Creative destruction: Will the Florida Gators adapt or die?

Creative destruction is an economic concept that refers to how capitalism destroys the value of previous economic orders to clear the path for the creation of new wealth.

Though the sloughing off of the old and growing pains of the new is often painful, financial mutation provides for emergence of a presumably better wealth paradigm – provided you can survive the collapse.

In a scenario such as this, some see only shattered ruins while others observe open opportunities.

So how does creative destruction relate to the Florida Gators?

I’m going to just say it:

The mental, emotional and economic destruction brought on by a 4-8 season might have been just the thing our football program needed to build long-term success.

Adapt or die

At the beginning of our 2013 campaign, I admit, I had donned my orange and blue glasses. I thought my beloved Gators might challenge Bama for the SEC title and, by default, a national championship.

However, I missed the many warning signs that rode in on pale horses crying, “Mediocrity is coming! Mediocrity is coming!”

The defense lost an obscene amount of starters from the 2012 unit. While our defense still ranked in the Top 15 nationally for scoring, at the end of 2013 we struggled because our hot mess of an offense could not get a lead, let alone protect a lead. A defense cannot play the entire game without any help. Still, they kept a lot of games close and winnable despite not having any help at all from the offense or special teams.

Something that was not so special – losing Caleb Sturgis. Great kickers and finalists for the Groza Award just don’t magically appear because we will them into existence with our sunshine pumping ability. In 2012 our kickers went 24 for 29 on attempts. Last season they went 12 for 22. Those points could have made the difference in a few games. Those few points could have made the difference between having a bad season and a mediocre season.

Additionally, in 2012 our punting averaged 45.34 yards per punt on 67 punts versus 40.88 yards per punt on 51 punts last year. Five yards may not seem like much, but over the course of the season that number adds up. It’s a 227.46 yard difference over 51 punts which could have been the difference in at least one or two close games. It’s not like anyone could anticipate our punting struggles either because Kyle Christy had been lights out in 2012.

Still, the signs were all there. We knew that 2013 could be a rough year on offense. The Gators needed to rely on an influx of freshman offense to produce.

As a perennial sunshine pumper, I chose to ignore the fallacy of relying on inexperienced players because our freshman wide receiver class clearly upgraded our talent at the position. However, having a talent for counting cards and having actual cash to bring to the poker table are entirely different things.

Yes, Kelvin Taylor did produce after Matt Jones went down with a knee injury, but the bulk of his contributions came late in the year.

Florida Gators
Jeff Driskel suffered a broken leg on this play against Tennessee / Gator Country photo by David Bowie.

Moreover, a rash of injuries hit us in training camp by losing Andre DeBose and Matt Rolin to ACL tears, Jeff Driskel to an appendectomy for part of training camp, and Matt Jones to a viral infection. However, the omens in training camp were merely a prelude to the injury bug that swept through our ranks once the season actually started.

By the time FSU left town, 17 Gators would experience season ending injuries at some point during the season. Based on 85 scholarships a full 20 percent of the team went down at some point and could not play for the rest of year. Fully, 28 Gators missed games or parts of games because of a variety of injuries, that is roughly 33 percent of the team. That’s two complete starting units and 6 second stringers.

To say that injuries affected this team would be an understatement. It wasn’t just the volume of injuries, it was who got injured. Losing Driskel against Tennessee hurt the team; but not as much as the injuries to Dominique Easley’s knee and Tyler Murphy’s shoulder.

Despite what conspiracy theorists spout, depth charts exist for a reason because most third-string quarterbacks don’t bring home championships. Just because we’re the Florida Gators doesn’t mean you have two high school All-Americans sitting behind your starter. Without a schematic advantage, the offense disintegrated and dragged the rest of the team down with it.

Even Stevie Wonder could have seen the signs.

That was the die part. What about adapting?

Before Muschamp took over in Gainesville, the problem was offense. In 2010, the offense under Coach Meyer drifted to the bottom of the SEC. During Muschamp’s reign the offense has sunk lower still.

Even during the relatively successful 2012 season the games were too close for comfort.

In all fairness, we are an elite defensive unit under Muschamp. 2011, 2012 and 2013 found us in the Top 20 in the country in scoring defense. There is only one better defensive mind in college football and he’s at Alabama.

