I posted this as a poll in the facebook group, and so far the results lean against it.
I personally have mixed feelings on this topic. Of course, I can’t change history, but I do wonder what would have happened had Jeremy Foley backed down to Spurrier’s demand of simply giving him the job.
But that leads to another question. Say we could change history. Do we as Gator fans really want to go back and undo the Urban Meyer era in exchange for more Spurrier days, presumably with similar results as his first run?
Of course, the hiring of Urban Meyer did lead us to 2 BCS Championships in 3 years, but it also led to back to back 5 (maybe more) loss seasons in which the offense was bad enough to counteract the juggernauts the Orange and Blue fielded in 2007 and 2008.
One thing that is for certain is that this team would never suffer a dip like this. Urban Meyer’s offense, when run with the right players and play-caller, was literally unstoppable. But Dan Mullen was the co-generator of the offense, or at least watched Urban raise it from its infant stages to a multi-headed monster that even Nick Saban couldn’t stop (well, sometimes). Then there was Tim Tebow, who was born to lead the offense. A pinpoint accurate QB who was nearly as dangerous a runner as Percy Harvin (in different ways, of course) was the cherry on the cake for Meyer, while his lethal collection of receivers (Louis Murphy, Harvin, Aaron Hernandez, Riley Cooper, David Nelson, etc) and running backs (Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Emmanuel Moody, Kestahn Moore etc.) would simply hide behind Tebow in the media and play the role of silent assassin to defenses.
Alone, one of those players would be useless. But blended together with a legitimate QB who was also a threat to run, these guys routinely hit 30 points and often eclipsed 50.
The problem with this offense is that it needs somebody who knows it inside and out aside from its creator to call the plays AND a QB who can both run and pass at an All American level, AND tons of speed around the QB.
The third part is relatively easy, but sadly, there’s only one Tim Tebow. Meyer could teach the offense to somebody with intelligence (NOT YOU ADDAZIO, CALM DOWN) to run it, but it’s still not the same without Tebow. Jeff Driskel might be the second coming of Tebow but be honest, how likely is that?
Plug in Spurrier (and a young, hot offensive coordinator of his choice) for Meyer. Assume Spurrier retains Charlie Strong from Zook’s staff and Strong works the same magic on the defense that he did with Meyer.
In 2005, Chris Leak would have had more chance to throw than he did with Meyer. He would not have been saddled with the heavy burden of being Meyer’s guinea pig, meaning run as often as you throw. He had plenty of talent left over from Ron Zook (so I honestly say, thank you Zook) to work with. Maybe this offense wouldn’t have been unstoppable, but it would have been better than it was in 2005. Many people forget that the offense never got their stuff together until the Western Carolina game (and they suck… in the FCS). It worked relatively well against FSU and Iowa. It never should have taken that long to bring success. If Spurrier, not Meyer, worked to retool Leak to HIS liking, the process would have been much quicker because Spurrier’s use for Leak would have been closer to what he did under Zook than Meyer’s use for him.
2006 would have certainly been better. That was Harvin’s (and Tebow’s) freshman year. Spurrier would have had a field day utilizing Harvin as his murder weapon of opponents. Not even like a knife to slice through opponents; more like a bludgeoning tool, like a huge piece of pipe. Or would that be Tebow, the freshman sensation? I do think Tebow would have thrown more passes than attempt rushes but it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t get the important short yardage touches. Nevertheless, it was the defense that won that championship. The offense was still a work in process in the overhaul from Zook retardation to Meyer success, and again, the transition to Spurrier’s Fun N’ Gun would have been easier than to Meyer’s equally effective, but harder to build triple option spread.
Let’s say they recruited the same exact players- they wouldn’t have, but let’s assume that for now. Tim Tebow loved Florida partly because of Urban Meyer, partly because of the offense and partly because he loved the place. He probably would not have won the Heisman in 2007 without all those rushing TD’s, but his passing numbers would have been unbelievable. He wouldn’t have been used as the goal line bull all the time; he would have shared that role with Kestahn Moore, Emmanuel Moody and the fullbacks that never got their names called due to a profound lack of carries (NOT to say this was Meyer’s negligence, it certainly was not, they were helpful in blocking, but that was all).
We all know that when told something to do or to change, Tebow listens and the piece of coaching is instantly incorporated into his game. His long delivery would have likely been corrected by his sophomore year.
Then look at the speed guys around him. Spurrier would have salivated over the thought of working with guys like Bubba Caldwell, Percy Harvin, Louis Murphy, Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey. Instead of running options and relatively short routes with receivers, Spurrier would have had them go deep much more often. We’ve seen Demps and Rainey catch the ball. They are quite capable of going long. With five wide and other crazy formations Spurrier could devise, tell me now, who could cover these guys in single coverage? If somebody actually could, that’s great, NOW Tebow takes off and picks up yards on his own.
