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PD’s Postulations:
Thoughts on the Missouri Game

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Written by David Parker, October 22, 2014, 19 Comments,
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Well some day, some day hopefully not too far into the future, I will be able to get back to writing about Florida Gator football games. For now, however they continue to fade into irrelevance in the face of the trending Gator themes. It is a sad time in Gainesville this week. A sad time because it looks like one man’s quest, many players’ quest, and countless fans’ deeply invested hopes, have passed that fatal tipping point and are heading to their demise. The Missouri game, bizarre and inexplicable as it was, has all the markings of the melting of the polar ice caps. Sure, the Earth’s climate could return to normal, the waters could re-freeze, the glaciers could rebuild, the temperate coastlines could refortify and the apocalyptic weather patterns could cease…but it isn’t bloody likely.

Difficult to Ignore

Concerning Will Muschamp, there have been ample whispers and rumors along every point of the spectrum between “Still has chance to save his job” and “Fired already, just a matter of timing the announcement.” All official channels have been sealed shut with gorilla glue, and most unofficial ones have as well. There is no way to know exactly where Will Muschamp’s job security stands, but every artifact points to Saturday night’s debacle in the Swamp being the end.

Even the most patient and hyperopic fan or critic had to concede to circumstances Saturday night. Even those who could see fields of dreams just over the horizon had to recognize that the horizon was moving away from us faster than we were approaching. You just don’t bounce back from a game like that. You just don’t get blown out on Homecoming by terrible opponents two years in a row at Florida and survive. Forget 2013: it didn’t count and doesn’t matter in the balance of Will Muschamp’s future. This is about 2014. The criterion was painfully simple: show improvement this season and the show will go on. But this team has done the opposite. It has regressed. The effort on Saturday was that of the worst Gator team this fan has ever seen. Everyone knew it was a must-win game and it was the worst performance in many years. This just cannot happen if one is to keep his job.

And Muschamp certainly seemed to know it in his postgame press conference. He looked like a beaten man, ready for it to be over. When asked about his tenuous tenure, his response was telling not only about where he understands his position to be, but also about what kind of man he is. He said he was only worried about this football team. It may have had the transcript of coachspeak, but it rang in a sincere tone across the room. He knows he is likely finished, but he is worried about that team in the locker room. He has 100-plus young men to whom he pledged and has given his blood, sweat and tears to make them into a winning football team, a winning program and winning young men off the football field. He knows that at no other time in their UF careers have they more desperately needed him to give all he has and bleed for them, to hold them together, to make them better and to teach them what it means to meet this level of adversity and pain like men. He said he is only worried about this football team. I believe him.

Bad Things Happening to Good People

I say it is a sad time because that is the emotion that is by far the strongest in this situation. There are myriad emotions running amuck about the Gators’ place in the football world and how the future of the program will shape up, but ultimately UF will be back on top pretty soon. With the next coach or the one after him, or even by the longest of odds with this coach. That’s no worry at all. That’s just a matter of how long we have to wait for it.

But right here, right now, it is almost certain that a good man just lost his dream job. A good man, good husband, good father, standup guy who returned the program’s tattered integrity and shredded moral ground, someone whom we would all be proud to know and call a friend, is in the midst of having his hopes and dreams – and those of his family and friends and many more in the Gator community – crushed into dust, right before his eyes. Something he has worked for tirelessly. Oh there is no doubt he will be snapped up by another top flight Power 5 program – probably in the SEC – as defensive coordinator within hours of the announcement of his firing (should it actually come), and I expect he will in a few years get another shot at being a head coach, and I suspect he will be a success, even flourish as a head coach. Somewhere with less pressure and more patient constituents. Somewhere that doesn’t carry the heavy burden of two Hall of Fame coaches who are still actively coaching and casting their long shadows over the program. Somewhere that doesn’t live under the heavy expectations of the winningest program in the entire nation over the past quarter century (and by a huge margin when you scratch a line through all the programs who got there by cheating as documented by major NCAA sanctions).

But most of all, somewhere normal.

