I feel like I’ve been a pretty rational person throughout the most frustrating year in Gator history other than 1979. Whenever Will Muschamp lost a game he shouldn’t have (and there have been many such times), I sat back and calmly pointed out his problems, such as turnovers, penalties, and his inability to put the offense in the right hands.
I’m done with all that, because things have just gotten worse, so I’m going to just go ahead and say it.
Will Muschamp has disgraced Florida football. And it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere.
Just five years removed from knocking off Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game and seven from doing the same to Ohio State, the Florida program has now officially hit rock bottom with what the AP (not me) called the worst loss in Gator history. Never before has Florida lost to a lower division school, and not since 1979 has Florida had a losing season. Go ahead and blame injuries on this debacle if you’d like, but first remember that Georgia Southern was so beat up that they only dressed 46 players for the Florida game. If this isn’t Muschamp’s equivalent of the Mississippi State loss that got Ron Zook fired, I’m almost frightened to think of what it would take to get him out of here. Eastern Michigan, maybe? Or would Florida have to go winless next season?
Since Muschamp began the nosedive of the Florida program, I’ve pointed out several things that he needed to do to get the Gators on the right path. I first saw the warning signs after the Miami game, in which Florida turned the ball over five times and committed 10 penalties. The Gators promptly turned it over four more times in their next game against Tennessee (one of them was unofficial, but a punter dropping the snap and giving the other team great field position counts as one in my book), and that’s when I knew Muschamp would never get it fixed. But the final straw came against Vanderbilt, a team that hadn’t won in Gainesville since World War II. I didn’t even consider writing anything calling for his head after a .500 Commodore team walked right into the Swamp and stole the Gators’ lunch from right under their noses. Why bother?
I’m not really one to say “I told you so” to my readers, because that really doesn’t accomplish anything. It doesn’t erase the damage done since then, and it doesn’t make people want to read more of my stuff. What I am saying is that I only wish more people had listened to me after the Miami game and seen the train wreck coming. You know, when there was time to really get in Jeremy Foley’s ear and put Muschamp on the hot seat so Florida could be ready to show him the door at the next embarrassing outing, like Vanderbilt, which would give Foley a head start in looking for a new coach. And maybe, just maybe promote Joker Phillips or maybe DJ Durkin to finish out the year, giving one of them a legitimate sample size to judge them if they did well enough as the interim coach to actually consider them long term.
I’ve always been about more than wins and losses. Some fans see a homecoming loss to Vanderbilt, and just go off of that. While I wholeheartedly agree that such a loss is completely unacceptable at Florida, how did Florida lose that game? 4 turnovers, 11 penalties. Losing the final game of the once heated rivalry against Miami was very hard to take, but why did Florida lose? 5 turnovers, 10 penalties. How about that loss to Georgia last year? 6 penalties, 10 turnovers. I could go on all day, but I want to watch my Giants hopefully beat Dallas… but notice a pattern here?
But there’s a line. At some point, a coach has to win games; not look good in them, or spin a sob story about how his kids tried their best. He’s simply got to win. Georgia flirted with that line, Vanderbilt crossed it, and Georgia Southern disdainfully spit on it and then stomped away without looking back. Amazingly, Florida committed zero turnovers against the Eagles, and just two penalties, but one of them was a big one: a foolish personal foul that erased great field position on Florida’s final drive that ultimately stalled. But the bottom line was, Florida lost to a team that went 6-4 against FCS competition. That’s where reasons and in depth analysis become irrelevant. I shouldn’t have to explain why Muschamp should be pink slipped after such a loss.
But in case you’re not clear yet, let me explain why I want Muschamp fired after this loss. Not that it’s really much of a mystery to most fans, but maybe you haven’t followed me from my days at Alligator Army and haven’t seen my reasons.
First, this is one of the most undisciplined teams I can ever remember seeing. Never before have I seen a football program as a whole commit more stupid penalties, like the personal fouls on Clay Burton against Miami, Solomon Patton vs. Georgia, Keanu Neal against Georgia Southern, etc. The list goes on and on.
And let’s get one thing clear: I don’t blame the players at all. They’re kids, they’re all close to my age, and the example set for them by their leader- their head coach- is that it’s OK to go ballistic on somebody who gives you a little shove one second after the whistle has blown. How can you say this is their fault? That’s what the man in charge of the program does, so why would you blame them? They see Muschamp flip out at a ref for a holding call, and guess what? They’re going to go apeshit on an opponent that does anything to tick them off. It’s like aquitting a master arsonist and giving him a free pack of lighters- what do you THINK is going to happen when your coach gives the message that it’s OK to act like THIS?
