Here’s a look at our list of potential candidates to replace Will Muschamp so far.
And so we conclude our master list with my top five.
5) Art Briles
Current Job: Baylor Bears
Current age: 58
Overview: Art Briles has worked wonders with Baylor since a disastrous 8-16 start in Waco. Since 2010, he’s 42-17 as the Head Bear, and his teams play an exciting style of football that has me jumping at the bit to get him. Before he coached Baylor, he led the Houston Cougars for a few years, and led them to several seasons that were above their expectations. OK, so that’s not a ringing endorsement, but this was a Houston program that hadn’t won eight games in a year since 1990 until shortly after his arrival a decade ago. And his teams look good on the field, too.
Pros: His offenses are always outstanding and his QB’s are almost always wildly successful. Between RG3, Nick Florence and now Bryce Petty, Baylor has always been outstanding at pitching it around under Briles. All that talent we keep bringing in at the skill positions would finally be utilized in his machine like offense. He’s also done about all he can at a small private school like Baylor, where recruiting is limited because of the small size and strong religious affiliation. There’s no such ceiling at Florida. With the way he recruits, Briles could have his pick of players from the Sunshine State (and he’d still have ties to the state of Texas).
Cons: He’s a bit younger than Spurrier, but the age is a similar concern. Briles would be 59 years old by the time he’s hired- not exactly over the hill like Bobby Bowden at the end but too old to count on to stay at Florida for very long. The current Gator program is a mess; fixing it would take time even with the talent currently in place, and though I have no doubt he would do it just the way he did at Baylor, you’d have to wonder how long he’d stay and enjoy the glory years before retiring.
Chance he takes the job: 10%. Briles would have to be a little intrigued by the idea of recruiting at a place that basically recruits itself- SEC, facilities, state of Florida, 3 national championships in the past 20 years- but he’s set up his roots in the Lone Star State now. Luring him out would take a great pitch from Jeremy Foley. I think that ship has sailed.
Overall Grade: 95%. Again, though, there’s the age thing. He’s a great coach, but just like with Stoops, I believe Jeremy Foley missed his chance to hire him after 2010. Now he’s a Baylor man, and even if he does take the Florida job, he’s at the age where he could suddenly retire any day. Are we really willing to bring on the possibility of enjoying six years with Briles only to have to do this all over again then? I want a coach for sixteen years, not six.
4) Gus Malzahn
Current Job: Auburn Tigers
Current age: 49
Overview: Malzahn is another offensive mastermind (starting to feel a pattern here? You’re right!) with an impressive track record at multiple schools. He helped develop Cam Newton into a Heisman Trophy winner 2010, and guided the Tigers to a national championship. In their first year without him, the Tigers fell into a terrible depression in 2012, going 3-9 and firing head coach Gene Chizik. Malzahn immediately left Arkansas State (where he went 9-3) and returned to Auburn… and poof, they were a play away from a national championship. He worked wonders at Auburn, he can definitely work wonders at Florida.
Pros: Malzahn employs a hurry up, no huddle offense. You know, like the one Will Muschamp promised to run successfully but never really did? Yeah, that. Except Malzahn’s actually works. He specializes in mismatches, getting elusive players the ball in space, and he can turn almost anybody with speed into a dangerous player. See former Georgia defensive back Nick Marshall, who is now Auburn’s QB. He’s also proven to be an exceptional play caller. On top of that, he’s a master recruiter, which would translate into even more success on the recruiting trail at Florida. So, yeah. Lots of pros.
Cons: Hard to really find one. The only reason he’s not higher on my phone call list is because I don’t think he’ll leave Auburn for Florida- it’s a lateral move. If I had to nitpick to find a weakness, I’d say that his defenses are not always the best.
Chance he takes the job: 2% And that 2% is based on the assumption that Auburn suddenly gets nailed for some obscure violation committed under Tommy Tuberville and he’d have to pay the price. Really, that percentage should be lower, but I’m not doing fractions or percents of a percent. It’s worth the phone call, but Foley better have some other phone numbers in hand as he dials up Malzahn.
Overall Grade: 99%. Malzahn can make a national championship team out of nothing overnight. That’s not to say he’d automatically do it again at Florida, but the intrigue is enough that I’d take him in the snap of a finger.
3) Kevin Sumlin
Current job: Texas A&M
Current age: 50
Overview: Kevin Sumlin and Art Briles have quite a bit in common, working their way up through the ranks in the state of Texas to finally land a premiere job. Sumlin’s stock as a coach has taken a hit with the recent struggles of his Aggies. But he’d still be a phenomenal get for Florida if they could reel him in. The argument that Johnny Manziel made Kevin Sumlin is starting to look less foolish and more legitimate, but remember that he also developed Case Keenum at Houston. He’s no one trick pony, as he likes to say, and I recall that both “The Bone” and I had him as a potential candidate to replace Urban Meyer in 2010 (though he was way further down on my list than The Bone’s). But yes, he’d be a great hire- if Jeremy Foley could get him.
