But seriously folks.
The Florida Gators played a sloppy, gut-wrenching, face-palming game against Kentucky in the Swamp Saturday night but in the end eked out a way too close for comfort 36-30 victory over Kentucky in three overtimes. Gator fans hungry for redemption after last season’s 4-8 train wreck were restless as the Gators allowed the Wildcats to hang around throughout and almost pull out the victory. In the end, the Gators were able to continue the nation’s longest active consecutive win streak by one team against another at 28.
In spite of the thrilling 3 overtime victory, fans were moaning and groaning throughout, most calling for head coach Will Muschamp to be fired. Twitter and sports message boards lit up with tweets and posts criticizing the Gators effort and the job done by Muschamp. Needless to say, the close victory did nothing to cool the head coach’s seat. At least not in the eyes of impatient, fickle fans.
The Monday Morning Quarterback, however, believes that fans should calm down and stay the course with Will Muschamp.
1) Clamoring for Muschamp’s job after essentially one real game is premature.
Considering the Gators opener was scrapped due to weather and last week’s Eastern Michigan game was merely a glorified scrimmage, Saturday’s game against Kentucky was the Gators first real game. Certainly their first real test. While it’s true it was only Kentucky, this was not the same ole Kentucky team that showed up in the Swamp Saturday. Head coach Mark Stoops has seriously upgraded the talent level particularly on defense but also at the offensive skill positions.
Sometimes the most dangerous team is a young, talented team who doesn’t realize they’re supposed to lose. That’s the type of team that showed up on Saturday night. This Kentucky team is talented and is going to sneak up on a lot of teams this season and realistically every team on their schedule should be on upset alert.
So considering that this was the Gators first real test, and considering the talent level this Kentucky team has, the fact that the Gators won in spite of adversity should be viewed as a positive for Will Muschamp’s performance rather than a negative.
2) Muschamp has proven he can win with your players.
Well, that is, he can win with Urban Meyer’s players. Fans long have been known to have poor memory. For Gator fans the amnesia tends to be even worse. Heck, even after winning two of three BCS titles fickle fans groaned through the next season as the Gators went undefeated in the regular season but weren’t winning convincingly enough to satisfy them.
For Muschamp, who went 11-2 two seasons ago and led the team within a play or two of competing for the SEC title, it’s a case of damned if I do, damned if I don’t. What’s lost in the translation is the masterful job Muschamp did guiding a team with some premier talent but sorely lacking in depth to that solid season while fitting square pegs into round holes and next to no talent at receiver. The job he did in 2012 gets overlooked by fans but shouldn’t be.
3) Will Muschamp has been stockpiling talent.
For all the criticism of Muschamp, no one can argue with the fact that he’s upgraded the talent base bringing in two top ten recruiting classes and is poised to reel in another one this cycle. Meyer stockpiled talent but much of it was of questionable character and many left when Muschamp arrived because they didn’t want to get with the program. The Florida Gators football program hit a rock bottom talent/depth wise in 2011 with much of Meyer’s last class not panning out and Muschamp’s first two classes being busts.
Contrary to popular opinion the program didn’t hit rock bottom with last season’s debacle. That was more due to a once in a lifetime series of season ending injuries and the ill-timed loss of the only experienced and arguably talented backup quarterback.
Last season was actually the beginning of the Gators climb back to prominence as a rebuilding year but became a lost season when many players gave up after losing so many starters to season ending injuries. That makes this season even more important. But keep in mind this is also a rebuilding year as the Gators have well in excess of thirty underclassmen on their two deep roster and making significant contributions in game action.
4) Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The biggest argument I hear from Gator fans on message boards is how other coaches, including Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, are able to retool a roster and show marked improvement in a couple of seasons, so Muschamp has had plenty of time and he’s obviously failed so get rid of him.
This argument is specious at best. While certainly some coaches are able to flip a roster quickly, again keep in mind Will Muschamp went 11-2 in his second season. I’d say that’s marked improvement.
What we’re dealing with now isn’t a quick flip of a roster, it’s growing pains of flipping a program.
