LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The biggest aftershock of Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen's decision to take the head coaching job at Mississippi State may not hit Gainesville until the second week of January. That's when Florida quarterback Tim Tebow will decide whether to return for his senior year. With his mentor gone, Tebow now has one less reason to stay.
Tebow said Wednesday he was uncertain how Mullen's departure would affect his decision. "I don't know," Tebow said. "That's something that I'll have to look at."
As of late Wednesday, it wasn't clear whether Mullen would remain with the Gators through the national championship game. One thing is certain, though. After Jan. 8, Mullen, the man who performed quarterback drills in front of a mirror at home so he could teach himself to teach his left-handed quarterback, will be Starkville-bound.
"The last three years, I've spent more time with him than anybody on this earth," Tebow said. "I think we know each other really well. We're going to miss him a lot."
Mullen's departure certainly won't be the only factor in Tebow's choice. His evaluation by NFL scouts and the result of the national title game against Oklahoma also will play significant roles in any decision.
More than likely, Tebow will have to adjust to an unfamiliar quarterback coach if he returns. Of the coaches remaining on Florida's staff, only big cheese Urban Meyer has ever coached quarterbacks, and that was as the quarterbacks/receivers coach at Illinois State in 1989. That season was the one that had Meyer entertaining the idea of quitting coaching and going to law school.
Should Meyer promote a coordinator from within, the likely candidates are receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Billy Gonzales or offensive line coach Steve Addazio. The other option is hiring a coordinator who specializes in working with quarterbacks -- but don't expect too many changes to Florida's scheme. Meyer will hire someone to run his offense, and he would not allow anyone to try to change Tebow.
But will Tebow stick around to play for a new coordinator? Judging by what he said Wednesday, he felt pretty sure until this week that he would finish his career under Mullen's tutelage.
"I was stunned by how quick it happened after the SEC [championship] game," Tebow said. "I didn't think it would happen for at least another year."