That was a pretty neat and tidy coaching search, huh?
Fun (?) fact: I didn’t want to write up a hot board for what became the hiring of Billy Napier, because I think those are mostly useless unless the writer has some inside information to impart — like the tidbits about post-Todd Grantham firing defensive coordinator candidates having met with Florida that some reporters dropped into those hot boards a month ago when everything was different — to the masses. If anything, I was going to put together a hot board of hot boards — The Hot Board Matrix — and both point to how predictable this search was likely to be and to the lack of any candidates that could be construed as front-runners other than Napier himself.
One primary piece of criticism coming from this search is that Scott Stricklin’s laser focus excluded other candidates — practically, if nothing else. But this wasn’t a search with a lot of real choices: The tier of “established” coaches (James Franklin, Mel Tucker, Matt Campbell) is bereft of options seen as no-doubt choices, and was also commanding the sort of long deals that are probably a bad idea for Florida — or any program; Lane Kiffin is Lane Kiffin, and I genuinely think he’s a bad fit for Florida in a way that will never meaningfully change; there was no Steve Spurrier-style alumnus to pluck from a lower rung; there was no Urban Meyer-style candidate that every school wanted and could arguably nab.
Lincoln Riley’s departure for USC, something that seems to have been in the works for months but conducted in utter secrecy, might make it seem that Florida could have done the same sort of stealthy poaching of big game. But Mike Bohn, USC’s athletic director, has been considering post-Clay Helton plans practically since he arrived at Heritage Hall, and USC’s statuses as a Pac-12 program in the biggest city in California seem to have helped sway Riley; going from Norman to Gainesville and the northwestern edge of the 16-team SEC to the southeastern frontier are not swaps of the same sort.
And Riley leaving a consistent College Football Playoff contender with the intent to build things at another top-10 program is just about unprecedented.
Scott Stricklin was part of hiring Dan Mullen twice. Unprecedented? Not really his thing.
So I think Florida getting Billy Napier was just about the best it was going to do without the sort of wild swing Stricklin was never going to take — and while I don’t think this is a hiring that absolutely guarantees success, I also don’t think it’s one that absolutely guarantees failure or one that we as fans should be ashamed by, both of which are always possibilities.
Now, if the guy who made the hire could prove that he’s earned the privilege to continue to make hires at Florida by virtue of actually reckoning with that little problem of alleged widespread abuse within one of his programs...