The production level might have been slightly lower in 2007 and 2008, and might have been better… but now we look at the last 3 seasons.
In his senior season, if Tebow decides he does need one more year of seasoning at UF, he would have been the best QB of all time without argument. We probably would have lost Harvin after his junior season anyway, so we simply plug in Rainey for 2-3 seasons. Watching film of both of them, Rainey’s every bit as explosive. He simply hasn’t gotten the space or opportunities to make the video game type plays Harvin made since 2008, when he ran wild behind Harvin and Tebow. Cooper, Hernandez, Nelson, Deonte Thompson and Demps are all back in 2009 so Tebow continues firing bullets all over the SEC to these guys en route to another successful season- maybe a BCS Championship.
Or… let’s say Spurrier doesn’t go after Tim Tebow, which to be honest, is the more likely scenario. . At a place like Florida, I’ll bet he would have landed a pure pocket passer like Matt Stafford, Sam Bradford, etc. Now that offense is really quite explosive. And when that first guy leaves, Spurrier gets a new pocket passer- like Zach Mettenberger or Aaron Murray. Same big time results. But I can’t predict which of those QB’s Spurrier lands, so let’s just go on assuming it was Tebow, even though he’s not necessarily the best fit for a Spurrier offense.
But regardless of who the QB is, 2010 is where it gets interesting- and now let’s go back to the assumption that the same players were recruited. I’ll also assume Cam Newton still was his own dumbass self and threw a laptop out of a window. John Brantley is ready to take on all the responsibility of replacing Tebow, who still made a huge name for himself, just more with his arm and less with his feet. He’ll have been trained by Spurrier and his pass-friendly OC for three years. It’s much easier to replace Tebow now because he only has to match his passing production to be considered a Gator hero. He was doomed with Meyer, since he had to run like Tebow and throw like Tebow to fully be considered as a worthy replacement and live up to fans’ ridiculous expectations. Take the running away and it’s less to do to live up to the hype.
Let’s just say he was the next Rex Grossman- great, but not Hall of Fame phenomenal. He would have flourished with Rainey resuming his role of slot/wide receiver, Andre Debose helping Rainey out, Demps driving DC’s crazy with his Olympic speed, Deonte Thompson as the deep threat, Omarious Hines and Frankie Hammond as the wild card receivers (meaning, use them how you please, which I trust Spurrier to do well) and using Trey Burton and Jordan Reed as dependable tight ends.
Assuming Brantley was half his reputation as a pro style (or even a pass happy) QB, and assuming the line blocked fairly well, this offense would have been similarly unstoppable.
Then bring this exact same team back for 2011, and figure the results are the same. Brantley’s self esteem has not been nuked like Hiroshima in 2010 with Spurrier, so there’s no radiation with the everlasting effect that Addazio’s spread-atomic bomb had. With Rainey and Demps as seniors, this is Florida’s year to compete for championships. The blocking would need to be better, but Spurrier would never tolerate such foolishness as bad protection- he knows that in order to score points at will, blocking is key.
Now, let’s take a look at projected results.
2005 would not have been a successful season anyway. There was still the Zook touch to overcome, and that would take at least a year even for a simpler offense than Meyer’s triple option spread.
Florida went 9-3 under Meyer, and that’s about what it would have been under Spurrier. The scores would have looked better, especially the 31-3 beatdown to Alabama, but the record would have been roughly the same. Figure an Outback Bowl appearance and win, just like it happened in reality.
2006 would have also been about the same- same record, better scores. Beating South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and FSU by a combined 35 points never would have happened. Kentucky in particular would have been blown out in big fashion. South Carolina and Georgia wouldn’t have fared much better.
FSU in Tallahassee is always tricky but UF would have won by more than a touchdown. Georgia would have lost the game somehow regardless because of the curse we had on them at the time (and hopefully we still have). But a BCS Championship seemed a likelihood. Maybe Ohio State would have stopped our Fun N’ Gun slightly better, but given the way they talk so much, probably not.
2007 is where it starts to get tricky. The defense was bad, granted, but where was the offense in the Auburn, Ole Miss, and LSU games? With a reliable offense, the Gators probably pound Auburn and Ole Miss with ease instead of struggling to work out the final kinks of Meyer’s offense.
LSU probably still would have been a loss- in Death Valley, the #1 team in the nation- but the Meyer offense was silenced the entire 4th quarter. That’s when Spurrier offenses are usually at their best, when the game isn’t completely out of hand.
