Greetings fellow Floridian football fans!
Full disclosure: My allegiances are to another fan base in this state, but I am not here to troll.
I have no idea what is happening to this site, but I am sad to see it in disarray. I’ve interacted with Andy over the years in postings and comments and always found him to be a gentleman. I hope all is good with him.
Before I get to the meat of this post, I want to note that the SBNation sites as a whole seems to have taken a hit. The SB site I most frequent has seen numerous changes itself as contributors have been poached to CBS and 247. Further complicating things, I’m a long-time user of this forum, is that the changes in comment sections, etc., have to me, devalued the sites instead of increasing the value of them. In some instances, moderators in my view anyway, have overstepped their boundaries and suppressed free speech.
Further, current social trends are in the process of rendering the written word archaic. I find myself in the minority of people who appreciate long form articles. Podcasts are easier to produce and require less finesse and precision to execute in some ways. I do listen to those too, but my preference is the long form.
What always held my interest about the SB Nation sites was the comments. Sure, there was competitive banter from time to time, there were jerks who would invade and relish in the misery of others, but there was also a camaraderie between contributors and over time, I almost felt like I knew a little about some of the monikered faceless contributors and respected them.
Here’s hoping that someone steps forward and resurrects this site and that some of us dinosaurs can still find a habitat to enjoy.
On to the question: Is Napier the right coach? AND, is he the right coach at Florida?
My belief is that Napier isn’t on a hotseat at the moment. I believe that unless Florida drops this week’s Vanderbilt game that he is safe into next season.
There are multiple facets to a good coach. It’s a chicken and egg thing isn’t it? Does a coach COACH first, or recruit first? And some coaches are definitely better at one than the other. Some coaches are more CEO types, hiring support staff and keeping a distance from things, while others are more hands on.
The roster Napier inherited was different than the one Urban was handed. Personally, I’m no Urban fan, but I don’t deny that he was a very good head coach, and his record more than backs that up. I suppose Spurrier would be the golden standard for Florida coaches, he brims with personality, is an alumni, loyal to the cause, and was an outstanding offensive innovator who surrounded himself with great supporting personnel (See Stoops, Bob). He was a good recruiter as well, back in the days when kids from Florida wanted to stay in the state to play.
Spurrier was a home run hire. Spurrier had taken lowly Duke to new heights. He was on the cutting edge of offensive trends. He was proven. Likewise, Urban Meyer was a steal when Florida lured him from Utah. Every now and then, the stars align where a program can land a proven head coach and hit the ground running, turning a program 180 degrees in the short span of a couple seasons.
The Kelly hire at LSU was a situation like that. The roster was still good, top tier program. USC luring Lincoln Riley was another of those situations. Those don’t come around very often.
Kirby was a dice roll at Georgia, but he has become their Spurrier. He learned well from the master.
Napier was an up and comer hire. Sometimes those pan out, sometimes they don’t. Josh Heuppel, Mike Norvell, Dabo Swinney, none of those were proven head coaches when their names were called. Napier was a hot ticket when he came to Florida, with an impeccable record at a lesser school.
Perhaps THE biggest challenge a new coach faces is culture. They inherit players that did not choose to play for that coach. They inherit locker rooms that may be accustomed to underachieving, or practice habits that are different. Players have to learn a new playbook, and all the work they put in to developing a relationship with the former coach is out the door.
It’s like starting a new job, you must once again prove yourself. The sick days start over, and past records are out the window. New ways of doing things, new definitions of success, it’s a lot to deal with. Some players simply lose heart. Others are established, and newcomers may be subjected to tales of the "good ole days" or complaints about changes. Changing culture is a tough assignment.
Additionally, doesn’t it seem like the best players want to go to an established winning program? Alabama didn’t have the number one recruiting class in Saban’s first year, although Saban was already established when he arrived there. If a top player lists his top 8 today, most likely Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama are on it.
I don’t blame the players, playing for Nick Saban is a story that people will want to hear about for a long time. And getting bling isn’t all bad either.
But that makes climbing the ladder more difficult for programs trying to either become established or reestablish themselves. Current recruits don’t remember Florida winning a national Championship. Tim Tebow to them is a media personality, not a transcendent QB.
Championships aren’t won with B players. And A players are reluctant to sign with teams that aren’t championship caliber.
Napier has not had sufficient time to fully install his culture. What Napier HAS done, is assemble the best recruiting class (if he can hold it together) that Florida has seen in quite some time. But for those guys to get to a point where they can fully prove whether or not Napier is the right guy, will take a few years.
I remember Jeremy Foley the AD at Florida, saying, "If a coach needs to be fired, NOW is the best time to do it" or something along those lines. It was true at the time, very profound, but I believe now that times have changed. Firing coaches costs money, disrupts continuity, impacts recruiting, and home run replacements are hard to find. And even when a coach seems to be good, sometimes they can follow it up with not as good, see Beamer at S. Carolina.
The landscape has changed in another very significant way, two ways actually, name image and likeness, and the transfer portal. Like him or not, Colorado made the best coaching hire of any program last year. People are watching games, money is being generated for the University, game day is showing up and recruits that have no business even considering Colorado are doing so. Deion flipped an entire culture in one off season utilizing the portal. It’s the most complete culture change in that short of time that I’ve ever witnessed in my way too many years to disclose here as a football fanatic.
And don’t look now, but Miami is doing something similar, although a little more under the radar, which is odd isn’t it? Coming from Miami I mean. Under the radar. Not as drastic as Colorado, but similar and on an accelerated timeline to most programs.
FSU is somewhere in the middle, it wasn’t an instant flip, it took time. Like Napier, Norvell came from a smaller school and was unproven at the major level. His roster is composed largely of transfers, but acquired over a few years time and supplemented with recruits. He’s in year four and it took him three seasons to get the program back on track.
We all use the proverbial eye test. Does the team look better? Can I see incremental improvement? Is it simply that the competition is too tough or is the team really what it looks like?
There may need to be steps backward before forward steps can be taken. It’s tricky trying to figure out if a coach is the right guy.
I’m of the belief that good coaching has to precede good recruiting. A coach does the best he can with B players, sees some success, then the A players can see the potential and sign on. The culture a coach instills is also part of the formula, and that culture has to be on display. When a player signs on to play for Alabama, they know that they will be indoctrinated into Saban’s process. That might be something different than a player who would be attracted to Colorado’s culture would be. Fit.
Coaching at Louisianna Lafayette is a decidedly different job than coaching at a big program like Florida. It takes adjustment. Coaching itself and football concepts may be the same, but administrations, large crowds, viable recruits (and their attitudes), dealing with influential alumni, administrators, the associated egos, budgets and the like are very different. A coach has to learn on the job.
For the portal guys, the potential difference makers, they want immediate playing time and a program that will get them ready for the NFL. Competing for titles is a bonus.
So given all that, and I’m sorry for rambling, what is the sentiment surrounding Napier? Is he the right guy? Should a change be made? Is the jury still out? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the long term (next three seasons).
How do you feel about the Texas and Oklahoma additions? Winning the SEC has never been easy, but it just got tougher.
And with all of that, I’ll shutup and listen! Thank you for your patience and good luck the rest of the way.