The 2010 season will go down as the biggest let down in the history of the Florida Gator football program, and the downfall can be traced back to the departure of former offensive coordinator Dan Mullen after the 2008 national championship season.
When the 2009 season began, the Florida Gators were ranked No. 1 and poised to run the tables and repeat as national champions. Tim Tebow returned for his senior season, but lost were Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy to the NFL. The defense remained for the most part in tact from 2008.
From the first snap, it was clear that the offense had changed dramatically. The passing game was lackluster, and Tebow was relied heavily for the running game even though Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, and Emmanuel Moody was available.
Then the Kentucky game scared the Gator Nation to its core when the infamous Tebow concussion occurred. Luckily for the team the Gators had a bye week before having to travel to LSU.
Then it happened—the dive play.
At first, Tebow's physical condition was used as an excuse for calling the dive play so many times that game. Unfortunately, it didn't end with the LSU game; the dive play became a staple in offensive coordinator Steve Addazio's play book.
Then the Gators hit cruise control all the way through the remainder of the regular season and into Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. That is when Urban Meyer's world came crashing back down to Earth.
Was Dan Mullen the key to Urban Meyer's success?
Let's not forget the holy tears that flowed on the Georgia Dome sidelines, too.
It's from this point in the team's history that needs scrutinizing.
The story of Coach Meyer's health issues have been covered ad nauseum so to repeat it is not necessary. However, the question that comes to mind is: Was Urban's health the only reason he decided to retire?
Sure, if you think you're having a heart attack or your health is in serious jeopardy, then that is reason to sit back and reevaluate your life and career. But, again, was health the only reason?
I beg to differ.
Here are some other reasons why Meyer may have decided to throw in the towel:
- Tim Tebow's looming departure. Arguably the greatest college football player ever, the relationship Meyer had with Tebow was close and dear to him.
- Cam Newton's transfer. When Tebow announced he was returning in 2009 for his senior season, Newton decided to transfer. Newton was one of several Gator players that had run ins with the law, and coupled with the fact he would have less playing time, he left the program leaving a huge hole in the quarterback cupboard.
- John Brantley. Let's face it—if Brantley was playing for Steve Spurrier, he could be a serious contender for the Heisman, and his career would have a completely different look. But in the spread offense, Brantley has proven to be quite lackluster. His performance is not his fault in 2010. Look at what Lou Holtz did to Ron Powlus at Notre Dame; it's the same thing all over again.
- Steve Addazio. Meyer saw what had become of the offense after Dan Mullen, and knew it would not get any better. The reason I bring this up is Meyer's loyalty to his team members and coaching staff. When he returned the next day after retiring, the reason he gave later was he was afraid of what would happen to all the people that would lose their jobs due to his retirement.
- Four million dollars is a lot of money, period. That is what Meyer makes annually as head coach of the Florida Gators.
After taking time off and handing the reigns over to Addazio, Meyer returned for spring practice and all looked good outside the Florida Gators football camp. As the 2010 season revealed, the exact opposite is true.
The Gators offense was never right in 2010. Yes, there were times the offense clicked, but overall it became the reason for the lackluster season.
After the FSU game, Coach Meyer stated that he was going to turn it around, and address the issues necessary to get back on track. From my humble point of view here is what he needs to do:
- Demote Addazio back to offensive line coach. Not only did Addazio due a poor job as offensive coordinator, but the offensive line struggled due to his time being shared calling the plays. Let Steve focus completely on the line and get that back on track.
- Bench John Brantley. Yes, this is very unfortunate, but the spread offense is not his style. Perhaps he could transfer somewhere his talent could be leveraged. If he ever runs the option again the coach that called the play should be fired on the spot.
- Hire a new offensive coordinator immediately. Rich Rodriguez may soon be unemployed and would make a great addition to the staff. He is a master of the spread offense, and what he did with it at West Virginia was legendary.
- If they cannot find the next Cam Newton through recruiting, then make Jordan Reed the full-time quarterback. Trey Burton did great behind center, but his arm is in question.
- Find a new defensive coordinator. Teryl Austin was a quick hire after George Edwards left shortly after accepting the job. Perhaps more due diligence is required to find a suitable replacement for Charlie Strong. The defense was good, but clearly there was a small drop-off in performance on that side of the ball, too.
It will be interesting to see how the Gators bounce back after the 2010 season. If Meyer continues on with the same coaching staff and the 2011 Florida Gators lose more than two games, then Meyer's job could be in jeopardy. Whether or not that is right or wrong, the Gator Nation will not put up with a coaching staff that is either blind or hard-headed. There is too much talent on the Gator football team to perform that poorly on the field.