Our defense couldn’t stop UGA, so that’s a loss as well, but those are our two losses, so that wins us the SEC East in all likelihood in a three way tie with Georgia and Tennessee. Each of these three teams beat each other with identical records, and we win the three way tiebreaker. We would probably lose to LSU again in the SEC Championship, and wind up in the Sugar Bowl where we would pummel Hawaii for the first time in back to back games.
2008 might be the one season we have a drop off. Or it might be even more dominating. This was Florida’s most talented team ever, and with Tebow now fully comfortable as a drop back first QB, defenses get overwhelmed. The only reason this season would be slightly less successful is because defenses have finally caught on to Spurrier’s Fun N’ Gun Round 2. Then again, our defense was lights out so it might not even matter.
There’s no way Ole Miss wins in the Swamp because Spurrier treated Florida Field like Meyer treated rivalry games- we’ll win the game, every time. That is all.
Alabama might have gotten us in Atlanta, but not likely. Tebow didn’t run a whole lot compared to other games, only when he needed to. Bama couldn’t stop the flood of receivers Meyer sent- they wouldn’t have stopped Spurrier’s crew, either. And Spurrier’s offenses were (aside from the Fiasco Bowl) at their best in bowl games, so the Sooners would have gone down as well.
2009 saw our whole team coming back minus Harvin and Louis Murphy. There were still three NFL receivers for Tebow to choose from. Addazio took over the offense- and took it down. We saw Tebow dive, Demps dive, Rainey dive, and on third and long it would be Tebow-please-do-something-to-bail-me-out. And because Tebow is the monster he is, it worked sometimes. But not always.
Tebow’s senior season would have been a reprise of his junior season- blowouts raining down on the SEC, no close calls, no exceptions. Then, for the second straight year, we have an epic showdown with Alabama for the SEC Championship. I still think Alabama wins due to the revenge factor but it’s much closer than the 32-13 Addazio egg-laying. Our defense had a bad day and our offense never got on track once Alabama had adjusted to our 5-wide formations. I have to assume our defense wouldn’t have stopped the Mark Ingram-Trent Richardson combo, but our offense would have made it much closer.
Then we blow out Cincy in the Sugar Bowl. They couldn’t stop Addazio’s offense; how would they stop a Spurrier offense with the talent on the team? And I repeat, Tim Tebow, Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez, David Nelson, etc. The only difference is that, well, with the right play-caller to utilize this talent, it would have been even worse than 51-24.
2010 is the hardest to call because I cannot say for sure how many players stay if they believe the team would be great again. After the 2009 season, Florida lost juniors Joe Haden, Carlos Dunlap, Major Wright and Aaron Hernandez. Had they believed the Gators would remain a national contender, they might have all stayed. Who knows?
But let’s say they all leave just to make it interesting. There’s still a gold mine of talent to be used between Deonte Thompson, Frankie Hammond, Robert Clark, Omarious Hines, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton and the returning tailbacks, Mike Gillislee, Rainey and Demps. And then there’s Mack Brown, who was buried on the bench. With John Brantley never facing the problem of Steve Addazio burning his confidence, he would have come out slinging it right away in an offense that suits him best.
Where to begin with the score differences? I guess I’ll start from Day 1 when Miami Ohio stunned the Swamp by containing our comical Addazio-led playbook. For starters, UMOH would have been blown out. As in, 62-3, 63-5, 70-19 or some of the other ridiculous scores Florida hung on opponents with Mullen.
Basically, the Gators win their first four games by a combined 200 points (no big deal, it’s Miami Ohio, South Florida, Tennessee and Kentucky) and then travel to Tuscaloosa, where we lose- but with honor. We’d be respected for giving Alabama a fight on their home turf.
We would return to blowout mode against LSU in the Swamp because their offense wasn’t a whole lot better than ours was with Addazio. Mississippi State is impossible to call, since there’s no way of knowing where Dan Mullen would wind up without coming to Gainesville with Meyer. But we’ll say he’s their coach. They’d give us a fight, but our offense would be way too much. The rest of our opponents go down in similar fashion, with FSU playing a little tougher than the rest.
Then, lookie here! We’re back in the SEC Title Game, where Cam Newton tears up our rebuilding defense and outguns our offense and send us plummeting to the Capital One Bowl- where we wouldn’t have much trouble with Michigan State.
2011, and we have that same team back again. We’re now 100% confident in our abilities, we’ve taken our lumps and we’re a year older, stronger, better. We blow out our first four opponents again, and Alabama will go down in a much less humiliating fashion, ie a tough game that’s a replay of the 2010 game in Tuscaloosa with Spurrier. Then we’ll travel to LSU and get humbled, we’ll go to Auburn and absolutely smother them, assuming we catch the punts.