Right now the Gators aren’t thin on talent, they’re thin on experience.
There’s a huge learning curve adapting from high school to SEC football. Guys mature at different rates, that’s natural.
Very few guys come in and compete at a high level as true freshman. While players learn technique and strategy on the practice fields and meeting rooms. They learn a lot on the playing field in meaningful game action as well.
This team will as well but there will be lots of growing pains and close games for these youngsters. The key is how well they keep their composure, stay the course, and learn from their mistakes.
After last season’s debacle where players gave up it will be easy for them to fall back into that this season when things don’t go their way. It’s important they understand that they have to play through adversity, get better, and control what they can control.
This staff has proven they can get players to buy into that mentality with the 2012 team which famously clawed back from early deficits to control the second half and, in particular, the fourth quarters of games. While every team’s different, Muschamp has already proven he can coach these guys up mentally and physically and must be given an ample amount of time to make it happen.
5) The long term plan for the Gator football program under Will Muschamp is on track.
What many fans do not understand is the long term plan given to Muschamp wasn’t simply win games and recruiting battles. It was to change the culture of the program which had suffered under Urban Meyer. Their was an air of entitlement in the locker room with superstars doing as they pleased.
Many of Meyer’s recruits had questionable character, Tim Tebow not withstanding. Muschamp was tasked with changing that. Ridding the program of the malcontent’s and rule breakers. Bringing in high character recruits that could compete not only on the field but in the classroom as well and would represent the Gator program with class.
Will Muschamp has done that. If you follow recruiting at all, it’s apparent the Muschamp has passed on a large number of highly talented players who they likely could have gotten and who could have helped this team out on the field as well because they were questionable people.
Fans scratch their heads wondering why the staff doesn’t pursue this guy or that guy but recruits have to fit a rigorous checklist in order to receive a commitable offer from this staff. Every year we see a few guys who commit but later fall of or decommit and fans wonder aloud what happened. Muschamp gives each kid a list of priorities that he must complete or abide by in order to sign a letter of intent and these guys just don’t measure up so the staff drops them.
Academically, the players must make the grade as well and make regular progress toward a meaningful UF degree or face sanctions from Muschamp, He’s upgraded not only the character of the roster but also the academic prowess as well. These are things fans rarely even think about but are a part of the plan and a part of what athletic director Jeremy Foley uses to judge the job Muschamp is doing.
6) Jumping ship now will only do more harm than good.
With two top ten recruiting classes under his belt and a third almost guaranteed this cycle unless this team tanks like last season’s, only a fool would consider anything but a vote of confidence for Muschamp. At least until after this season plays out.
The Monday Morning Quarterback understands that there is every opportunity for this team to tank and Muschamp to be fired after the season. They call it a hot seat for a reason and Muschamp’s has been smoldering ever since losing to FCS foe Georgia Southern.
However, fan’s clamoring for Muschamp’s head do nothing to instill confidence in recruits considering the Gators. In fact, it only helps spur the negative recruiting from other coaches. No matter how many times a recruit says they pledged to a school not a coach, that’s true only in a few small cases. The reality is recruiting is about relationships and that can’t be built in a month or two by a new coach on the fly.
With the level of talent that are leaning toward the Gators right now, fans need to circle the wagons and show some unity and solidarity among themselves and for Will Muschamp. For most recruits, they’re not so much waiting to see if the Gators win this season as waiting to see if Muschamp survives.
If he’s fired, it’s not only some top talent they figure to lose. The last thing the program needs is more uncertainty after going through three different offensive coordinators in four years. A change in staff will only extend the process of getting back to the championship level to which Gator fans have become accustomed.
So, overall, it’s still too early to judge this team and head coach Will Muschamp. The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that Muschamp has proven enough on the field, in recruiting, and in program flipping to earn the right to continue captaining the Gator football ship. Good times are ahead for the Florida Gators, even if it’s not readily apparent to fickle Florida fans.
I’m the Monday Morning Quarterback, and I’m out.