That isn’t to say that Gainesville and UF are not normal in a conventional sense. But there has been nothing normal about the nearly four years Muschamp has been at Florida. He has made a lot of mistakes, as a first time head coach always does, but even his most fervent critics must admit that most of the things he tried and failed…probably should have worked. Much like the last two weeks: The tight end SHOULD have caught the ball to beat LSU…when you hold a team to 119 yards total offense, you SHOULD have won…when you hire the greatest NFL offensive coordinator of his generation, and then win a to-the-death battle with fellow SEC kingpin Alabama to hire another offensive coordinator, and then hire a third offensive coordinator absolutely dripping with heat and buzz for turning Duke into a college version of The Greatest Show on Turf, well gosh one of them SHOULD have been able to make the offense at least serviceable…heck, when you are in a career-making-or-breaking season, you SHOULD be able to play your season opener to help get you ready for the year.

As Will Muschamp has tried to run through the gauntlets that have confronted him, he must have felt like JoBeth Williams running down that hallway in Poltergeist: the faster he runs toward the door, the farther the end of the hallway stretches into the distance. The Missouri game is probably the perfect microcosm of his UF career. The defense was lights out, but the offense could do nothing but implode. You know that is not how the offense was scripted. They didn’t break the huddle in practice every day with Driskel barking out, “Defensive touchdown on THREE!” And every attempt to improve led to another preposterous disaster.Muschamp has all the off-field qualifications of being the next great head coach at Florida. He knows how to run a defense and he knows how to run a football program. He knows how to prepare a team. He knows how to scheme and make in-game adjustments. He knows how to recruit and how to get players to run through walls for him. And he could have developed all those skills into a great or even elite level. Maybe. But with his level of experience, he simply does not have the tools to stop the avalanche that began when the 2013 season started to go south. He is trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a teaspoon and he is in over his head. And no matter how many times he thinks he is fighting his way out, something like the Treon suspension pulls him back in. And whether or not he COULD turn the ship around and become a great coach if given another year or two, at some point it simply reaches a time where you have to stop and accept the message:

The universe simply does not want Will Muschamp to coach the Florida Gators.

That is what I divine from all of this. Much like Jeff Driskel, the quarterback who ultimately through no intention of his own scuttled whatever chance Muschamp had of righting the path, Muschamp started as a huge bag of impressive skills and intoxicating potential, but it just did not work out. Most everything that could have happened to knock Muschamp down, has (and Driskel, too for that matter). And eventually the program just has to stop the bleeding and turn to another doctor.

The Glimmers of Hope

There are some, after all. Not for Muschamp’s future as the Gator head coach, most likely – although the remote possibility still exists as long as he is still holding the title. But for the program. As horrible as the offense has been, the team still just needs competent QB play to be a dangerous opponent for anyone. The defense, minus some poorly timed lapses, has made the Alabama game an outlier of great magnitude, and special teams had been lights out before the Missouri game, so we can chalk that up to just a bad game. That happens. If Treon Harris can get better dialed in over the next two weeks (hopefully taking all the snaps with the first team), it is absolutely within the realm of possibilities that Florida beats Georgia and even FSU in Tallahassee. The Semis are just begging someone to beat them every single week and their opponents just refuse to take what is being offered.

Any of those wins all depend on Treon Harris, and pretty much Treon alone. And the chances any wins will occur outside of the FCS opponent…well those chances are minute. But in college football I have seen far weirder things happen. Even after getting fired, Ron Zook won out to end his final season at UF, with the exception of the Georgia game – a game that was so close that nobody doubts victory would have been ours if the program didn’t have its week of practice focus obliterated by Zook’s mid-season firing. It almost certainly will not happen, but it could.

Even if it did happen, it might not save Muschamp’s job. But it might. Either way, good can come. Good WILL come.

