To say that this season has been a disappointment for the Florida Gators is an understatement. The Gators began the season ranked No. 4 in the country, but after disappointing showings against Miami (OH) and South Florida, the Gators slowly began to slip in the polls.
After humbling losses to Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State, the Gators fell to a level of mediocrity that has not been seen in Gainesville since the Zook years.
The troubles can be related back to their offensive woes, from the disappointing offensive line, to lack of adequate quarterback play. John Brantley has been a disappointment to say the least, but as the season has progressed, one has to wonder if he was really put in a position to succeed. After all, he is no option quarterback, and the lack of creativity in the play calling, has not contributed to his abilities.
A lot of fans have called for Steve Addazio”s departure, however, it may be more complicated than that. Meyer and Dan Mullen put together this offense during their late nights and ambitious days at Notre Dame. Along the way, they enlisted the help of Billy Gonzalez, and together they moved on to greener pastures, until they finally landed in Gainesville.
Mullen has moved on to Mississippi State and with the recent split of Gonzalez to LSU, Meyer has been left to entrust Steve Addazio with the play calling. The truth is, the Meyer spread might have just moved on with these two coaches.
Short of Meyer calling the plays himself, the offense is merely a shell of what was dreamed up a long time ago when Meyer was writing his “plan to win” handbook. Sure there are other coaches that can successfully run the spread, but it’s not Meyer’s spread any longer.
Addazio’s dive offense is a long way away from how Meyer and Mullen once dreamed it up. So even with the firing or demotion of Addazio, the spread that existed the past four years—in reality—is gone.
The ability to coach the offensive line and be the offensive coordinator has obviously proven to be too much for Addazio, and I think everyone can agree that the worst that will happen is that he’ll be demoted back to the offensive line coach, but where to then?
Meyer could entrust the play calling abilities to wide receiver coach Zach Azzani, but what offense would Azzani run? Although he’s had experience at Central Michigan as an offensive contributor, he’s never been a play caller, and do you want to give him his first shot as the head play caller for the University of Florida? Maybe so, great coaches start somewhere. Mullen was only a quarterback coach at Utah before he became the offensive coordinator for the Gators.
The real question is this the way that Meyer wants to continue. Looking back, one could suggest a natural progression of Meyer’s spread would have been to promote Gonzalez instead of Addazio, who was calling the plays in the red zone when Mullen was the offensive coordinator. However, no one is going to suggest that Billy Gonzalez is the fix here. His departure from Florida to rival LSU suggests there was more to the move than simply progressing in his career. It does bring us back to where we started, who could be the potential play caller for the Gators.
A lot of Gator fans and some in the media have suggested Jacksonville University’s head coach Kerwin Bell. One would have to believe the success Bell has achieved at JU, he would have no trouble succeeding with the talent rich Gators and their arsenal of play makers.
Bell has also been very successful as a player’s coach, and his love for the university would be an easy hire, but the move would suggest Meyer would have to transition away from the spread, which is not likely. The reality is the two different offensive philosophies might stand as too big of an obstacle for the two men to ever work on the same staff.
Meyer is a spread coach, its what he knows. If it means the transfer or benching of Johnny Brantley, it’s very unfortunate. When you put a coach against a wall, they’re going to revert back to what they know and do best. What they did when they were the most successful.
For Meyer, that’s being creative and out in front on offense. Whether you like or dislike the spread, the truth is, the two top teams in the BCS that are scheduled to face off in the National Championship game, are none other than two spread teams. Meyer recognizes this. He sees the advantages a spread offense puts on opposing defenses.
The real answer will be to find a few new coaches with spread backgrounds and creativity.
Scott Loeffler has proved to provide nothing in the offense. His lack of development in any of the quarterbacks makes his stay in Gainesville very questionable. How Trey Burton has not learned to throw a football through the course of an entire season, when he was recruited as a quarterback is a bit mind boggling, but we’re getting off the subject.
If the Gators could find a new signal caller that could double as a QB coach, a lot of their issues would be taken care of. A spread offense needs a spread QB coach, not a pro-style QB coach. This has been apparent over the course of the season.
No one likes to see coaches fired, but at the end of the day, to be successful, a program needs to have the correct coaches in place; coaches who put the players in successful positions. As obvious as this is, it just was not the case this season in Gainesville.
Regardless of which direction Meyer chooses to go, a change is inevitable. The good thing is the Gators have the right man for the job. No matter how upset everyone seems to be with the coaching staff, no one is better prepared to build this program back up than Meyer, who has already done it once. Whether it is changes on the offensive staff or defensive staff, the current status of the program will not suffice. No one recognizes this more than the man in charge.