It does not take Jeremy Foley long to operate. In December 2004, the Florida athletic director hired Urban Meyer, who was thought to be a lock for the Notre Dame coaching position after a furious courtship that left Irish fans scratching their heads wondering what had just taken place.
Six years later, he may have one upped himself. In less than a week, Foley has completed his search and hired Meyer's successor, former Texas defensive coordinator/head coach in waiting, Will Muschamp. Time will tell if this is a good hire from a coaching talent standpoint, but it already is as a showcase for "This is How You Get Your Guy."
Miami is currently in the middle of a head coach search that has been whittled down to Randy Edsall, a Canadian Football League coach and the kid from Two and a Half Men (two of those are true). This is only weeks after names like Muschamp, Jon Gruden and your coach (yeah, you reading this) were floated. Miami can spin this all they want once they hire a coach, but he won't be their "guy."
Once again, Foley got his "guy." Each day for the past week, the Internet blew up with a different coaching rumor for the Gators. Names like Gruden, Chris Petersen, Bob Stoops and Jim Harbaugh were thrown out by those with inside info. In the end, nobody had any inside info. Foley ran the calculations and played this close to the vest, keeping Muschamp out of the news until it was virtually confirmed (the rumors raised at about 8 p.m., and the announcement was made within the hour).
While this may not be the best hire in the eyes of Gator fans, this is the hire that the Gators in charge wanted. The "Foley method," responsible for Ron Zook (whom Foley acknowledges as a mistake hire), Meyer and now Muschamp, hits a few check marks every time.
Each coach has been under 50, with Muschamp the youngest so far at 39. Foley isn't looking for a stopgap coach. If a coach is looking to use Florida as a stepping stone or as a last hurrah before retirement (ironic considering Meyer's situation), Foley will look elsewhere. He's looking for a dynasty builder. In this way, every Florida coach hired under Foley has been hired under the same circumstances as Steve Spurrier was back in 1990.
Naturally, a coach can move on after Florida. Foley isn't expecting them to be in Gainesville forever. He does not want a single successful year to lead to a new coaching search though. Even if Meyer's tenure was short, Foley succeeded on this point.
Meyer, to the best of our knowledge, isn't looking anywhere but at his family right now. By rolling the dice on Muschamp, a young coordinator with no head coaching experience, Foley is expecting the same level of program stability. Again, say what you want about Meyer's departure, but nobody thought he was leaving the program at any point prior to his health problems surfacing back in 2009.
Second, all of Foley's hires have been intense guys. Muschamp turns this up to 11 with his BOOM MOTHER******* mentality. Foley doesn't look for the invisible coach. He wants another Spurrier. That doesn't necessarily mean an abrasive coach who will give the media and opposing teams tons of material. It does mean that Florida will have a coach with a strong team presence.
Meyer wasn't a good interview, but he was a locker room guy. One look at the players' Twitter accounts after Meyer's announcement confirms this. Muschamp is young and loud. He'll show up every day and yell from 5 a.m. til 10 p.m. His players will know him—and possibly fear him—which isn't true for a lot of the older coaches who would rather hit up the booster buffets and the golf courses.
Foley got another guy married to the job—the exact same style that led to the Gators' 2006-09 run under Meyer. Again, this may not be a good thing for either the long-term health of the coach or for the program's long-term stability, but it is good for getting out of the gates strong.
Third, Muschamp is a hell of a recruiter. Meyer was a recruiting master who had no previous ties to the state of Florida, then showed up and literally stockpiled talent for six straight years. Florida State and Miami fell by the wayside because of what Meyer could do on the recruiting trail. Zook was no slouch either. His QB, many of his WRs and his defense helped Meyer win a championship in 2006. Zook's failure was developing that talent to match its stars.
Muschamp takes his defensive stars and turns them into top-10 defenses. He's done it at both Auburn and Texas for the last five years. Even this year, when Texas' defense consistently faced a short field thanks to quarterback Garrett Gilbert's sub-John Brantley performance, Texas' defense ended the season ranked seventh nationally in total defense. Again, this is in a 5–7 year where Texas gave the ball away 30 times and couldn't buy a first down.
Finally, Foley grabbed both Meyer and Muschamp while they were on the top of the mountain. Meyer was the hottest coach in the country in 2004. He was the biggest hire available. Muschamp will likely take the same crown in 2010. Some Florida fans will gripe. Someone will start a FireMuschamp.com website. There will be "WHY NOT STOOPS/PETERSEN/GRUDEN/SPURRIER/BLAHBLAHBLAH???" threads on all of the major Florida Gators message boards.
The truth is, none of those names have made any indication that they are available for any job. Stoops is floated every year as a potential UF hire. He's never made any indication that he wants to leave Oklahoma, even going as far as building a mega-mansion out there. However, Florida fans always assume he wants to come back based on nothing more than "inside info" and Oklahoma's own self-loathing (seriously, Oklahomans, I think Stoops likes it out there more than you think—you can probably chill a little).
Petersen has been named on every long list for every head coaching opening for the last three years. He's turned everybody down. Again, as crazy as it sounds, the guy might like the situation he's got going for him out in Boise. You can complain that he's not here because Florida didn't give him an opportunity to come, but is there any indication that he wanted to coach the Gators? I haven't seen anything.
Gruden is not a college coach. Spurrier is old. That's really all I'm going to say about that.
After those four, who would have been a bigger hire? Muschamp is a gutsy hire, but he's a huge name. Hiring Mike Leach is equally brash. Hiring Dan Mullen keeps continuity, but he's not significantly more experienced.
Muschamp moves the Gators past the Meyer era and was the biggest fish in the pond. The only real complaint grounded in any rationality is that he doesn't fix the Gators' problem; he's not an offensive guru. Saban and Stoops prove that you don't need to win with an offensive-minded head coach. Muschamp can find an offensive coordinator—NOT NAMED STEVE ADDAZIO OR GREG DAVIS, PLEASE—and be fine.
Foley has been controversial with all of his hires. Zook was a Florida guy who felt like an also-ran that the Gators were stuck with following Spurrier's departure. Meyer's offense was never supposed to work against SEC speed. Muschamp is unproven, and he's not going to help fix John Brantley.
I'd like to remind you that Foley's moves have resulted in nothing worse than a 7–5 record in any year, two BCS championships and three BCS bowl wins in the last decade. This wasn't a second choice, or a 1B move. Muschamp was Foley's guy. Before you go into HATE HATE HATE KILL KILL mode, look past the controversy for a minute, and you might even see the same potential Foley saw when he made the move.