Georgia is where the season gets tricky. I’d love to say Florida wins big, but that’s hard to say when they’re playing as possessed as they are. It would be a similar game, with each team scoring a little more and neither team making as many mistakes. When Brantley would hit a big one (remember now, a pass heavy offense with a comfortable Brantley) Aaron Murray would simply respond with a bigger one. Both teams would trade scores until somebody makes a mistake- and that would be Georgia, who always makes mistakes against Florida, leading to a close Florida victory.
Then we’d win the rest of our games, until we’d get tripped up against LSU again in Atlanta. That places Florida in the Sugar Bowl as the #2 team from the SEC, where we would play (insert team here).
Sure, this all looks a little unrealistic since I always have Florida in the top 3 of the SEC, but that’s precisely what happened when Spurrier ruled the Gators from 1990-2001. They were always in the national championship picture, and always considered an SEC favorite. His teams went to 8 SEC Championship Games in the 10 years it was held during his tenure. That looks about the same as these predictions, don’t they?
Now there may still be some of you saying that I’m ungrateful for all that Meyer did. That is completely FALSE. I love Urban Meyer and will never be able to thank him enough for all he did for Florida.
But the truth is, Ron Zook left whoever took the job after him at a great starting point. He had a very talented team. It just took a great coach to get the wins expected from such talent. Both Spurrier and Meyer were qualified to do just that.
The difference is, Meyer’s offense takes much longer to master and must have the perfect set of players. Spurrier’s offense was easier to learn and did not require player types x, y and z. Tebow was compatible for both offenses, or at least would be with Spurrier teaching him how to become a drop back QB. Brantley and Leak were only compatible for a drop back QB pro style offense. The skill position players- Harvin, Rainey, Demps, Caldwell, Hernandez, etc. were also compatible for both offenses.
But the QB is the position that matters. Your QB must be able to do something for your offense to function. Even LSU has a decent QB, Jarrett Lee. He can do plenty of things to help the offense- and does quite often.
So basically, Tebow wouldn’t have been the Tebow that we have come to know and love. He would have been a better passer, but would not be the dual threat he was under Meyer. It’s a minor setback. Tebow is still a QB, and an adequate passer at worst and a great one at best. It’s because of the misuse of John Brantley and, to a lesser extent Chris Leak that makes me think we’d have been better of with Spurrier. With Meyer, there were great years, just like under Spurrier, but then there were completely un-Spurrier-like years as well. Swap the Zook-esque records in 2007, 2010 and 2011 for the worst Spurrier records- 2 losses- and it’s easy to see why I at least considered this.
People do forget how dynamite the defense was when Leak was our QB. He’s definitely more mobile than Brantley, and Brantley’s definitely a better passer. We won 9 games and then a BCS Championship with Leak and Meyer due to our smothering defense and truly special special teams, not because of Leak. He was never thought of as a potential NFL QB. Brantley was- until Addazio stepped in and ruined him. I’m thrilled for Leak because it wasn’t really his fault, and feel horrible for Brantley because he had even more hope than Leak in the future and he didn’t have the great defense nor the somewhat adequate coaching behind him.
Do I think our bad seasons were Meyer’s fault? Not really, he was hired as UF’s head coach and his thing was an eccentric offense. It won us lots of games, and was at least partly responsible for 2 BCS Championships. He just needed the perfect QB to run it and there’s only one: Tim Tebow. Tebow was born to run this wacky yet effective offense, and he did. My theory is that Meyer couldn’t find another QB like him, and in his desperate efforts to either find one or make one out of Brantley, suffered severe stress and eventually heart problems because it was simply too difficult.
So I say with all my heart: thank you, Urban Meyer. You did things for our program that has never even been dreamed of. My only problem with you is that everything had to be perfect in order to work, and when it wasn’t perfect, it was disgraceful. I understand fully that the spread offense is your specialty, and it’s what you used to win. But Spurrier’s offense doesn’t cause heart issues, and when it isn’t perfect, the result is usually an SEC Championship Game loss to a top 5 Alabama team. The potential results were the same, but Spurrier’s offense had less margin for error and less severe consequences when not perfect.
But I will let you guys, my readers make the call.
After reading this and thinking about it, would you rather Jeremy Foley have swallowed his pride, given in to Spurrier’s selfishness by declaring that he didn’t need to interview for the job again and simply re-hired him?
You guys can take whatever side you want. I’m not even saying which side I’m on; it’s just that it appears a stupid question at the surface since Meyer won more championships in fewer years. I’m just making the Spurrier side clearer; the Meyer side is easy to argue without thinking about this.
So I’m not voicing my opinion, at least not yet, until you guys take whichever side you choose and argue (hopefully respectfully, but why wouldn’t we, we’re all one big happy family).