Another thing I noticed amidst the gaggle of moving emotions on Muschamp’s face in the post-Missouri presser: relief. We all know that feeling. Whether we know we are about to get fired, but haven’t been called into the boss’s office yet; or we are about to get dumped by your significant other, but you haven’t yet sat down to have “the talk”; or we are about to fail a class but the grades haven’t been posted yet…whatever it may be, we all know that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Especially when we know it is going to hurt deeply. But there is sometimes also a relief that comes with the realization that it is finally over. No more fighting a losing war. No more battling the raging current of booing fans, angry boosters and negative recruiting that pounds against you every day. No more angst with your wife and family, all of you knowing you have what it takes to succeed, knowing you should be succeeding, and not understanding why it just isn’t happening. No more worrying about when the axe will fall.

I know a tiny bit of what he must be feeling. As much as I hate the idea of the fairytale that could have been coming to an ugly end; as much as I hate this limbo of uncertainty; I am exhausted with it. I am so tired of writing about it. I am tired of everyone fighting about it. I am tired of Gator football having absolutely nothing to do with football day after day after day. I miss having something fun to write about; something to get excited about. Something that is working NOW and not just a seed of something I have to try to hyper-analyze and extrapolate into the future to see, and then wait to find out if it ever gets there. Whether this season is saved against Georgia and revives the rest of the year; whether it continues to stagger along to a 6-5 season; or whether it completely craters into another 4-win campaign, it is finally going to end. If Muschamp is retained, it will be because something incredible happened to finish the season – something that leaves little doubt that the future is bright with Will at the helm. If Muschamp is fired, which will be the absolute inescapable result barring a miracle finish, the program gets to begin anew. Either way, the misery is going to end in a matter of weeks.

If Muschamp is retained, the incredible finish that would have to happen will energize the program and fill the recruiting class to the brim with studs. If Muschamp is fired, the new coach will have to be such a home run hire that he will energize the program and load the recruiting class with a great cadre of talent as well – maybe fewer, but in fact maybe even more than if Muschamp were retained.

Any way you slice it, good news is coming soon.

What a relief.

David Parker

About David Parker

One of the original columnists when Gator Country first premiered, David “PD” Parker has been following and writing about the Gators since the eighties. From his years of regular contributions as a member of Gator Country to his weekly columns as a partner of the popular defunct niche website Gator Gurus, PD has become known in Gator Nation for his analysis, insight and humor on all things Gator.

  1. snowprintOctober 22, 2014, 8:17 pm

    You’re almost there. When you realize that it’s a lot more than having a bad quarterback that ails Florida, your recovery will be complete. I still see a lot of “ifs,” so it might take a while, but actually recognizing there really is a problem is a good first step.

    • PDOctober 22, 2014, 9:50 pm

      Snowprint, I really appreciate your sitting at the computer, hitting refresh every 12 seconds all week long until my column pops up so that you can post your criticisms immediately and before anyone else. I have never had a reader as committed to my writing as you are. Thanks again for being by far my biggest fan.

  2. milehighgatorOctober 22, 2014, 8:53 pm

    How and why he hasn’t been fired is mind boggling..That Missouri game was the most disgraceful display of college football I have ever seen.. Delaying the inevitable is hurting our program, hurts in recruiting , hurting Muschamps’ family, but most importantly it’s hurting the current players. They are being punished by playing for a lame duck coach, and it is Foley’s fault. Now, we should move on from blaming Muschamp. Most of us knew from the beginning it’s a huge risk hiring someone at Florida with NO head coaching experience..Jeremy has done a GREAT job in all aspects of our program, EXCEPT FOOTBALL (the most important and biggest revenue producer). He failed with Zook, he failed by convincing Meyer to continue coaching another year, he failed when he allowed Addazio to run the team, he failed when he hired Muschamp,and today he has FAILED by not terminating him immediately after this latest DEBACLE..In addition, Machen brought in Meyer from Utah not Jeremy. And anyone who doesn’t have a lot of history following Florida football, Bill Arnsparger hired Spurrier NOT Jeremy. It’s CRAZY that this coach is still EMPLOYED by our school–UNACCEPTABLE !!!

    • gatorjb11October 22, 2014, 10:03 pm

      This is a class-less reply to an extremely well-written and classy article.

  3. malscottOctober 22, 2014, 10:18 pm

    PD-really quite brilliant. You pretty much said everything I needed to say. Thanks. :) Go Gators.

