Who did USA Today recently suggest "could become one of the hottest head coaching properties in college football?" Which coach did The Sporting News say "has [his team] trending up as rapidly as any program in the league" (despite only naming them the 59th best team in America)? Who did some crazy bastard in Tennessee recently rank as the third best head coach in all of the Southeastern Conference?
I know. You're as shocked and blank-faced as I am right now. And there's more than what I've linked - much more. Media outlets accross the college football world are touting Dan Mullen's "successes" in Starkville. But, really, what are these successes?To be brief, they're twofold: being the anti-Croom and winning an Egg Bowl in Starkville, something which State has done to every Ole Miss team since Eli Manning's final regular-season game on that field.
Bruce Schlabach of ESPN spoke of him wasting no time tossing "gasoline onto the fire" of the Egg Bowl rivalry, as if that's something no State coach has ever done. Other's have praised his recruiting abilities, while really only having his recruiting as an assistant at Florida to fall back on as any kind of positive support of such praise (Dan Mullen's first full recruiting class was 20 Rivals.com ranking spots lower than Ole Miss' class that season). The only real real, legitimate attributes of Dan Mullen which have received deserved praise are his exciting demeanor and youth - hence the anti-Croom.
Oh, and there's that Egg Bowl: an Egg Bowl in a stadium which rarely sees an Ole Miss victory, marked by three Jevan Snead turnovers, in which the Bulldogs only outgained the Rebels offensively by 27 yards. The score is deceptively lopsided thanks to a, you guessed it, Jevan Snead pick-six. It wasn't the ass-reaming many have been convinced it was; but, boy, was it ever embarrassing.
But, to turn the table a bit, do any State fans find it a bit embarrassing that the Egg Bowl is the only thing they're able to sheepisly point to when arguing for Dan Mullen?
Truly, when a 5-7 record with one signature win coming over a ranked Ole Miss Rebel squad is enough to garner a coach like Dan Mullen this much praise, this is a severe indictment of the Mississippi State Bulldog program.
An outsider looking in might be complementary of Dan Mullen, but it's based around thoughts such as "holy shit, he got those losers to win five games? And he sprinkled a moral victory or two in there? HOT DAMN!"
But, believe this, Rebel fans, this is also a good appraisal of our Ole Miss Rebel program. With his Egg Bowl victory as the focal point of the "Dan Mullen roolz" argument, the belief of Dan Mullen's potential as a coach is founded on the idea that Ole Miss is good program with good players and good coaches, making a victory over the Rebels something of note.
Let's be honest. Had Dan Mullen not won the Egg Bowl, even if by one point, much of the Dan Mullen love - from the media, from the fans of the SEC, and from State fans themselves - wouldn't be as pronounced. This is the epicenter of their Dan Mullen admiration which, really, is flattering in a bizarre way.
State fans, y'all can legitimately be excited for a guy who, at the very least, has proven to be a far superior head coach than Sylvester Croom, at least as far as motivation and play-calling go. But spare everyone the lofty predictions and illogical guarantees (Old Pi$$ WILL loose the Egg Bowl this year COUNT IT!!*). Of course, Dan Mullen could really be that good. He could eventually be the complete package at head coach: an X's and O's guy who is a great recruiter and an icon of his institution. But we don't know that yet and pretending like we do is stupid.
So let's put the anointing oil away and, if he's hired away** from State in a couple of seasons for a middle- or even upper-tier BCS level job, then we can bring it back out. If that happens, we'll then know what kind of a coach Dan Mullen is.
*Fun fact: Ole Miss hasn't lost the Egg Bowl in Oxford since 1998. That was, like. last millineum and shit.
**What? Did any of y'all think the guy was going to grow old in Starkville?