Even though I couldn’t see it at the time, Muschamp’s desperately clinging to the old ways and old belief systems left us without a prosperous and productive offense. While much of the college game moved towards spread offenses and hurry up offenses, we moved backwards towards ball control and a slower pace of offense.

The model of defense and conservative offense Muschamp learned under Nick Saban’s tutelage was doled out for 3 straight years with little success. The success of the 2012 season incorrectly led many fans, including myself, to believe that the problems on offense were simply incremental and close to being solved with the recruiting of more talent.

Muschamp made a misstep with the hiring of Brent Pease who had the luxury of choosing between Florida or Bama. Bless his heart, he chose lil ol’ us.

At the time many thought his hire was a coup.

And it was.

For Bama.

Are you actually getting to the adapt part or what?

The parade had gone on a good long time before anybody outed the Emperor for trying to fool himself and the good citizens of his pigskindom into thinking he was wearing a shiny new offensive suit.

Without the complete collapse of our offense and the exposure of the flaws of the Saban coaching model we may never have known the truth. I know I would have continued to believe that maybe that better offense was just one more recruit away.

Florida Gators
Will Muschamp’s hiring of Kurt Roper has been lauded as the best hire of the Muschamp’s tenure at Florida / Photo by David Bowie

With stadium lights now pointed toward and glaring on all his weak spots (whether or not influenced by Jeremy Foley) Muschamp went after Kurt Roper and Mike Summers.

By hiring and embracing Roper and Summers, Muschamp has acknowledged his limitations as a head coach and showed his commitment to adapt (ah, there it is) into a better head coach.

This isn’t the offense that Muschamp wants to run in his perfect world; but he now understands that the only constant is change.

This adapted (there it is again) mindset may pay huge dividends for our program if the Emperor is really wearing clothes come parade time – this time.

The destruction of the Saban model was necessary for Florida to move forward and it had to implode in the fashion it did for Muschamp to embrace change.

I’m ready to invest. Are you?

The best part of creative destruction is that at some point the worst will have already happened and be over with and a gleaming future lies ahead. Warren Buffet has said that one simple rule has guided his investing, “Be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy.”

You just have to see through the fear. Many of our fans are fearful of another poor season, but the worst is behind us.

That gleaming future may be a little tough to see through the blood, sweat and tears dripping down your face but it’s out there.

Also, as a fan, I just have to acknowledge that we have had years of good luck. The national title wins in 1996 and 2006 were lotto-like with the things that had to fall into place. Sometimes maybe you have to just pay back the probabilities you borrowed against in the past.

I like to think that 2013 was the year we paid back those debts and I’m ready to invest in our Florida Gators with the best currency I have available to give – my faith.

Who’s with me?

Christopher has followed Gator football since he stepped on campus in January 1994. After getting degrees from the University of Florida in 1997 he attended law school at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and graduated in 2000. He currently owns a construction business with his father and two brothers and practices law in Stuart, Florida. He brings plenty of experience to his writing as an arm chair quarterback and professional second-guesser with the extraordinary ability of hindsight. Christopher enjoys his free time reading, writing, and spending time with friends and family. Follow him on twitter @clscammell.


  1. I think you are still wearing those colored glasses. It’s a common fantasy to blame the offense, almost a cliche, for the inept team Florida in 2013. The defense and special teams were bad and also were to blame. You cite statistics to bolster your claim about UF’s defense being just fine. Games are not decided by statistics. Can statistics measure momentum, which plays an enormous role in deciding who wins? The truth is that the gator defense was great in 2012, but 2013’s version was not even close to being great. You make the common refrain that the Gator defense was great but couldn’t overcome the poor offense. You seem to forget that, struggle as they did, UF did manage to score sometimes. But what would be the result? Usually the offense would watch the defense lay down and give it right back when the other team got the ball. Talk about discouraging. Why score and gain momentum if the defense is just going to give it right back. It wasn’t the offense that allowed Miami to score easily to set the tone for the game at Miami. The same thing happened at Missouri. The defense was well rested, UF was 2nd in the country in time of possession. Didn’t UF cose to within three points to open the second half at Missouri? What happened next? Florida laid down and let Missouri easily score. Even when the defense was given an opportunity to make a game changing play, they blew it. Remember Hargreaves dropping a potential pick six during Homecoming against Vanderbilt. How about Fowler blowing his assignment against Georgia that allowed a dump off pass to Gurley to be completed for a long touchdown? How about UF tying the game with Georgia Southern and the defense meekly giving up the winning score on the ensuing possession? The Gators were not good at forcing turnovers or making timely stops. I remember two turnovers the Gators got that were gifts, UGA’s tight end having a brain meltdown and LSU’s quarterback dropping the ball, hardly the result of a great play by the defense. I could go on and on, but you get the picture and maybe understand why Spurrier said statistics are for losers. No, the offense, alone, wasn’t the reason for the Gators being a bad team last year. They had a lot of help from the rest of the team as well.

