Don't worry, folks. Theater of Operations will be back Monday and Tuesday morning respectively with the normal video breakdown.
Let me clear up one thing before I begin: I don't believe in good losses. Rarely do I even think that anything good comes from a loss: The Gators switching to a shotgun offense against Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl to give Danny Wuerffel time to throw and a chance of breathing after the game was a good thing, but it's the exception, not the rule. By and large, all a loss is is a loss; nothing more, nothing less.
But there can be a great deal of difference in how a team takes a loss. A team can receive a loss because they were simply outplayed, over-matched, or any other talent-related reason. A loss can also be suffered (indirectly, of course), because of officiating. We, as Gators fans, know that feeling all too well.
It is also possible to lose because of coaching. After the jump, in that light, I'll give my opinion on not just head coach Will Muschamp, but the entire coaching staff.
I think the 2011 edition of the Florida Gators are currently losing because of coaching. You can go ahead right now and chalk up the losses to Alabama and LSU as "talent losses"; I won't in any way fight you on that. But the last two games, against Auburn and against Georgia, are "coaching losses." At Auburn, coaching that led to that loss far outweighed anything the officials did or didn't do. And against Georgia, the Gators' scheme helped doom them in a way that the personnel didn't.
Yes, I know that Muschamp and company are installing a new system. Yes, I also know that they are installing that system with a built-in handicap of only 70 players. Yes, I'm well aware that when installing a new system, with players that aren't built for that system, it takes time.
This isn't about that. It's about what I perceive to be a general lack of coaching across the board. Let's break it down, coach by coach.
Will Muschamp, head coach: Where to begin? Clock management, yelling at the officials too much, the stare: the list goes on and on. The University of Florida isn't where one should start a career as a head coach. Now, I'm not saying that he should be relieved of his duties; I'm just saying that Florida isn't a good starting point if your goal is to be a successful head coach.
There are a few things that a head coach must accomplish at Florida if he wants to keep the job. Among them:
- Compete for National Titles
- Compete for SEC Titles
- Beat the top three rivals (Florida State, Tennessee and Georgia)
- Have great/top recruiting classes
- Qualify for a bowl game by the end of October
Immediately upon taking the job, Urban Meyer made it a point to say that beating Florida State, Tennessee and Georgia were his top priority. And as we all know, Meyer accomplished that, and everything else on the list, multiple times. Muschamp, up to this point, has done accomplished one (beating Tennessee) and is in the process of accomplishing another (recruiting class).
Muschamp would be wise to work on a few things. First and foremost, he needs to start being himself and stop second-guessing himself. In other words, he should go with his gut feeling instead of over-analyzing things. His over-analyzing cost the Gators at least one timeout in the second half and resulted in some confusion on what to do numerous times throughout the game.
I've complained about it already, but I also think his penchant for yelling at officials like a madman isn't doing him any favors. That is something that will hurt him in the long run. I will say, though, that he seemed much better yesterday than in past games.
I believe that Muschamp will get there eventually. But three quarters of a season isn't enough time for him or anyone to know for sure, and just enough to start speculating.
Charlie Weis, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: Remember in the spring when Weis said we'd see a lot of play action? I do. Aside from the first couple of games, we haven't seen it much. Granted, plans change with injuries, and John Brantley, Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps have been all that healthy, but this is getting beyond ridiculous.
Also, early on in the year, when Weis said that when he finds something that works, he'd keep doing it until the defense stops it? Well, I've got news for Charlie Weis. Georgia knows about it, and they stopped it.
Maybe next year we'll adjust to their adjustment.
D.J. Durkin, linebackers/special teams: Durkin won't come in for much fire. Both of the units he is responsible for have been okay. Jon Bostic, Lerentee McCray and company aren't going to remind anybody of Brandons Spikes and Siler, but I think we knew that going in. As for special teams, aside from Rainey struggling for a moment with his depth perception, they've been what we've come to expect the last few years.
Demps even returned a kickoff for a touchdown yesterday. That's always a good thing.
Aubrey Hill, wide receivers/recruiting coordinator: I'm pretty sure this one is self-explanatory. Recruiting seems to be great, but the wide receiver position as a whole? Not so much. If you recall, some of us have been against the hiring of Hill from the beginning.
Derek Lewis, tight ends: Due to the injury of A.C. Leonard, and Jordan Reed performing like we expected, I'll say that Lewis has done as good a job as one could have hoped for.
Travaris Robinson, defensive backs: Coach Robinson is dealing with a lot of youth. So I'll give him the benefit of doubt and will continue to operate in a "wait and see" type of mode.
Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator/defensive line: I'm not even sure what Quinn does exactly. Is it him or Muschamp that calls the defensive plays? Is it some sort of a combination of the two? Actually, now that I think about it, this is probably a better question: Why are we nine weeks into the season, and I still don't know the answer to the above questions?
I'll tell you what I do know, though. The defensive line, while young and talented, is undersized for SEC play. I don't think there is any denying that. Regardless, the entire defense is young and just like in 2007, we'll have to see if they develop. And it is that development that will be placed squarely on the shoulders of Quinn.
Frank Verducci, offensive line/running game coordinator: I'm pretty sure that if there is just one coach who has to be seriously worried about whether or not he is going to have a job at the end of the year, it is Verducci. Looking at his responsibilities on the surface, even a child could deduce that his units are playing very poorly.
The offensive line (especially a certain left tackle) has played well below what it is capable of. As for Verducci being the running game coordinator, well, it would be nice if he had a running game to coordinate. Wait ... isn't that his responsibility to come up with one?
I thought so.
Brian White, running backs: How this guy ever won the Assistant Coach of the Year award at Wisconsin is beyond me. He'd have been better off sticking with the tight end position.
Bryant Young, defensive line: He's a Weis guy, so that's pretty much that.
I'm not saying that I want a complete overhaul of the coaching staff by any means. I'm just saying that some (read: Verducci, White, Young, Hill) should begin to feel the heat. If you want to put the heat on Muschamp, by all means, go ahead. I won't try to stop you. But I think that given the overall youth of the team and the position he was put in by Meyer, it'd take a real quick trigger finger to let Muschamp go at this point.
Remember, he is coaching a team that is roughly fifteen players short of the scholarship limit. Depth issues aside, coaching at Florida isn't easy. It is going to take some time to build a winner, especially considering the material he has available.
Playing Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia in one month isn't easy for any team, especially when three of those games take place away from home. The wear and tear that those teams will give any team will take its toll. It always has, and it always will.
Now, we're left to hunt for bright sides. Seeing the defense improve the past couple games was good, right? Now if we can just figure out that offense thing ... maybe with Mike Gillislee as a featured running back?