We’re halfway through the week, and we’re hallway through with the master list of who should be the next Gator coach. Or, should I say, who I believe would be the next Gator coach.
This is the stage of the list where you’ll start to see some of the guys Gator Nation has been clamoring for. Now, that doesn’t mean Florida will get these guys, or even call out to them (in fact, Jeremy Foley has even ruled out one of the guys you’ll see on this list). It’s just who I feel would be the best fit for Florida going forward.
Here’s a rundown of the official In All Kinds Of Weather list so far:
So here’s numbers 10 through 6 on my list:
10) Steve Spurrier
Current Job: South Carolina Gamecocks
Current age: 69
Overview: C’mon, it’s Spurrier. Anybody reading this knows exactly who he is. And if you somehow don’t, he is a folk hero among Gator fans, bringing us our first national championship in 1996, which highlighted a magical 12 year run as our coach. He also won the Heisman as a Florida QB in 1966. So yeah, he’s Gainesville’s favorite son.
Pros: Spurrier runs an offense that can finally utilize the speedy playmakers that we continue to import from the sugarcane fields of south Florida. He is a wizard in the art of recruiting. He surrounds himself with great assistant coaches. There would be a brief rebuilding period of maybe a year or two and then the team would pick up where it left off when Spurrier stepped down after drubbing Maryland in the Orange Bowl. Also, he’d beat Georgia. Remember how that feels? Me neither. End of discussion. Spurrier is a fantastic fit for Florida.
Cons: One has to wonder how long Spurrier would stay. He’s going to be 70 by the time next season rolls around, and who’s to say he won’t decide he’s had enough after four short years? I really don’t want to have to go through this all over again for at least a decade. That should be your minimum intended span of a coach’s tenure.
Chances he takes the job: 20%. If Jeremy Foley would just… frigging… listen… to me… he has a chance to get Spurrier. The situation would have to handled very carefully. Here’s how the phone call would have to go. Foley says, “Screw the interview, the job’s yours. You want it?” An interview with Spurrier- arguably the greatest coach in Gator history already- would serve absolutely no purpose other than to further damage Spurrier’s trust level with Foley (no doubt Spurrier was pissed in 2004 when Foley passed over him). Anybody with a grain of common sense knows what he’s capable of doing as a head coach. Foley would need to throw away his ego and bow to Spurrier’s. And then I think there’s a chance.
Overall Grade: 90%. Four years ago, I’d be jumping for joy at the prospect of replacing Urban Meyer with Steve Spurrier. But now that the Head Ball Coach is approaching 70, I’m a bit more leery. He’d work wonders for Florida, and probably right away. And yet while I’d reach out to him before the 42 year old Mullen, I’d prefer a longer term solution if I could get it.
9) Hugh Freeze
Current Job: Ole Miss Rebels
Current age: 45
Overview: We probably first heard of Freeze from the Blind Side, when he coached Michael Oher at Briarcrest high school in Memphis. But since then, he’s built a solid name for himself as a college head coach (Lambuth, which is NAIA, Arkansas State and now Ole Miss). Like a lot of other young head coaches on this list, he has exceeded expectations wherever he’s been. Now he’s got Ole Miss at 8-2 in the ultra-competitive SEC West, and coached the Rebels to a huge upset win over Alabama earlier in the year. But at the same time, I’m not sure how much higher Freeze can take them. Tough losses to Auburn and LSU may be proof that he’s hit his ceiling.
Pros: Freeze very well may be the best recruiter in the country. You measure a coach’s recruiting skills by what he does with what he’s working with. Ole Miss is by no means a national powerhouse, and they weren’t very good when Freeze took over for Houston Nutt, but he immediately went to work recruiting and now the Rebels are pulling in top five classes every year; imagine how well he’d recruit in the state of Florida with UF to sell. On top of that, Freeze is an excellent coach, so he develops that talent and turns it into wins on the field. He is an above average schematic coach, and his players love him and want to win for him.
Cons: I can’t really find one. If I have to throw one out there, I guess it would be that he hasn’t ever coached at a place with really high expectations. But that’s a weak reason not to hire him, because neither did Spurrier, or Meyer.
Chance he takes the job: 10%. It’s worth the phone call, but he’s dug some deep roots in Oxford. The only reason he would leave would be if Foley offered him the world. Which he might do. But I’m still not sure that would do it. Sometimes, a coach just wants to stay at a school because he feels it’s right. That’s what I fear will happen if and when Foley makes the move at Freeze.
Overall Grade: 95%. I’d be doing cartwheels if he took the Florida job. Recruiting ability plus fertile recruiting grounds plus a great school to recruit for plus great coaching equals success. But I just don’t think he’s going to leave Ole Miss right now. That’s why he’s as low as he is.
8) Charlie Strong
Current job: Texas Longhorns
Current age: 54
Overview: If Steve Spurrier is Gainesville’s favorite son, Charlie Strong is next in line. Four stints at UF spanning a total of 14 years and his ability to recruit like few others have me jumping up and down at the mere thought of hiring him. But not hiring him after 2013 could prove to be the fatal blow in ever getting him to return to Gainesville. He took the Texas job instead after four successful years at Louisville.
Pros: Charlie is easily one of the game’s top recruiters. Strong getting to recruit the state of Florida… for the University of Florida… would almost be too easy. It’d be like a kid on a moon bounce for the first time, giggling at how much fun it is and never wanting to stop. Also on his resume: he’s spent a long time in the SEC, he can build defenses, he can hire great assistant coaches, he can coach on the field and he can instill discipline into his program. Yes, I’d love to have Strong.
