A new guy who has never been a head coach in the SEC arrives in Gainesville. He brings with him an innovative offensive coordinator, but how will they be both received initially?
Well, judging by the last time, that welcome may not be so hot in the early going.
I was referring to 2005 and Urban Meyer/Dan Mullen — not 2011 and Will Muschamp/Charlie Weis.
Not that long ago critics were shooting holes in the offensive philosophy of the Meyer/Mullen brain trust, questioning whether the Spread Option would ever work in the SEC against the bigger, faster front sevens.
A couple of games into Urban’s career at UF, some Gator fans were starting to sound like they were accusing Jeremy Foley of doing a remake of The Ron Zook story.
By the way, how did all that Meyer/Mullen stuff work out?
Aside from the fact that Mullen was undressed and barbecued by angry fans after a couple of losses and less than spectacular offensive performances, I mean. But two SEC rings and a pair of crystal balls later, it’s fairly easy to assess the Urban the Meyer Era and the Spread in its day.
There will always be the doubters.
Some people didn’t want to give Meyer the chance to succeed. Some of those same cynics are questioning the controversial choice of Weis because of stories about his coaching relationships on staff in Kansas City and his reputation in South Bend for being less than tactful with close associates of the program.
Now, some of those same skeptics are questioning the potential of an assistant coach like Muschamp — and even more so since his choice of Weis as offensive coordinator.
I say let’s give them a chance to unpack first.
Memo to Muschamp: At Florida, football is a blood sport among the spectators — not just the players. And trust the Ol’ Ball Coach when he says “sooner or later they get tired of you, no matter who you are.”
Expect the naysaying early on, because it comes with the territory. And the big money.
There’s a reason Florida ranks third in the country on the list of most profitable athletic departments with $106 million, just behind No. 1 Texas ($120 million) and No. 2 Ohio State ($118 million). It’s called winning. But winning also begets the feeling of entitlement among fans.
Yeah, I know Coach Boom, you are from around these parts and have coached on high profile teams in large cities and in football hotbeds like Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge and Austin. But you ain’t ever experienced anything like The Gator Nation from a closeup vantage point.
I mean that in mostly a positive way, but as Foley told The Tampa Tribune about the pressure of the Florida job the other day, the money and success of the Gator job is a double-edge sword:
“This isn’t unique to Florida or any number of executives who have high-stress jobs. Everybody has to figure out the work-family balance. Because of the money involved and the expectations, every football coach we hire has to understand that.
“It cuts both ways. The Gator Nation allows us to do what we do. Because of our resources, we’ve got a chance to win in every single sport, every single day. I think it would be harder to get out of bed if you never had a chance to win. Do they (fans) get critical when things aren’t going well? Yes, but that’s part of the gig. I welcome the expectations. I think we should be competing for SEC and national titles.”
Here is the reality of the situation: Urban Meyer has come and gone, leaving behind a marvelous legacy, and he ain’t coming back. But it was time for Urban to go; his body and his mind were telling him that.
Given that he had somewhat short notice to fill that spot, Foley pulled off what appears to have been an outstanding hire, a bright young coach who brings fresh enthusiasm and a different perspective.
There were issues to be addressed with this hire, including the fact that the offense had begun to bog down and players at skill positions had under performed lately. Whether that was the fault of the coaches, players or system can be argued, but given that Muschamp is a defensive guy, he needed a strong offensive presence.
Although I’ve never met the man and can only go on his reputation, I get that Weis is supposedly a bit of a lightning rod with an abrasive personality which has been known to cause provocation.
Let me remind you that Mullen was no bundle of joy himself and could be such an irritant that Meyer once admitted he wanted to “punch him on the mouth” once when Dan was serving as Urban’s graduate assistant at Notre Dame.
“I just wanted to tell him to shut up and go set up the cones,” Meyer said laughingly about it years later.
Weis is known to be a good football man who knows how to move the chains. Like him or not, I dare say that the credentials of Weis are gargantuan compared to the little known (then) Mullen when he first arrived. Taking personalities out of it — if that can be done — Weis knows how to get the job done.
A friend of mine recently talked to the father of Jimmy Clausen who played for Charlie at Notre Dame. “He told me he loved the guy (Weis),” said my friend.
That will be good news for the quarterbacks on the Florida roster.
But that’s just a start. And unless it translates into W’s, none of these coaches will be around in three or four years. Even if they are successful, winning championships might not be enough. Ask Urban Meyer, who left the game at 46.
That is the nature of this beast called Florida football. Lose and you’re out of here. Win and, unless you can handle the stress or almost unfathomable expectations that come with the program, you’ll move on anyway.
That old philosopher Spurrier once said winning was more of a relief because losing had become a disgrace.
Point of clarification, Coach Boom — and with your knowledge and background, you already know this. Florida is one of the top jobs in America. There is a price that comes with the success, however. Be ready for it.
And this suggestion to Gator fans: Embrace the hire. Learn to look at winning as a gift and not an inalienable right. Enjoy the ride. Even though it is driven by a multi-million-dollar engine, college football is still a game. And at Florida, a pretty good one.