  4. oleg8rOctober 22, 2014, 10:42 pm

    Good old Snowprint has to pile on. I trust you will ignore him.

    I agree in one respect. Will Muschamp is snake bit as the coach of the Gators. I do not believe that Foley has the guts to keep him on board in the present climate. I do not know whether he should. I have no idea at this point whether Muschamp will ever be a successful head coach. I doubt that anyone does. I am sure that he can always be a premier DC at an elite program; and have a satisfying career. On the other hand, perceived failure at UF may spur him to do a self evaluation and re-double his efforts at some other institution.

    For those who cannot wait to see him fired; I hope they don’t have “seller’s remorse”. It will be fascinating to see who Foley can attract here to what may be becoming the grave yard of coaching careers–although Urban apparently rose from the dead; the Zombie coach.

    PD you are the eternal optimist. There is little reason to believe that Gator football will be back on top any time soon. Those of us with some longevity saw the program wander on the edge of the wilderness for decades. But, hope springs eternal in the breasts of all good Gators.

    Of course folks like SP no doubt lust for the 70 year old Spurrier. Well, that would buy a couple of years of peace on the message boards at least. No one would dare criticize.

  5. snowprintOctober 23, 2014, 2:45 am

    PD I’m happy that you are happy, but, even you must admit you’ve been completely wrong about this team all year. I suggest you review your past utterances and you’ll see that they were ludicrous. It’s time to have a heaping serving of crow. On the other hand, if you had paid attention to what I said, you might not be having such a disagreeable meal.

    • awells05October 23, 2014, 8:55 am

      I find that every time I read one of Snowprints comments all I can think of is the principal from Billy Madison talking about Billy. “Mr. Snowprint, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

      I always catch myself wanting to respond to you but know it would be a futile venture. Nothing would be gained by it. You are a Nole and just reveling in the struggles of our program. You are quite simply a person that is enjoying the struggles of others instead of being a person that is excited about the success of your own program. I hope you dont carry these same feelings into the rest of your life. You are kind of a negative nelly. Get a hobby big guy stop worrying about those nasty ol’ gators. Don’t you worry your sweet little heart about us, the Gator nation will be just fine. I honestly believe we will all be just fine without the input of Snowprint. Thanks for playing, good luck in all life’s endeavors. Try something new, get out, see the world. I am sure moms basement gets lonely at 2:45 am. But just try.

  6. mongoOctober 23, 2014, 9:03 am

    Most insightful sports journalist that I have seen in a long time. Painful times for all Gator fans but you have certainly helped make sense of this quagmire.

  7. g8trgirlntxOctober 23, 2014, 11:35 am

    AWELLS05

    This…

    “I find that every time I read one of Snowprints comments all I can think of is the principal from Billy Madison talking about Billy. “Mr. Snowprint, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.””

    My favorite line in that whole movie and very apropos…I lol’d at my desk!

  8. dpgatorOctober 23, 2014, 1:10 pm

    PD, Very good article. Sums up pretty much what the majority feel about the situation. Have we played poorly and should have been more competitive in the games we have lost? The answer is yes! However as bad as the product on the field has looked, what everyone here is missing that perhaps Foley isn’t missing, is that we could have had the same record. That’s right we may have looked better losing. Sounds weird, but what it means is that the loss record isn’t what is driving his decision on what to do with Muschamp. It’s the play on the field, its seeing players being competitive against good competition. Maybe Foley is paying attention to this aspect and weighing that in his ultimate decision if its not made yet.