Or like this?
Second, there are the turnover issues. This is another program wide epidemic. It goes from Jordan Reed, to Chris Rainey, to Jeff Driskel, to John Brantley, to Tyler Murphy, to Mike Gillislee, to the offensive line for not blocking enough, to receivers who tip balls that should be caught. Just about everybody who has ever played for Will Muschamp has committed multiple silly turnovers that result from not taking care of the ball or doing what they were supposed to. Everybody shares that blame equally. But again, when this goes on for three years, it’s on the coach. If it’s one player, or even two, you can bench him until he swears on his entire family’s grave not to fumble. If it’s a quarterback who keeps making bad decisions, then you can do the same thing.
But it’s not just one or two guys. That’s the problem. It’s the entire team. From Florida’s best players to their third stringers, guys are fumbling, whiffing on blocks leading to strip sacks and bad decisions by the quarterback, tipping easily catchable passes, and throwing passes that should never be thrown. Those of you who blame Skyler Mornhinweg for not being a D1 quarterback… what do you have to say about former starter Jeff Driskel, making two truly horrible decisions against Miami by floating one ball over the middle after scrambling in the pocket for several seconds- a no-no- and failing to anticipate Tracy Howard jumping the route for an easy pick? How about Jordan Reed, Florida’s best player last year, fumbling at the goal line to secure the loss to Georgia, and Gillislee simply dropping the ball on a handoff from Driskel against FSU last year?
These are and were Florida’s BEST PLAYERS, and they were coughing it up way more than they should have. Why is Muschamp not preaching ball security in practice? And if he is, why are there not stricter punishments for those who turn it over in practice so that they’re afraid to do it again? Worst of all, why is this still happening in Muschamp’s third year?
Perhaps some of this blame deserves to placed on the head of Brent Pease, the offensive coordinator. I’m not in the meetings, so I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think Muschamp is forcing Pease to water down the offense to be as boring as it is. I believe Pease does this to himself by calling a game plan that’s only slightly better than one drawn up by Steve Addazio. Pease isn’t as bad as Addazio in terms of calling plays, but he’s pretty damn close, and that’s a problem because as far as I know, Steve Addazio was the only coordinator I know of to have a website put up calling for his firing. I could be wrong here, but he’s the only one I know of.
Anyway, sure, Pease may be incompetent, but who’s kept him on staff for this long? Who’s refused to promote Joker Phillips to offensive coordinator, or even begin to look for another one? That’s on Muschamp. As the head coach, you don’t have to know everything about the side of the ball you weren’t brought up on as a young assistant, but you do need to know the difference between good and bad. And right now, this offense is 112th in the nation (out of 123 FBS teams) and dead friggin last in the SEC. Without Kelvin Taylor, this offense would be last in my high school’s conference. And I say that with a straight face. My high school has turned out several D1 players. Look up James Caldwell High School if you don’t believe me. But the point is, Muschamp’s inability to recognize that his offense is comically bad is definitely something that could get him fired on its own merit, even if the self destructing issues listed above didn’t exist.
Warning: the following stats may make you want to rip your eyes out. Florida was Georgia Southern’s only FBS opponent. The Eagles played 10 FCS teams. Half of them scored more than Florida did on their defense. But that’s not even the worst part. Before they played Florida, Georgia Southern was surrendering 23.5 points per game, meaning Florida’s 20 points HELPED THEIR DEFENSE’S SCORING AVERAGE. For an SEC team to make an FCS team’s scoring defense look better is just abhorrent.
But now, at last, comes the final ignobility.
To me, the most telling sign that Muschamp is done is that his defense, which I’ve always praised, was utterly horrendous on Saturday. I get that the triple option Georgia Southern runs isn’t the easiest offense to defend, but Western Carolina, Furman, Appalachian State, Chattanooga and Wofford all held Georgia Southern to fewer yards than Florida. How did it get to a point where Muschamp’s defense- his one saving grace- is categorically worse than half of the FCS teams on Georgia Southern’s schedule?
It’s not even like that was the first embarrassing performance by his defense this year. The Gators gave up an even 500 to Missouri and 414 to a seriously depleted Georgia squad, and with Florida State still to play, you can bet they’ll give up several hundred more yards, with or without Jameis Winston.
