Veteran NFL/College Scout and Coaching/Scouting Consultant Chris Landry shares his thoughts on Florida's football coaching situation from providing an in-depth breakdown of what happened at the end of the Dan Mullen era to discussing what Billy Napier brings to the table.
Q: In the end, why do you think that it just didn't work out for Dan Mullen at Florida?
A: I think it has been coming for a while and goes deeper than the results on the field and the reason for the results on the field and a lack of agreement on how to fix it.
Q: Are there any comparable falls from grace that you can think of that didn't involve some sort of scandal? He went from being firmly in the running for a College Football Playoff berth last year to out the door in less than 12 months.
A: This situation is certainly unique but we are in different times where the large amounts of money being made by universities and outside money equal power, which leads to zero patience and more power struggles. I believe that Dan could have survived this if only he was willing to adapt and modify his approach on certain things on the field – but mostly in recruiting. I have been very surprised at how little time relative to other major schools they spend on recruiting meetings and evaluations. You can’t just delegate without proper due diligence from the coaches that matter in recruiting.
Q: What is the perception of Dan Mullen in college coaching circles?
A: I’ve known Dan for a while and like him and most agree that he is a fine coach with excellent ability on how to utilize and work a system around a quarterback. However, sometimes guys feel it is all about them and actually like the idea that it’s their coaching prowess more than the quality of players. Dan fit into the category where winning his way, where he is the shining star, is what mattered most to him.
Q: Walk us through the process and where do you think Scott Stricklin was in the process in the first days after firing Mullen?
A: Even if you are not in search of a coach, you should always have in mind who would be the best fit and who is attainable. I work quite a bit behind the scenes in the coaching evaluation world and most good administrators are aware of what direction they might go at all times. As this situation with Dan began to deteriorate, I would expect Scott Stricklin began the process of vetting out potential candidates and was likely already further along than most might realize.
Q: When your company is hired to do a scouting report on head coaching targets. What does that entail?
A: I evaluate coaches like I do players – meaning that it is according to certain CRITICAL FACTORS which means exactly that. The most important qualities that lead to being a successful position coach, coordinator, head coach and some of those factors differently as well as how they differ from College and NFL jobs. What I try to do is get an administrator to set his or her own set of critical factors because you don’t want to sell someone on a mini-van when they are looking for a pickup to drive on the form. It has to fit what they are looking for but I push them to sort out the fit as they see it while helping them by giving them my years of football experience which included not only the extensive film and practice evaluations but the true understanding of who is responsible for what inside each football office staffs. Because oftentimes the ones that self-promote are the ones that the media and fans tend to cling to. But real football people have a better feel for who is truly good. The difference between perception vs reality is often quite a bit different in the player and coaching evaluation world.
Q: Sticklin reportedly only talked with Napier. What is your opinion on that approach? Isn't he potentially leaving some stones unturned?
A: There were a few guys that they vetted, but that is over a long period of time. They zeroed in on Napier even before they parted ways with Mullen.
Q: On the other hand, when it becomes so public that you made a play for a coach – such as LSU with Lincoln Riley – and get spurned, doesn't that damage your brand?
A: There is a difference between what the media reports are saying and what is going on behind the scenes so it’s tough to separate what is real information and what is false. In the LSU/Lincoln Riley situation, there was never an interest by Riley in LSU. It was always USC and that has been in the works for 2-3 weeks now.
Q: For Florida fans who don't know much about him, how would you describe Napier's offense?
A: He understands the value of balance and that points come out of the passing game, but you win with a running game and sound defense and that playing complementary football is essential.
Q: Napier calls his own plays. Does that become harder as you move up the coaching ladder? You have so many other things on your plate that being the de facto offensive coordinator takes up too much of your time?
A: It does take up lots of time. The key is to delegate accordingly. Either the administrative stuff of being the head coach or handing over the offense to a Coordinator that understands and can operate your vision.
Q: In your opinion what are his strengths as a head coach?
A: Organized and he’s a relentless recruiter. He’s been around good mentors and has a nice feel for hiring staff.
Q: In your opinion, what are his weaknesses?
A: Just doesn’t have the experience at the big-time level as a head coach yet.
Q: When we talk about recruiting, who you target is different from conference to conference, even school to school. It felt like, at times, Mullen was still recruiting MSU-level prospects. Should the Gator Nation feel confident that Napier will be able to recruit in the dog-eat-dog world of the SEC?
A: He understands how to establish the critical factors for each position which helps in organizing and grading players correctly. His time at Alabama and Clemson was very effective and gives him big-time college recruiting experience. He did a great job at both Alabama and Clemson in that regard.
Q: How is Napier thought of in the coaching profession? Will he be able to put together a top-notch staff in your opinion?
A: Lots of good contact and learning experiences to lean on. Has established a nice culture where he is at and runs an organized program. One of his strengths at ULL was his ability to put together a fine staff.
Q: Who are some candidates for the offensive and defensive coordinator as well as position coaches.
A: That is up to Billy to share when he is ready. I know he has put together a good list while speaking with the UF administration about the job.
Q: Any Napier stories you can share?
A: He grew up in and around a coaching family. I recommended him to the folks at South Carolina before they decided on Shane Beamer.
Chris Landry has spent a lifetime in football, having served as Coach, Scout, and Administrator at the College Football and NFL levels.
Currently, he operates his own Coaching and Scouting Consulting business serving both NFL organizations and College Football programs in the areas of pro and college personnel, recruiting, advance scouting as well as coaching assessment, development, and searches.
Prior to venturing out on his own, he served as both a Pro and College Scout for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans while also serving as the Coordinator of their Scouting department.
If you are into the nuts and bolts, behind the scenes, type of information, you MUST visit LandryFootball.com to access scouting reports, team and coach information, and data as well as listen to his podcast.