preseason and post-season polling). Twice over this time period Mullen has risen from unranked in the preseason to a Top 25 finish. Only once has he declined in ranking from the beginning of the season to the final poll. Richt, meanwhile has also risen in the rankings several times (three times – 2014, 2012 and 2011) but he’s fallen from ranked in the preseason to unranked in each of the other four years of this sample.
And the common-opponent theory lends itself to Mississippi State as a better performer against head-to-head opposition.
Since 2009, Georgia and Mississippi State have shared 30 common opponents. Against those opponents, Mississippi State has performed better than Georgia (as measured by point differential relative to opposition) on 16 different occasions. Twice the two teams performed identically – a pair of seven-point losses to Arkansas in 2010 and a pair of seven-point wins over Kentucky in 2010. Georgia performed better than Mississippi State 12 times. And I think it’s worth noting, that Mississippi State out-performed Georgia against all four common opponents in 2015:
|Opponent||MSU Result||UGA Result||Advantage|
|Auburn||17-9 Win||20-13 Win||MSU|
|Alabama||31-6 Loss||10-38 Loss||MSU|
|Kentucky||42-16 Win||27-3 Win||MSU|
|Missouri||31-13 Win||9-6 Win||MSU|
So don’t say that Dan Mullen is Mark Richt. Against a common pool of opponents, one could argue he was better. And you’d be crazy not to recognize the talent gap and the disadvantage of the SEC West.
And I’ll close by saying that Mullen won’t use the talent gap as an excuse. He’s upped Mississippi State’s recruiting profile significantly. Their trailing four-year recruit rating has improved every single year since he arrived.
To be clear: I’m not saying Dan Mullen is a better coach than Mark Richt. I am, however, saying that the data suggests he has out-performed the talent on hand (while simultaneously increasing the talent on hand) in Starkville. If the same could be empirically said for Richt, he’d still be the head coach in Athens.
I don’t know that Dan Mullen is the answer in Athens—in fact, I highly doubt he’ll get the call. But don’t scoff at the mention of his name. He’s done a lot with very little.
That’s all I got/