    Here’s what peeves me the most about negative comments concerning our play against lessor or poor opposition. Hello everybody, we are in the SEC, and especially this year nothing is a for granted lessor opponent, well maybe still Vandy. A&M beat USC, USC beat UGA, Mizzou beat USC and UGA destroyed Mizzou. Bama destroyed A&M, MSU beat Bama. I mean who can tell me who is a lessor opponent. Parity is big in the SEC this year! I suspect more teams will have more losses this year across the board. What I am trying to say ultimately, is that if we see Treon, perform well and the team as a whole regains some confidence and executes better to where we are looking competitive against anyone left on our schedule, then I honestly think Will may deserve another chance. Yes, he is ultimately responsible for having a team in the condition it is right now. A big part of that is on personnel decisions on the team with regard to QB, and not having QB’s in an Offense for more than a spring before they have to produce, and not having QB’s better prepared along with their WR’s. Staff turnover at OC and WR primarily has almost everything to do with that! Warranted or not, blame or not…that is why our Offense has been bad. It’s not player ability, as much as player preparation and coaching or lack thereof due to turnover! IF and that’s a big if, players take a 3/4 season to work out bugs in a new system and become more comfortable with their role and execution on plays, primarily due to staff consistency and repetition, then I would expect we should see improvement towards the end of the season, same as last year to a degree. We gave USC and UGA all they wanted! Especially, now that there is no more uncertainty about which QB is playing, or how we are going to be using them. We played better last year late for many of the same reasons, as I suspect we will this year. We will stop playing to lose because we have lost already. Nothing to be gained by playing from that position. The play book becomes more open, nothing to lose from a job standpoint, either on the field or in the press box. We know who our QB is going forward. Everyone has played about as badly as they can and should have it out of their system. Actually I would predict an improved level of play and an improved level of coaching and scheming, because of where we are in our schedule, our record. The pressure is certainly off knowing what will likely happen regardless of performance.

    This is what will be sad about what happens at the end of the season. Not sure with any certainty any of it could have been avoided this year given our past years under Muschamp. He may just be a victim of circumstance and being a first time head coach. The stars haven’t aligned but may still align in the coming weeks. Just don’t think anyone will take an objective look at the stars to say he deserves another chance. I honestly think if the team does as I expect and they rally to look like they are competitive – displaying their potential. Well next year could be exceptional under Muschamp. Sadly, it probably isn’t in our stars our his, and next year no matter the coach taking over, the season would not measure up to what could have been. This is my lamentation.

    • snowprintOctober 23, 2014, 4:39 pm

      DPGATOR Who cares how competitive UF is in the last half of the season? To give any points to UF for not being whipped decisively by UGA and South Carolina is absurd. UF lost, that is the main thing to be taken from the game. UF then got smoked by Georgia Southern and FSU. I’m sure Kentucky or Tennessee didn’t gain any comfort from losing narrowly to Florida this year. They still lost! Muschamp has got to go. He’s developed a losing culture at UF where people are now just hoping to be competitive. It’s been around a while. Remember how going into the Alabama game that no one was expecting UF to win, they were only hoping to be competitive? That’s the same attitude that will be displayed when UF travels to Tallahassee this year. Under Spurrier or Meyer, was there ever a time that just being competitive was satisfactory? All the ifs, bad luck, and all the other excuses made for Muschamp are preposterous. He’s developed a team that figures out how to lose a game, not how to win one. Call me crazy, but I thought that winning is what mattered, not losing a competitive game.

  9. mashtungatorOctober 23, 2014, 1:13 pm

    Nicely put. Sad times indeed. Mushchamp is a good man. However, Florida program is bigger than one man, and he needs be respectfully asked to gracefully step aside.

    That said, I didn’t appreciate how Muschamp kept putting Driskel back out against Mizzou over and over again. It was either willful or unintentional ignorance, or just plain stubbornness, but the effect on Driskel was palpable. Poor kid wanted to disappear. It felt like Muschamp was using him as a scapegoat. I hope that’s not true, but it sure felt like it.

    Hope Treon does well this week.