Cons: Hard to find one with Strong. I guess if I had to nitpick, I’d say that his offense at Texas isn’t too great right now. But his offense at Louisville was with Teddy Bridgewater… yeah, I’d say there really aren’t any red flags with Strong.
Chances he takes the job: 15%. Oh, Jeremy Foley. If only you could have seen the problem with Will Muschamp a year ago like I did. But nope, you were too stubborn and stuck with what you wrongly believed to be a home run hire for another year. Your foolishness and inability to admit you made a mistake (and your subsequent failure to correct that mistake) cost us more than a decent season of promise in 2014; it also cost us the chance to land any of a bevy of great coaches, including our long time assistant Charlie Strong. I guess it’s possible he takes the job now, but being spurned by Foley can’t leave him with a good feeling with Florida. And I doubt he leaves Texas after one year.
Overall Grade: 95%. Foley owes him a huge apology for failing to even give the man an interview after Urban Meyer resigned in 2010. Strong would be an excellent hire. The only reason he’s as low on my call list as he is is because he’s a defensive mind, and both Florida fans and Jeremy Foley are seeking an offensive mind.
7) Dan Mullen
Current Job: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Current age: 42
Overview: Hey look, the second former Urban Meyer assistant in a row! Unfortunately, Jeremy Foley has said that he wouldn’t consider him, and that’s a shame. Luckily, people change their minds sometimes. Anyway, up until 2009, Dan Mullen was Urban Meyer’s right hand man at Florida. He was the guy that called the plays and ran the offense with Tim Tebow. Make no mistake; that was Mullen’s show, the way it was Addazio’s (awful) show in 2009 and 2010. Mullen has also proven he can be successful without Urban looking over his shoulder. He went to Starkville and built a worthless program into a national championship contender. Part of that is recruiting extremely well. And part of that is knowing the x’s and o’s of the offense he runs so, so well.
Pros: There are really no expectations at Mississippi State. All you really have to do to win over your AD and fan base is win ~7 games a year and beat Ole Miss. Check both of those off; Mullen is 4-1 in the Egg Bowl and has reached a bowl game in his last four seasons (and will again this year). Imagine, then, at a place like Florida, how successful he would be calling all the shots. He would clean up the state of Florida in recruiting, and Gator fans could just about always count on him to put out an exciting offense. He’s also got an extremely rare combination of positive traits working for him: he’s 42, and has already proven that he can be successful at the highest level.
Cons: His sometimes gruff personality suggests he might not get along with the boosters. But really now, if he wins games and turns raw talent on offense into results the way Muschamp never could, do we care in the least bit? He’d also cost a lot of money to hire… another thing that winning games would make irrelevant.
Chances he takes the job: 35%. I put it as just under 50/50 because of the fact that Jeremy Foley passed over him in 2010, and then decidedly more under 50/50 because of Foley’s public admission that he wasn’t looking for him. Mullen can be a spiteful man at times, and while I think he would certainly listen, his resentment would make him think twice. But let’s be real here; all the talk from Mississippi State fans about him “having roots” in the Magnolia State is bullshit. That’s just a delusional MSU fan base trying to tell themselves he’ll stay forever. The fact is, he’s going to leave at some point, and possibly very soon. It’s either Florida or Michigan this year for Mullen, or he waits another year and after 2015 is less successful, he will bolt. And again… Jeremy Foley has said that he wouldn’t be considered. But a change of heart could always be in the cards.
Overall grade: 90%. Mullen is not the perfect hire in my opinion, but he’s a great one nonetheless. As far as logical coaching hires go- guys that I think have a legitimate chance to take the job (should Foley change his mind and make the call)- he’s at the top of my list.
6) Jon Gruden
Current job: ESPN analyst
Current age: 51
Overview: Why not throw up a Hail Mary with Gruden? He hasn’t coached since 2008, and I just know he’s itching to get back out there. He was definitely a bit intrigued in 2010 when Urban Meyer stepped down, and though he seems to enjoy being an analyst on Monday Night Football, you can just get this feeling that he wants to coach again. A successful 12 year run in the NFL with the Raiders and Buccaneers, including a Super Bowl ring, is all I need to see on his resume to want him.
Pros: Gruden is among the top schematic brains in football, and he knows how to direct a high flying offense and develop quarterbacks as well as anybody out there. And with his name, combined with the school itself, he wouldn’t even need to recruit that hard. Can you imagine Jon Gruden as the head coach of the flagship university in the most talent rich state in the country? Good lord, the place would literally recruit itself. He had the best results in Tampa from 2002-2008. No doubt some of the kids he’d be recruiting for the first several years or so would remember him for the success he had with the Bucs, particularly considering how bad they are now.
Cons: Gruden has never been a college head coach before. In fact, he’s only spent three years as a paid assistant coach at the collegiate level. It might take some time for him to adjust to the whole recruiting thing, which is a big deal- even at a place like Florida, which recruits itself.
Chance he takes the job: 5%. There’s a chance, perhaps, but it would take some improvement on the horrible attitude Jeremy Foley has in terms of letting his ego get in the way of things, and the right pitch from Foley. And then I still wouldn’t bet on it.
Overall Grade: 94%. In terms of knowing the game and instilling discipline into his players, few even come close to Gruden. I’d take him in a heartbeat. It’s just a matter of getting him. And I don’t think Florida will.