But you know what? I could forgive all of that- ALL of it- if this was Muschamp’s first year, and he was dealing with the leftovers from Urban Meyer. That’s the worst of it. This is a third year coach dealing with issues that most first year coaches are able to clean up at least somewhat by the end of the season. If Muschamp can’t clean all this up by the end of his third year (and he’s losing to Georgia friggin Southern in his third year)… when are we supposed to believe things will get better? How much longer are Florida fans expected to wait and see improvements? If Muschamp still has these problems after three years in Gainesville, how are Florida fans realistically supposed to expect them to EVER get fixed?
Incredibly, there are STILL some people who defend Muschamp, saying his 11-2 season bought him one more year. Unfortunately, I think those people are ultimately going to be right about that, but how can you say that with a straight face and BELIEVE that? Sure, Muschamp was a game away from being in the national championship game last year, but do you know WHY the Gators WEREN’T actually IN the national championship game? I’ll tell you exactly why (again): 6 turnovers, 10 penalties and 266 total yards- the same damn things that I listed above, and that are still plaguing the Gators today, only with backups instead of starters.
I think Muschamp is a great person off the field who really connects with fans (before he starts losing, that is) and recruits, and who preaches honesty as well as practices it. Ask recruits, Muschamp is one of the most straight up guys they talk to. And I also think he would be a serviceable defensive coordinator and head of recruiting for Florida, which is why I don’t want him actually fired, but rather demoted. Obviously I know that’s never going to happen for about a million different reasons, and I could name them all for you. But the point is, I don’t have pure hatred for Muschamp like some fans do. I just don’t think he’s head coach material, and probably won’t ever be at the SEC level.
In case I’m not clear, Will Muschamp has to go. I don’t think Jeremy Foley is going to be on the hot seat if he doesn’t pull the trigger now because of the success of the Florida athletic program as a whole, but I will say this. He better be right about this. Florida better turn around and win the SEC East next year. Anything less and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it may be time to start to seriously think about Foley’s future. Let me be clear: I am NOT calling for Foley’s head now, and probably won’t if Florida fails again next year on the football field and he doesn’t fire Muschamp at the first sign of trouble in 2014, but I can’t promise that I won’t, and I’ll admit, at the very least, I’m going to be inclined think about it. I would still point at the back to back Capital One Cups Florida recently won for having the best overall athletics program, but for the first time, I think I’d have to listen to people who disagree, and my counterarguments would be weakened.
Under Muschamp, Florida has already lost its dominance over FCS teams, not to mention Georgia and Vanderbilt, and you can bet that FSU will put a beating on Florida in the Swamp, which would certainly add them to that list. The only things Florida fans have to brag about now in terms of football is the 27 game winning streak over Kentucky, and the 9 game streak over Tennessee. And I’ll bet you that if Muschamp stays next year, at least one of those streaks will be gone (probably Tennessee).
The song does go, In All Kinds Of Weather, We All Stick Together. I believe that motto, and always will. I even run this site based off that name. But note the second part of that line; the song doesn’t go, “we lie to feel better.” I’ve always preached honesty in everything that I write. I am just as much of a Florida Gator fan now as I was when Tim Tebow was breaking records here in Gainesville, and I will always want the best for Florida- in all kinds of weather. But in return for my undying loyalty, I demand that Jeremy Foley do everything in his power to make the Florida Gators the best they can be. Or if you want to look at the grand scheme of things, how about the students and alumni? I’m neither, and I don’t pay the University of Florida a penny. The same can’t be said for the hundreds of thousands of people who do/did attend UF, and are the ones who financially support the program and who share my viewpoint. I’m not making a threat to Foley here, but I’m just telling him what’s going to happen.
After the latest debacle, there is only a very small percentage of fans left who support Will Muschamp as the leader of the Gator football team. That’s going to become very evident when there are thousands of empty seats, if not seats occupied by opposing schools. Check out the stands on Saturday against FSU. The Swamp is going to alarmingly garnet colored, and if you think that’s bad, wait until Florida plays Eastern Michigan next year. EMU doesn’t travel like FSU, and the result is going to be a ton of empty seats. Losing fans in exchange for FSU fans is embarrassing, but having empty, unsold seats is both embarrassing and a major financial blow. And I’m giving you fair warning, Foley, that your athletic program will suffer financially until Florida starts winning again… which I don’t see happening under Muschamp.
I’ll leave people with two things. First, this thought that I touched on before, but it’s worth another mention. Excuses are excuses, and reasons are reasons. But if losing to Mississippi State, an SEC team (albeit a really bad one), on the road was enough to get Ron Zook fired, and losing to Georgia Southern, an (average) FCS team, in the Swamp isn’t enough to get Muschamp fired… what will be?
Second, I’ve said my piece, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Do you really want a coach with THIS on his resume?