  10. milehighgatorOctober 23, 2014, 6:30 pm

    Another LB decommits !! And LB Coney chooses Notre Dame over FLa..This has to STOP quickly..Foley is at fault now…It’s ridiculous this coach is still employed by our school..Foley needs to stop the bleeding..10 verbals now is a JOKE !!! HORRIBLE …No excuse why we haven’t fired this him yet —ridiculous…

    • scooterpOctober 23, 2014, 7:28 pm

      Firing Muschamp now WILL. NOT fix the recruiting problem. We can’t name a new HC until after the season is over. What is the interim coach going to tell a recruit and his family when he is in their living room? Foley gave Muschamp the 2014 season…if he bales on that what message does that send to the new coach?….”I’ll have your back, until these shit head fans get restless”…yeah, no thanks. I’m as disgusted as anyone after what I saw Saturday. And yes, I think it’s time for a change, but relax. I’m sure Foley has floated some feelers out there under the radar, to see who may have some interest. Ultimately, I think it was his stubbornness with Driskel that cost him his job. Driskel lost his teammates after the Bama game, but Muschamp is not cerebral enough to notice. When Treon is under center, the team responds. Now, it’s too late. There is enough talent on this team to challenge for Atlanta, unlike what snowflake thinks. But coaching is more than Xs and Os, recruiting and seeing who blocks better out of the backfield in practice. You put the best talent on the field and develop a game plan around them. That is something that has been missing from this team since Meyer left.

    • snowprintOctober 24, 2014, 12:30 am

      Nine, it’s down to nine.

    • scooterpOctober 24, 2014, 4:28 pm

      It would still be nine even if he was gone on Sunday. I don’t think assistant coaches running around do the recruiting without a HC is going to resonate any more than it is now. I don’t see how giving Muschamp his walking papers now is going to save this class. There is nothing we can do but sit and wait till the season ends and his replacement is named.

  11. ArnigatorOctober 24, 2014, 12:47 pm

    PD makes a lot of sense once you get past his pathetic leftist sermonizing about global warming. Does he really not no that what he deems bloody unlikely is already a factual reality? Earths temps have already “returned” to normal as zero warming has occurred in the past 16 years, the polar ice caps in Antarctica have been measured recently at record HIGH levels, the apocalyptic weather patterns he’s worried about hust produced the longest consecutive streak of days in Florida WITHOUT being hit by a hurricane. Whats really bloody unlikely is that facts like these can or will ever trump the staunch leftist politics that saddles PD and so many otherwise talented writers. Hopefully folks here are as readily aware of his fomenting false State of the Climate narratives as they are of his false State of the Gators narratives. Damn inconvenient reality rearing it head once again.

    • ArnigatorOctober 24, 2014, 12:48 pm

      That’s ….not “know” incidentally.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Treon_Harris_Florida_Gators_Football_101814_Bowie-150x150.jpg David Parker FeatureFootball ,
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Well some day, some day hopefully not too far into the future, I will be able to get back to writing about Florida Gator football games. For now, however they continue to fade into irrelevance in the face of the trending Gator themes. It is a sad time in Gainesville this week. A sad time because it looks like one man’s quest, many players’ quest, and countless fans’ deeply invested hopes, have passed that fatal tipping point and are heading to their demise. The Missouri game, bizarre and inexplicable as it was, has all the markings of the melting of the polar ice caps. Sure, the Earth’s climate could return to normal, the waters could re-freeze, the glaciers could rebuild, the temperate coastlines could refortify and the apocalyptic weather patterns could cease…but it isn’t bloody likely.

Difficult to Ignore

Concerning Will Muschamp, there have been ample whispers and rumors along every point of the spectrum between “Still has chance to save his job” and “Fired already, just a matter of timing the announcement.” All official channels have been sealed shut with gorilla glue, and most unofficial ones have as well. There is no way to know exactly where Will Muschamp’s job security stands, but every artifact points to Saturday night’s debacle in the Swamp being the end.

Even the most patient and hyperopic fan or critic had to concede to circumstances Saturday night. Even those who could see fields of dreams just over the horizon had to recognize that the horizon was moving away from us faster than we were approaching. You just don’t bounce back from a game like that. You just don’t get blown out on Homecoming by terrible opponents two years in a row at Florida and survive. Forget 2013: it didn’t count and doesn’t matter in the balance of Will Muschamp’s future. This is about 2014. The criterion was painfully simple: show improvement this season and the show will go on. But this team has done the opposite. It has regressed. The effort on Saturday was that of the worst Gator team this fan has ever seen. Everyone knew it was a must-win game and it was the worst performance in many years. This just cannot happen if one is to keep his job.

