There’s no doubt that destroying Georgia was just what the doctor ordered for the job security of Will Muschamp, which is still very much on life support. But while beating our co-biggest rival is always nice, I don’t really know how much it changed anything in terms of Muschamp’s future at UF.
Before you read this piece, I suggest you finish celebrating the win over Georgia. You can’t read this if you’re still giddy over the win, or still in the process of taunting every Georgia fan you know. Seriously, I did the same thing and refused to even try to put these thoughts on paper until I had calmed down and was ready to look at the big picture. Because the big picture- the overall outlook of the Florida program and its future- is a sobering one.
Jeremy Foley has said on multiple occasions that he will balance all the facts, evaluate Muschamp at the end of the season and then make a decision. If that’s really the case, though, I can’t see Muschamp coming back- unless he wins out. That includes exacting revenge on Vanderbilt and South Carolina (which should be fairly easy), that includes winning in Tallahassee (not as easy) and that includes winning a bowl game against what would, under this “run the table” scenario, be against a ~9 win Big 10 team. And even then, it’s no sure thing.
There are really two questions here: do I (and should you) want Muschamp to stay on right now, and if he wins out? And will he come back for another year if he does win out?
For anyone to make a decision like this- me, you, or Jeremy Foley, most of whom this is directed at- current emotions need to be put aside. I was calling to fire Muschamp just as much after we lost a tough game to South Carolina as I was after the embarrassing loss to Vandy. The latest result, for better or worse, cannot alter your decision any more than any other result did on its own. You can’t tell me to “settle down and enjoy the win”, or that “Muschamp deserves another chance after beating Georgia” just because you’re feeling good right now. No, I want better results long term. Remember how it felt to lose to Missouri? That was just two weeks ago. You can’t use the most recent result to make a decision of this magnitude; you need to lay down all the results on the table and balance them out.
So let’s do that.
Working in Muschamp’s favor to stay are two main things: the 11 wins during the 2012 season and the win over Georgia on Saturday (and the coinciding decision to start Treon Harris). I don’t think 2012 was particularly exciting to watch, but the Gators were winning games, and I’m willing to trade excitement for wins. The 2012 Gators finished in the Top 10 despite two of the most horrid performances in big games I can ever remember seeing, because they won the 11 other games they played that year. And beating Georgia the other day proved that he can win big games. Not all the time, or even a respectable percentage of the time, but he can win a big game now and then.
But the argument against him is much stronger. That 2012 team was close to winning a national championship, but there’s a reason why they didn’t- in the biggest game of the year, against Georgia, they self destructed. In the Sugar Bowl that same year- one of college football’s biggest stages- they self destructed. Against FSU, Georgia and Auburn in 2011, they self destructed. Against Miami, Georgia, Missouri and Vanderbilt in 2013, they self destructed. And this year, against LSU and Missouri, they self destructed.
Notice a pattern here?
Muschamp has coached himself to four big wins at Florida: against LSU, South Carolina and FSU in 2012 and now against Georgia. Stack those four wins up against all the above games I listed in which his teams didn’t even bother to show up. The latter category wins, by a long shot. I don’t have a problem with getting beat by better teams, like Alabama/LSU in 2011 or FSU last year, and I don’t have a problem with somebody making a big mistake at the end of the game to lose it every now and then; everybody makes a mistake now and then. But losing games because we tried our hardest to give them away just drives me crazy, particularly when it happens on a consistent basis. I can get over one loss because somebody dropped a pass or threw a bad interception, but I can’t stand it when it’s a regular occurrence.
And if you want to use Georgia as an example that Muschamp has turned things around- well, what happened against Missouri? That was the second most recent game this team has played, and a game of huge importance for Florida’s chances at the SEC East. Those chances are all but gone now, thanks to that wonderful effort his team gave that night. And to answer your next question, Georgia did not change my mind in the least bit. It’s too late. Too many losses that left me shaking my head, and not enough wins that made me believe there was some promise. In all kinds of weather, we all stick together- for FLORIDA. For the best interests of the program. And I believe that hiring a new coach and starting over is what would be best for the program today as much as I did after the Vanderbilt loss last year.