    • The 2013 defense was not nearly as good as the 2012 defense either. However, out of the 3 phases of the game the defense was the strongest unit. Had they had a serviceable offense and special teams to back them, the team might have won more games; which might have been bad long-term for the program, which was the main idea of the article. 2013 was an unmitigated disaster. As far as statistics being for losers, then I guess I am loser. Statistics illustrate points, identify trends and tell part of the story; ignore them at your own peril. However, if you did that you wouldn’t be able to deploy that awesome catch phrase.

  2. first thanks for writing a good article, I hate GC writers who kiss ass, you are both correct u and the respondent , UF was horrific in offense , but the D had bad moments also but in part and I said in part it did have to do with that terrible O , players are human , but yes the best part of 2013 was the D but of course how can they not be the O was worst than junior high , and by the way like it or not 2012 D was full of NFL players recruited by URBAN MEYER ……..ref 2014 too bad for our super tough schedule , if WM allows Roper to coach and make decisions the O obviously will be much improved , given that you will see our D play somewhere between 12 and 13 , with an outside chance of becoming very good , if we can get consistent field goals when they are inside 40 yards UF will fight , a very good friend told me WM is a really good guy , he was given a chance I would not have , so he should be grateful, change is hard but the great ones have the ability to do it , I am hoping he does –GO GATORS

    • Thank you for such high praise. I am hoping the offense will be improved as well, there is a lot of positive feedback coming out of the practices. If our offense and special teams improve I think we have a shot at a decent year, but I am an optimist.

  3. The two main keys to our season will be Driskel and the O-Line. First, Driskel must grow as a passer both in viewing the field and making decisive throws. Second the O-line must hold blocks and communicate to stop stunts and blitzes. If we can perform in these two areas the rest should come together. The first three games should offer us an opportunity to see if we have improved in these areas.

    And one of the benefits of going 4-8 is the team should be as focused on football as they will ever be. That focus plays a big part in who wins in college football.

    • I will be watching Driskel’s progress as well. Health on the O-line is huge. I think the first three games will answer a lot of questions. I agree that 4-8 makes you reassess your priorities and if the reports coming out of practice are any indication, I think this team is very focused.

  4. Christopher, thank you for allowing me the prerogative to continue using my “catch phrase.” Statistics aren’t to be ignored, but they are not that meaningful in football. If you want to analyze statistics to seek a clear cut meaningful hypothesis, I suggest using baseball, that’s a sport where statistics can tell you most everything you need to know. But football is a game of emotion, that can’t be measured by statistics. I also mentioned momentum, which is a huge part of the ebb and flow of a football game, something that is also not measured. A great defense is one that comes up with forcing a timely turnover or enforces it’s will to make a needed stop. Since the Gators failed to do either against one good team on their schedule last year, I consider that to be poor defense. The most disheartening example, to me, of that happening last year was when the Gators had the momentum clearly on their side and decided to punt from inside Georgia’s territory because they thought they’d get the ball back in good field position to either tie or get the winning score. They just needed the defense to force Georgia to punt. We saw what happened, Georgia got the ball back with the majority of the fourth quarter remaining and UF never regained possession. The statistics say that UF didn’t allow them to score in the fourth quarter, but is that indicative of being successful? In my mind, the answer is no, the defense again faltered when they needed to come up big. There are some people who are bold enough to look at Driskel’s statistics in the Miami game and say he played well. Even you aren’t that hung up on statistics to agree with that, are you?

