Craig Stephens

Florida Should Keep Muschamp

Created on Nov. 09, 2013 1:01 AM EST

The Gators' 4-4 record feels bad. Three losses in a row to Georgia is bad. A worse SEC record than Ron Zook in his third year is plain abysmal.

Nonetheless, the Florida Gators should keep Will Muschamp for one more year.

Even though the Orange and Blue faithful are turning on Coach Boom, the Florida administration shouldn’t bow to public pressure. As I’ve said earlier, one should primarily judge Muschamp’s coaching ability on the unit that he personally coaches, the defense. The defense has been an elite unit since he took over at Florida, ranking 21st in Muschamp’s first year, then fifth last season. It now sits at 10th after all of the injuries and frustrating losses.

The advanced stats favor Muschamp’s defense even more, with the unit ranking 8th in Football Outsiders' F+ defensive rankings. All in all, the defense is one of the best in the nation, even after losing its best player, and with little protection or production from the sputtering offense.

The blame for Florida’s losses has fallen primarily on the offense. Nearly the entire fan base is calling for offensive coordinator Brent Pease to be fired, thinking that will solve everything. While I’ve explained earlier in this space why Pease should be given the benefit of doubt, and Muschamp is responsible for hiring Pease, I don’t think the offensive shortcomings should be placed on Muschamp’s shoulders.

More than any other reason, Muschamp deserves another year at Florida because there isn’t a better candidate available this offseason. Florida historically toggles between hiring a top assistant at a big program (like Muschamp and Zook) and hiring a young head coach overachieving at a smaller school (like Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer).

Obviously, the Gators have had more success with the second approach, so I think they would take that rout if they decided to move on from Muschamp. The only problem is those creative coaches winning at small schools aren’t always around.

When scrolling down the BCS rankings, the first team of overachievers that jumps out is Baylor. Normally, it would be a Florida move to swoop in and hire the coach of a smaller school competing for championships, but Baylor is a unique case. Head coach Art Briles already is 57 years old. It has taken him longer than normal to reach national prominence because of all the years he coached high school football. He doesn’t fit the archetype of the young and hungry coach ready for the big time.

No matter the age, Briles is a fantastic coach and by most accounts, an offensive genius. His lightning strike offense would look even better with a bevy of Florida athletes running it, but it won’t happen. Mostly because Briles is 57, so he might be less willing to leave a successful program and take the time to rebuild and develop another one, even one with a higher profile. He may just want to stay in Waco and enjoy the fruits of his labor.

The other detracting factor keeping him from being Florida’s next head coach is his roots. Briles is Texas born and bred. He has spent his entire childhood, playing career and head coaching career in the state. Briles loves Texas and knows how to recruit there. He wouldn’t be nearly as comfortable in Florida. There is a lot of noise that the Texas Longhorns job will be open this offseason and the second call they will make will be to Briles (the first will go to Nick Saban). However, it is still viewed as a toss-up if Briles would even leave Baylor for Texas, and if he won’t leave Baylor for Texas, there is no way that Briles would leave Baylor for Florida.

So Briles is off the list. If you keep scrolling, you might think Missouri looks weird in the Top 10. They’re not a football school. Maybe Florida can hire the Tigers’ coach. But Gary Pinkel is going to be buried in Missouri. So that won’t work. The same thing could be said of Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. That is such a perfect marriage between coach and school that it would be a college football travesty to poach him. North Carolina State just tried this process and hired Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois; he has had a mixed first year, so it cooled the market for his protégé Rod Carey, who now is running the show at NIU.

The only small-school head coach in the BCS Top 25 that would be a viable option for Florida is Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter. The concern is his short resume. He has done a great job with the Bulldogs, shifting the power in the Mountain West and competing for a BCS bowl bid, but DeRuyter is still a relatively unknown commodity. Before becoming the head coach at Fresno State, his highest-profile job was defensive coordinator at Texas A&M.

If you want to compare resumes, Muschamp was the defensive coordinator for Texas, Auburn, LSU and the Miami Dolphins. Muschamp’s 2012 season alone is more impressive than DeRuyter’s accomplishments. This isn’t a knock on DeRuyter, but Muschamp already has shown that he can succeed at a big job and compete for a national championship. Plus, having the names Saban and Mack Brown under the list of references on the Muschamp resume really make it stand out.  

This season clearly has been disappointing, but Muschamp deserves another year. He is a good coach that has had some bad luck and is the middle of a down year. On top of that, there isn’t a better candidate out there right now.

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