Had Texas followed its instincts and fired Mack Brown last year instead of dragging things out a full year, is there any doubt that one of the first calls made would have been to Will Muschamp? His 11-1 regular season at Florida made him a hot ticket item and as the former head coach in waiting at Texas, there was certainly no small measure of sentiment that he would have been the guy to rescue the Longhorns from disaster.
A year later and perceptions are quite different. Muschamp is no longer perceived to be the coaching golden boy and about the only thing that Texas has achieved in its botched firing of Brown is that Nick Saban used it to get a $2 million raise to remain at Alabama. Muschamp is nowhere to be found on the Texas wish list and he is perceived to be dead man walking as Florida’s football coach if the hiring of Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper doesn’t create more points and excitement. The perception of Texas at this moment is that its only redeeming quality is that it’s athletic department and the people who run it have more money than they have brains.
One of the prevailing perceptions of Muschamp is that he’s somewhat of a defensive savant who spends far too much time micromanaging when he should be letting his assistant coaches coach. Whether that’s true or not, that is the perception and it hasn’t been helped by defenses that play so much better than the offense during his three years on the Florida job and recruiting classes that seem top heavy with defensive playmakers but woefully short when it comes to difference makers on the offensive side of the football.
By all reports from former Florida lettermen who are allowed to see the practices that are closed to the public, the micromanaging perception isn’t far from reality. Muschamp, they say, is heavily involved in every phase of practice. There is a fine line between teaching and encouraging players and being an overbearing presence. If what those who have seen Muschamp’s practices say is true, then he is too often the overbearing presence with his thumb on everything. The good coaches figure out – usually at training wheels stops along the way like an Arkansas State (see Gus Malzahn) or Bowling Green (see Urban Meyer) – that it is far more important to be a CEO who hires good assistants and let’s them do the heavy lifting than it is to be the hands on micromanager. The CEO coach can still teach and there are times when he has to take over to get his points across, but he has to let his assistant coaches be an extension of his personality and philosophy.
A couple of former players who have spoken to me about Muschamp tell me they genuinely like Will and believe that he has it within himself to be the long term solution to Florida’s football program, but they caution that long term success won’t happen until Muschamp figures out that he’s got to delegate more responsibility to his assistants.
There is hope that Muschamp is going to truly turn the entire offense over to new coordinator Kurt Roper. Roper is a fast tempo, spread the field type who was always on the same page with David Cutcliffe, both at Ole Miss and at Duke where the offenses scored points with a high measure of efficiency. A former Florida staffer who knows Roper well told me that if Muschamp will simply leave Roper alone and let him run the offense the way he sees fit that the Gators will do just fine both on the scoreboard and in the won-lost column.
That same staffer also made this observation: Steve Spurrier won a national championship at Florida by letting Bob Stoops handle all things defensively while he (Spurrier) handled the offense. Can Muschamp trust his offensive coordinator and assistants well enough to cut them loose while concentrating his efforts on the restoring the defense back to the levels it played at in 2012?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
In 1965, the Four Tops hit the charts in a big way with “I Can’t Help Myself.” Everybody who listens to oldie stations knows it by those first two lines: “Sugar pie, honey bunch, you know that I love you! I can’t help myself; I love you and nobody else!” Levi Stubbs was the voice of the Four Tops for more than 50 years, but it was in that eight year window from 1964-72 that the group really personified the Motown sound and no song said Motown better than “I Can’t Help Myself.”