And Muschamp certainly seemed to know it in his postgame press conference. He looked like a beaten man, ready for it to be over. When asked about his tenuous tenure, his response was telling not only about where he understands his position to be, but also about what kind of man he is. He said he was only worried about this football team. It may have had the transcript of coachspeak, but it rang in a sincere tone across the room. He knows he is likely finished, but he is worried about that team in the locker room. He has 100-plus young men to whom he pledged and has given his blood, sweat and tears to make them into a winning football team, a winning program and winning young men off the football field. He knows that at no other time in their UF careers have they more desperately needed him to give all he has and bleed for them, to hold them together, to make them better and to teach them what it means to meet this level of adversity and pain like men. He said he is only worried about this football team. I believe him.

Bad Things Happening to Good People

I say it is a sad time because that is the emotion that is by far the strongest in this situation. There are myriad emotions running amuck about the Gators’ place in the football world and how the future of the program will shape up, but ultimately UF will be back on top pretty soon. With the next coach or the one after him, or even by the longest of odds with this coach. That’s no worry at all. That’s just a matter of how long we have to wait for it.

But right here, right now, it is almost certain that a good man just lost his dream job. A good man, good husband, good father, standup guy who returned the program’s tattered integrity and shredded moral ground, someone whom we would all be proud to know and call a friend, is in the midst of having his hopes and dreams – and those of his family and friends and many more in the Gator community – crushed into dust, right before his eyes. Something he has worked for tirelessly. Oh there is no doubt he will be snapped up by another top flight Power 5 program – probably in the SEC – as defensive coordinator within hours of the announcement of his firing (should it actually come), and I expect he will in a few years get another shot at being a head coach, and I suspect he will be a success, even flourish as a head coach. Somewhere with less pressure and more patient constituents. Somewhere that doesn’t carry the heavy burden of two Hall of Fame coaches who are still actively coaching and casting their long shadows over the program. Somewhere that doesn’t live under the heavy expectations of the winningest program in the entire nation over the past quarter century (and by a huge margin when you scratch a line through all the programs who got there by cheating as documented by major NCAA sanctions).

But most of all, somewhere normal.

That isn’t to say that Gainesville and UF are not normal in a conventional sense. But there has been nothing normal about the nearly four years Muschamp has been at Florida. He has made a lot of mistakes, as a first time head coach always does, but even his most fervent critics must admit that most of the things he tried and failed…probably should have worked. Much like the last two weeks: The tight end SHOULD have caught the ball to beat LSU…when you hold a team to 119 yards total offense, you SHOULD have won…when you hire the greatest NFL offensive coordinator of his generation, and then win a to-the-death battle with fellow SEC kingpin Alabama to hire another offensive coordinator, and then hire a third offensive coordinator absolutely dripping with heat and buzz for turning Duke into a college version of The Greatest Show on Turf, well gosh one of them SHOULD have been able to make the offense at least serviceable…heck, when you are in a career-making-or-breaking season, you SHOULD be able to play your season opener to help get you ready for the year.

As Will Muschamp has tried to run through the gauntlets that have confronted him, he must have felt like JoBeth Williams running down that hallway in Poltergeist: the faster he runs toward the door, the farther the end of the hallway stretches into the distance. The Missouri game is probably the perfect microcosm of his UF career. The defense was lights out, but the offense could do nothing but implode. You know that is not how the offense was scripted. They didn’t break the huddle in practice every day with Driskel barking out, “Defensive touchdown on THREE!” And every attempt to improve led to another preposterous disaster.Muschamp has all the off-field qualifications of being the next great head coach at Florida. He knows how to run a defense and he knows how to run a football program. He knows how to prepare a team. He knows how to scheme and make in-game adjustments. He knows how to recruit and how to get players to run through walls for him. And he could have developed all those skills into a great or even elite level. Maybe. But with his level of experience, he simply does not have the tools to stop the avalanche that began when the 2013 season started to go south. He is trying to empty the Atlantic Ocean with a teaspoon and he is in over his head. And no matter how many times he thinks he is fighting his way out, something like the Treon suspension pulls him back in. And whether or not he COULD turn the ship around and become a great coach if given another year or two, at some point it simply reaches a time where you have to stop and accept the message:

The universe simply does not want Will Muschamp to coach the Florida Gators.