    • Snowprint, you don’t need my permission to use your catch phrase. You make valid points about statistics not capturing the essence of parts of the game. Also, statistics can be manipulated and placed into the wrong context. I use them because they can be predictive and indicate trends.. If you don’t like them, don’t invest in them. However, regardless of any statistical context, Driskel never looked comfortable in Weis’s or Pease’s offense. Regardless of statistical metric our offense has been historically awful since 2010, which was pre-Muschamp. Moreover, they have simply looked disorganized and lost (e.g., getting plays in late, not getting the ball snapped, and having wrong personnel). The offense over the past couple years was a stark contrast to the defense just using the eye test. The offense was the glaring weakness on this team over the past four seasons and I am hoping that it has finally been addressed with Roper and Summers.

  5. I’m ready to invest! I’m excited what the future holds, especially 2014. I have hated our offense for most of the past 13 years. I couldn’t stand Urban Meyer’s offense either. It just succeeded because we had Tebow and Harvin making plays out of nothing, I’m sooooooo ready to see an offense that makes a lick of sense and isn’t totally predictable. I could sit in the stands and predict what play was coming based on player groupings and alignment for most of the past 9 years.

    Our defense has been lights out for the past few years. Yes, last year they had a few break downs in key points in certain games, which every defense has. Look at how Manziel and A&M have carved up Saban’s defense the past 2 years. Our defense was stuck on the field most of the game last year, as we consistently went 3-and-out on offense. Don’t forget the defense lost our leader, whom disrupted the entire OL on every play. The defense was playing against Georgia Southern with a walk-on, LB that wasn’t even on the roster sheet that they hand out at games that includes 85 scholarship players and 40-50 other walk-ons, scout team guys.

    • Well, that is music to my ears. I am looking forward to seeing what Roper can do. When Easley went down the confidence of this team took a massive hit, I remember hearing about his injury and thinking that it was going to be difficult to fill his leadership and play. His injury was where the season started to go South on us.

    • LOL! Good catch.
      A huge difference between the 2012 and 2013 seasons on top of the things listed was Turnover Margin and that goes on both the O and the D. 2012 we were +15 2013 we were -2.

  6. CS,
    Enjoyed reading the article. IMO our defense has not been the problem. I believe WM had an outdated or rarely successful offensive philosophy that did not promote our program to offense high school stars. It was successful in 2012 because we were superior on defense, could flip field in kicking game, were + in turnover margin and was almost automatic in field goal game. We lost the ability to throw the ball due to inability to recruit and develop playmakers (see our offense philososphy), This weakness was compounded by a second team weakness which was poor offensive line recruiting and were left conservative and one dimensional. We could not move the ball. In addition, our defense always played with the slimmest of margins for error. we were lights out on special teams in 2012.. In 2012 our offensive scheme may have been in part dictated by the belief that our defense would carry us in close games and a lack of trust in our offense and young QB play. In 2013 in spite of injuries poor decision making at QB cost us the game after we kicked UM all over the field, We held UM to 205 yds of total offense and made Duke Johnson look very ordinary. Then the injuries started to mount and by FSU we conceded the game because our 3rd string QB simply could not play the position at all. They tried to let him throw the ball against Georgia Southern and he was almost intercepted on consecutive plays in the end zone. I look for us to be much improved. However, we will be decided underdogs against Bama, FSU, UGa and we will be in a fight with LSU. We play So Carolina with them coming off a bye. Realistically, I think we as fans should be realists and in my opinion that means this team will be between 7-5 and has a win ceiling at 9-3.

  7. I don’t want to get shot- but I loved your article too. I thought it was brilliant. Yeah, I think the D took some time off during some games-but that is understandable when dissention is running through the ranks. There was no unity, at least not from where I was watching. And, to fall that far…a 40 year low…that’s horrific. Unsold seats, unhappy fans, unhappy players…people weren’t talking bad-people completely stopped talking altogether! It was that bad. The Gators were completely and totally insignificant. And, yes, hopefully that has acted as a catharsis and we’ll rise from those ashes and build what we had in the past. But it’ll be different now, because these kids are starting all over. We’ll truly see how much they want it…the mighty Gators have to earn the respect of other teams. Other team won’t just curl up and die anymore because they’re playing the Gators. The Gators are gonna have to whoop some arse this year; and never stop. Up 64 to 3, 2 minutes left…throw a freaking bomb…Go Gators!