I hate to say I told you so…
Who am I kidding, the Monday Morning Quarterback has been gloating ever since the final seconds ticked off the clock in Saturday’s less than stellar come from behind victory over Tennessee.
The Gators’ tenth consecutive victory over division rival Tennessee was likely their most underwhelming in large part due to head coach Will Muschamp’s stubbornness in sticking with the underperforming Jeff Driskel at quarterback.
While the Monday Morning Quarterback has been on record as supporting Will Muschamp but calling for Jeff Driskel’s benching, coach Muschamp almost sealed his fate and his job by sticking with Driskel too long on Saturday despite once again his inability to lead the Gators offense successfully.
Through almost 3 full quarters, Driskel was a paltry 11-23 (48%) for a putrid 59 yards and no scores. Under his leadership, the Gators never even got a whiff of the redzone much less the end zone despite starting almost every drive in great field position.
While much has been made of the failures of the receivers, it was painfully obvious to anyone and everyone watching that Driskel was simply unable to lead this offense.
End of story.
That is, perhaps, except for Will Muschamp. For whatever reason, Muschamp stuck with Driskel almost to the point of losing the game. While Twitter was exploding and every single member of Gator Nation was screaming at the top of their lungs for Treon Harris, Muschamp continued to trot Driskel out time and again.
The defense played a whale of a game getting big pass rushes from Dante Fowler and Bryan Cox, Jr on the outside and strong run stuffing from Jonathan Bullard on the inside as well as great play in the defensive backfield from true freshmen Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor. It would have been a crying shame if the Gators went down in defeat after turning in such a masterful defensive performance. Sticking with Driskel so long almost spoiled the effort.
But, after Tabor made the play of the game, sacking Vols quarterback Justin Worley and stripping the football with 55 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter, Muschamp made the change sending in Harris. While he didn’t light it up passing the ball, he was 2-4 for 17 yards, it was apparent from the start the offense had a different vibe. They had an energy they had previously lacked as Harris quickly marched the Gator offense to a touchdown getting the Gators within two at 9-7.
Gator Nation awoke. Finally they had a chance. While the drive consisted almost entirely of rushes by Harris and Matt Jones, he did lay out a very nicely placed touch pass to Jones on a zone read play action pass which allowed him to catch it easily in stride and pick up a quick 12 yards and a first down. The pass was indicative of what Harris brings to the table and what Driskel lacks.
Treon also was very impressive running the zone read and quarterback draw as well.
Bottom line is that Driskel has had every opportunity to lead this team and has proven time and again he doesn’t have what it takes to lead this offense successfully. Treon Harris, while young and very raw, brings a certain kind of quiet confidence. Players respond to that. It should be apparent to everybody at this point that Driskel’s teammates have zero confidence in him.
With quarterbacks, while scouts drool over measurables like size, arm strength, speed, and accuracy, what is more important are intangibles like leadership. Some have it, some don’t. You can’t always put your finger on it but it’s very obvious during game action.
Treon appears to have that “IT” factor, Driskel, not so much. So, while trying not to bash the kid, Driskel is a great guy and solid teammate, it’s obvious to everyone including the Monday Morning Quarterback and hopefully now even Will Muschamp, that it’s time to make a change at the quarterback position. Not just for a series or two, but for good. Treon Harris is obviously the future for Florida at qb and at this point he needs to be given the keys and let’s see how well he drives this offense.
His skill set is perfect for what new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper likes to do offensively. He’s been a winner at every level winning two state championships in high school and a mythical national championship as well as a senior at Booker T. Washington in Miami. And he’s already shown he can move the offense. He’s proven that guys respond to his leadership. Fans, alumni, media, and former players alike all are calling for Harris to be named the starting quarterback.
Muschamp, however, has remained non-committal saying in the post game presser that they will evaluate their options moving forward. The Monday Morning Quarterback believes that Muschamp not only took a leap of faith that might have saved the Gators’ season when he put Harris in, but also may have saved his job. He must, however, make that change permanent.
The defense, while talented, is very young and will continue to be a work in progress throughout the season. If the Gators hope to have a shot at winning the SEC east they will certainly have to generate much better offense than they have the last three games. This means that if Will Muschamp hopes to continue coaching in Gainesville, his job is tied to the performance of his qb. With every three and out performance by Driskel and Co on Saturday, Muschamp’s seat got hotter and hotter.
Putting in Harris saved the game and gave Muschamp a temporary reprieve. What he decides on which player will start at qb moving forward will determine the fate of the Gators season and the fate of coach Muschamp’s job.
Let’s hope for his sake and for Gator Nation that he makes the right call.
I’m the Monday Morning Quarterback and I’m out.