Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is IT over?

Here we are, the weekend just before what is usually one of the premier SEC football weekends of the year.

With neither team ranked.

This year is going to put the “Ugh” in UGA.

It’s ridiculous, and quite a bit spoiled, as a Gator fan to think we have nothing to play for. Yet it feels quite that way. Sure, a trip to Atlanta is well within the Gator’s control. Here’s betting that, even should it happen, you won’t find virtually any Orange and Blue in the Georgia Dome come that first weekend in December (unless it’s an Auburn shade).

Yes, I want to keep the impressive streak against Georgia alive and well. But that isn’t really my focus for this game.

I want to know one thing – is IT over?

By IT I mean the Meyer era.

It seemed to be over just after Christmas last year, when Meyer suddenly resigned. For reasons not quite clear, he “un-resigned” shortly there after.

Programs have a fairly predictable path of descent from the heights of success. Key coaching talent is poached from top flight programs. Take a look at the coaching staff for Florida of the 2006 BCS Championship Team –

Coaching staff 2006 Florida Gators

• Urban Meyer - Head Coach
• Steve Addazio - Tackles/Tight Ends
• Stan Drayton - Running Backs
• Billy Gonzales - Wide Receivers
• Chuck Heater - Recruiting Coordinator/Cornerbacks
• John Hevesy - Centers/Guards
• John "Doc" Holliday - Associate Head Coach/Safeties
• Greg Mattison - Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line
• Dan Mullen - Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
• Charlie Strong - Assistant Head Coach/Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers

Three of those men are now head coaches in their own right, with Strong at Louisville, Mullen at Mississippi State and Holliday at Marshall. Gonzales is at LSU, and Mattison with the Baltimore Ravens. Hevesy went with Mullen to MSU.

That leaves Addazio, Drayton and Heater from a staff that won the BCS title only a couple of years ago. Only 3 of the 9 assistants remain.

The coaching core of the Florida 2006 and 2008 BCS Champions weren’t constructed by Meyer when he came to Florida in 2005 – it was formed at Bowling Green in 2001. Mullen, Gonzalez and Hevesy all followed Meyer from Bowling Green to Utah, and then to Florida. Meyer and Mullen were together even before that at Notre Dame, with Meyer as the special teams coach and Mullen a graduate assistant. The two traveled the country learning the foundations of what would become the spread option from names like Scott Linehan and Joe Tiller. Then at Bowling Green, and later Utah, the two perfected what would later be so successful at Florida.

In other words, its as much Mullen’s offense as Meyer’s and perhaps, because Mullen did the play calling, even more so.

Further, don’t underestimate the loss of Charlie Strong. The Gators won the BCS titles in 2006 and 2008 as much on defense as offense.

All that coaching talent – gone. What remains is Meyer and the coaches that, for whatever reason, haven’t been seen fit to be hired away by other programs. The coaching heart (Strong) and soul (Mullen) of the championship teams are gone.

It happens everywhere, whether at FSU in the ‘90s or USC in the early part of the century. The best assistants leave, leaving the rest. Programs decline.

So what I’d like to see this weekend is some sign IT isn’t over. That doesn’t necessarily mean a win, it means the ability to fight when you are down. It means that spark, that passion that seems to be missing. It wasn’t too long ago opposing fans were taunting us when Meyer cried after a loss. Well, Urban “Crier” has a couple of little crystal trophies that your less emotional coaches don’t.

I want that guy back.

Because if it’s over, let’s get on with what’s next.


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear.

This weekend will tell us a whole lot about the next era of Gator football, one way or another.

Anonymous said...

Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? HELL NO!

Scully said...

I think you can argue that the loss of some of those coaches weren't as big of a deal as the hires to replace them or the promotions within to fill the vacancy.

Drayton at RB Coach has been a failure. In both his stints here his guys habitually put the ball on the ground.

Gonzales didn't teach route running very well and in the end I think Coach Z will be a better coach at UF.

Hevesy was let go. Addazio moved to coach OL and Coach White was hired to coach TEs. White was responsible for the development of AHernandez as well as every major recruit from the State of Ca.

Holliday was replaced with Bedford. Bedford has since been replaced by Austin. Bedford was a huge loss.

Mattison moves to the Ravens, where he is now DC. Biggest loss on the defensive side. McCarney hired to replace him and production from the line hasn't been the same.

Mullen was everyone's whipping boy before he left and now he is the answer to everyone's prayers. The issue wasn't losing Mullen, but rather not hiring an OC with a background in the spread to replace him. While Billy G wasn't as qualified to be the OC as Addazio (given Addazio former experience at the position) his background in the offense probably would have been a better fit.

While Charlie Strong was an excellent DC, you can argue that he captained one of the worst defenses in recent memory - 2007.