Will Muschamp will be Florida's head coach in 2014 — at least, he's in position to return, if you believe the reports from the Associated Press's Mark Long, the Orlando Sentinel's Edgar Thompson, ESPN's Joe Schad, and CBS Sports's Jeremy Fowler that happened on Saturday and Sunday.
Thompson wrote in his Sentinel piece that "significant changes to Florida's coaching staff are expected," though, and CBS Sports's Bruce Feldman added in a Sunday report that he was told "earlier (last) week" that Florida would be "getting rid of" offensive coordinator Brent Pease, and that offensive line coach Tim Davis "also would be gone."
Pease and Davis have been on the proverbial hot seat for much of the season, as Florida's offense hasn't scored more than 20 points since a 30-10 win over Arkansas — a game in which a Loucheiz Purifoy pick-six provided some of the points. Florida's topped that 30 points just once this year, against Tennessee. After Jeff Driskel suffered a season-ending injury in that game, the Gators clicked off touchdown drives of 40, 56, 79, and 84 yards despite Tyler Murphy playing his first collegiate snaps.
Florida's offensive performance has been especially dire in the red zone this fall. The Gators rank 118th nationally in red zone scoring percentage, at 69.1 percent, and 121st in red zone touchdown percentage. Florida's 2012 offense actually counted red zone scoring percentage as one of its strengths, ranking 50th in the statistic at 82.6 percent despite ranking 96th in red zone touchdown percentage.
Florida's ball security has also regressed, and has coughed up 18 turnovers through 11 games after handing over 15 in a 13-game season in 2012.
Comparing Florida's 2013 offense to the underrated 2012 offense that got Pease a deserved raise, and to the 2011 and 2010 offenses that Pease's 2012 unit was a major improvement on, makes it clear that the Gators are nowhere near where they were even last year.
|2013 (Pease)||2012 (Pease)||2011 (Weis)||2010 (Addazio)|
|Yards per game||327.9||334.0||328.7||351.2|
|Yards per play||4.85||5.25||5.42||5.17|
|Points per game||19.9||26.5||25.5||29.8|
|Red zone scoring%||69.1%||82.6%||86.5%||70.7%|
|Red zone TD%||42.9%||52.2%||48.7%||60.3%|
|Next-year NFL players||1? (Patton?)||2 (Gillislee, Reed)||2 (Rainey, Thompson)||3 (Pouncey, Gilbert, Hurt)|
That's a slide in every single category I used in my May defense of Pease, and a disastrous one in Offensive FEI, the most holistic stat available.
There are glaring mitigating circumstances for Pease this year: Florida was off to a decent start on offense from a yardage perspective through two games with Driskel at the helm, even if its red zone performance (scores on six of 12 trips, a woeful 50 percent mark) and ball security (six turnovers over two games) were actually worse through two games than they are through 11. Pease had lost both Driskel and starting running back Matt Jones by halftime of Florida's sixth game, and never had a fully healthy Jones, given his summer illness. Murphy appeared to be in full control of the offense, or close, after the Arkansas game, but he suffered a shoulder injury in that game, and his play dipped dramatically.
Injuries on the offensive line also hampered Florida's offense — and serve as a mitigating factor for evaluating Davis, as well, though Florida's yards per carry are also down (4.53 in 2012; 3.65 in 2013) — and an injury to Colin Thompson robbed Florida of its only potential versatile tight end, given that both other options, Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook, are converted defensive ends. And whatever improvements Florida's wide receivers have made, obvious though they were through three games, have been easily dismissed, given that Florida's quarterbacks have mostly struggled to get it to those wide receivers for more than a month.
But the emotional reasons for scrapping Florida's current offense are far stronger than any mitigation. It has been painful for many Florida fans to watch this offense, and though I believe some of the complaints about it were always rooted more in fealty to bygone eras than what was actually happening on the field, Florida's inability to throw the ball since Tim Tebow's departure for the NFL has been a sticking point for Gators fans.
Bringing Pease back next year, even with the caveat that he would likely have more talent as his disposal, would turn off even some of the Florida fans who are still on Will Muschamp's side, and would give those who have already turned on Muschamp, especially in the wake of Florida's dispiriting loss to Georgia Southern, no reason for hope in 2014.
A new coordinator, preferably one who gives the Florida fan base at least a couple soupçons of enthusiasm, would be a concession, in a sense — but Florida's 4-7 record leaves Muschamp and Jeremy Foley with no choices but concessions if Muschamp is to remain as head coach.