Pros: The Air Raid offense, when run correctly and with good enough players, is impossible to stop and very difficult to even slow down. Nobody knows it better than Sumlin, who really put himself on the map when Johnny Football rode it to a Heisman Trophy in 2012. This was after Houston’s Case Keenum was at the controls at Houston and guided the Cougars to a perfect regular season. If not for Southern Miss spoiling the part in the Conference USA Championship Game, the Cougars might have crashed the BCS party that year. Oh, and Sumlin can recruit pretty well, I’m told, which will work out both locally and in terms of importing talent from Texas. Anyway, Sumlin could be an instant success at Florida if the recruiting rankings over the last four years are even somewhat accurate.
Cons: The only knock against Sumlin that holds any water is his lack of building defenses. People say that it’s always been a problem at Texas A&M, but it goes back with him to Houston. The reason they lost to USM in the conference title game is that the defense surrendered 49 points. That can’t happen at Florida. But this can be fixed with a solid defensive coordinator.
Chance he takes the job: 6%. Pick a percentage between 5% and 10%. Texas A&M’s recent struggles could make him bolt, I suppose. But that’s really all I have to offer in terms of hope. He’s settled into the state of Texas, and as attractive a job as Florida may be, I don’t think he’s willing to leave A&M to rebuild another program.
Overall grade: 95%. Sumlin would build this Florida program into a runaway locomotive that not even Nick Saban would be able to stop. OK, so his team’s defensive struggles are a tad bit concerning. They’re not nearly concerning enough to stop me from wanting him as the next Gator coach to resurrect this crippled Gator program.
2) Bob Stoops
Current Job: Oklahoma Sooners
Current age: 54
Overview: Other than his three years as Florida’s defensive coordinator, Stoops appears to be a very enticing candidate. He’s a defensive minded coach, unlike the rest of the guys on this list, but he always surrounds himself with solid assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson (now at Indiana). Yes, Stoops is an Oklahoman now, and I really think Jeremy Foley missed a great shot to snatch him up after Urban resigned in 2010. But sometimes, second chances come around…
Pros: Stoops puts out winning teams year in and year out at the highest level of college football outside the SEC West. Bottom line. Other than in a few major bowl games, his teams have always proven to be elite. And even though he has a defensive background, his offenses are always dynamic. Whether it’s Sam Bradford, Landry Jones or Trevor Knight at the controls, the Oklahoma offense is always one to fear. Plus, he can recruit as well as anybody in the business. And he’s 12-3 against archival Oklahoma State.
Cons: Nothing really glaring, except that he has a history of losing big bowl games. But that’s a silly reason not to hire him. I was just trying hard to find something wrong with what I believe is a great fit. And unlike Muschamp, at least he can get to them.
Chance he takes the job: 35%. Stoops came really, really close to taking the Florida job following Steve Spurrier’s resignation. I never thought there would be a chance he’d take the job again after being spurned in 2010, but something I was just told leaves me to believe there’s a real chance now (more on that next week).
Overall Grade: 98%. Stoops would be a fantastic get for Florida. In terms of combining realistic options and dream options, Stoops is second in line behind only one. I’d be beyond thrilled if we got him.
1) Chip Kelly
Current job: Philadelphia Eagles
Current age: 50
Overview: Kelly is yet another offensive genius, and the one I’d like the most. The four years he spent as the head coach at Oregon were magical for Ducks fans, and I’d often catch myself impatiently awaiting the really late kickoff times the Ducks were relegated to as members of the Pac 10 (and later the Pac 12). Even before he became the head man, I loved watching his offense when he led them as the offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti. The offense he runs is much more exciting than the Grunt N’ Punt employed by Muschamp, with the speedy guys he recruits getting the ball in space and making guys miss. It’s all about mismatches, and Kelly is a genius at exploiting them.
Pros: Uh, his teams can score points? I don’t think I need to get into the schematics of why Chip Kelly would be a great hire for Jeremy Foley. He’s the dream hire for the consensus- 65%- of Gator fans because of what his offenses can do. In addition to that, he doesn’t take any shit from anybody. His star running back, LeGarette Blount, punched a Boise State player who was mocking him, and Kelly immediately banned him for the season (though he would reinstate him for the Civil War at the end of the year). You misbehave, you get punished. So basically, Kelly is a combo of Muschamp’s discipline and Urban Meyer’s utilization of talent on offense. With pretty damned good recruiting abilities, I might add.
Cons: If by some miracle he does take the job, I’m not sure how long he’d stay. The only reason I can see him leaving Philly in the first place is that the Eagles do something to make him unhappy, and then he’d only come to Florida if no other pro job opened up. Four years was enough for him at Oregon. I’m thinking he’d be even less patient at Florida.
Chance he takes the job: 2%. And that’s being optimistic. He appears very happy in Philadelphia.
Overall grade: Since I’m not doing decimals, 100%. Chip Kelly would be the second coming of Jesus, a dream hire. There is nobody else I would rather have at the University of Florida than Kelly.