That is what I divine from all of this. Much like Jeff Driskel, the quarterback who ultimately through no intention of his own scuttled whatever chance Muschamp had of righting the path, Muschamp started as a huge bag of impressive skills and intoxicating potential, but it just did not work out. Most everything that could have happened to knock Muschamp down, has (and Driskel, too for that matter). And eventually the program just has to stop the bleeding and turn to another doctor.

The Glimmers of Hope

There are some, after all. Not for Muschamp’s future as the Gator head coach, most likely – although the remote possibility still exists as long as he is still holding the title. But for the program. As horrible as the offense has been, the team still just needs competent QB play to be a dangerous opponent for anyone. The defense, minus some poorly timed lapses, has made the Alabama game an outlier of great magnitude, and special teams had been lights out before the Missouri game, so we can chalk that up to just a bad game. That happens. If Treon Harris can get better dialed in over the next two weeks (hopefully taking all the snaps with the first team), it is absolutely within the realm of possibilities that Florida beats Georgia and even FSU in Tallahassee. The Semis are just begging someone to beat them every single week and their opponents just refuse to take what is being offered.

Any of those wins all depend on Treon Harris, and pretty much Treon alone. And the chances any wins will occur outside of the FCS opponent…well those chances are minute. But in college football I have seen far weirder things happen. Even after getting fired, Ron Zook won out to end his final season at UF, with the exception of the Georgia game – a game that was so close that nobody doubts victory would have been ours if the program didn’t have its week of practice focus obliterated by Zook’s mid-season firing. It almost certainly will not happen, but it could.

Even if it did happen, it might not save Muschamp’s job. But it might. Either way, good can come. Good WILL come.

Another thing I noticed amidst the gaggle of moving emotions on Muschamp’s face in the post-Missouri presser: relief. We all know that feeling. Whether we know we are about to get fired, but haven’t been called into the boss’s office yet; or we are about to get dumped by your significant other, but you haven’t yet sat down to have “the talk”; or we are about to fail a class but the grades haven’t been posted yet…whatever it may be, we all know that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Especially when we know it is going to hurt deeply. But there is sometimes also a relief that comes with the realization that it is finally over. No more fighting a losing war. No more battling the raging current of booing fans, angry boosters and negative recruiting that pounds against you every day. No more angst with your wife and family, all of you knowing you have what it takes to succeed, knowing you should be succeeding, and not understanding why it just isn’t happening. No more worrying about when the axe will fall.

I know a tiny bit of what he must be feeling. As much as I hate the idea of the fairytale that could have been coming to an ugly end; as much as I hate this limbo of uncertainty; I am exhausted with it. I am so tired of writing about it. I am tired of everyone fighting about it. I am tired of Gator football having absolutely nothing to do with football day after day after day. I miss having something fun to write about; something to get excited about. Something that is working NOW and not just a seed of something I have to try to hyper-analyze and extrapolate into the future to see, and then wait to find out if it ever gets there. Whether this season is saved against Georgia and revives the rest of the year; whether it continues to stagger along to a 6-5 season; or whether it completely craters into another 4-win campaign, it is finally going to end. If Muschamp is retained, it will be because something incredible happened to finish the season – something that leaves little doubt that the future is bright with Will at the helm. If Muschamp is fired, which will be the absolute inescapable result barring a miracle finish, the program gets to begin anew. Either way, the misery is going to end in a matter of weeks.

If Muschamp is retained, the incredible finish that would have to happen will energize the program and fill the recruiting class to the brim with studs. If Muschamp is fired, the new coach will have to be such a home run hire that he will energize the program and load the recruiting class with a great cadre of talent as well – maybe fewer, but in fact maybe even more than if Muschamp were retained.

Any way you slice it, good news is coming soon.

What a relief.

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Florida Gators Basketball Picked To Finish Second In SEC

Coming off an undefeated regular season, the Gators are picked to finish second this year.

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