But those are arguments, and opinions. And while they do carry weight, they’re not as important as cold, hard facts. Here’s are some facts, and some disturbing ones at that.
First, and perhaps most importantly, it’s looking very likely that Florida will go four consecutive years under Muschamp without a single appearance in Atlanta. Wasn’t that what the consensus of Florida fans agreed on? He has to go to Atlanta to keep his job for 2015, bottom line? Yes? Sound familiar? Well, the Gators aren’t exactly the favorite right now. Yes, it’s still possible. But the mere fact that we are now relying on a shitload of help from teams that are ~.500 in the SEC just to get us to a massive three way 5-3 tie is a sign that- blasphemy!- maybe we don’t deserve to be there in the first place. Or maybe that sign was Florida laying an egg in a game we absolutely had to have against Missouri, which by the way was a homecoming game at night. I’m sure all the alumni who traveled back to Gainesville really appreciated that performance, and more importantly, that loss isn’t going to go away because now we are in a huge hole because of it in terms of tiebreakers.
Here’s another fact to think about. And brace yourselves, because this one is scary. Had Muschamp lost to Georgia, his winning percentage at Florida would have been 55.5%. That would have qualified as the worst percentage of any Gator coach since the 1940’s when Raymond Wolf had a losing record in his four years. I know, Florida won on Saturday, but to even come close to a distinction like that should be enough for a coach of a Gator program that’s light years ahead of where it was back then to get the boot.
So no, I don’t want Muschamp back.
Again, winning the SEC East was what we as a fan base decided he had to do to come back in 2015. He had to win the SEC East and go to Atlanta to keep his job. Bottom line. Any hypotheticals, “how abouts” or “but what ifs” result in the front door slamming right in your face to end the conversation. The answer is no. Goodbye. That’s the answer, the only answer, with no alternatives or derivatives. He has to win the East to keep his job, we agreed, or he’s gone. Even if he wins out, Florida’s still probably not winning the East. That’s right, if we go 8-3 and beat FSU- hell, 9-3, I’ll even throw in a bowl win- I still will not want him back.
Muschamp finally won a big game- good for him- but it’s too late. This win does not, by any means, undo the damage that Missouri game did. Now, had he beaten Georgia AND Missouri, I’d be thinking twice about wanting him gone. But once again, his team lost a game it absolutely had to have. And then of course there was last year. That didn’t go away, either. I haven’t forgotten about Miami, Georgia Southern and Vanderbilt, and regardless of how many injuries there were, losing those games to go 4-8 is unacceptable. Again, yes, I realize we were banged up. But a good coach, with that same game by game roster, gets that 2013 team to 6-6.
If you want a comparison, Foley pulled the plug on Zook when it became clear that he wouldn’t win the East in his third year; to even consider giving Muschamp, with a substantially lower winning percentage than Zook, a fifth year is absurd. Yet that’s what very well may happen if he wins the rest of his games.
I don’t think Jeremy Foley is an “idiot”, “asleep at the wheel”, or “doesn’t care about the football team”. Those comments and others like them are just silly. I think he’s got the right intentions, but his ego and inability to admit when he’s wrong gets in the way of what’s best for his program in reality. But if his golden boy wins out and finishes 9-3 with wins over FSU and in a respectable bowl game, I have to think he’ll be back. I won’t like it, but that will be the reality.
Going 8-3 after 4-8 a year ago would be a monumental turnaround, even without a trip to Atlanta. It would be the second such impressive turnaround after taking a 6-6 team in 2011 and turning it into 11-1 in 2012. That would leave questions as to whether Muschamp can have success and then sustain it, but it would give Foley a reason to try him out for a fifth year. Muschamp would have two good seasons and two bad seasons to his name, and to break the tie, I’m certain Foley would keep him in 2015, and then I’d have to hope and pray for the best with the tough schedule we have.
So win out, Muschamp. What I think of you won’t ever change unless you lead us to an SEC Championship at this point, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the opinion of your boss, and he is trying so hard to find reasons to keep you. For your own sake, win out. You’ve got one down; now go win five more.
And then we’ll discuss it.