Less than 24 hours after getting dumptrucked by the rival Florida State Seminoles, the Florida Gators announced the firing of offensive coordinator Brent Pease and head coach Tim Davis. Blame for an offense that had become so anemic it required blood transfusions had been placed.
However, beyond its literal interpretation, the move also symbolized support of current head coach Will Muschamp, albeit with a simple caveat: You better shape up or ship out.
A year ago, Muschamp led the Gators to the BCS after an 11-1 season. However, in the Sugar Bowl against the Louisville Cardinals and former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, the wheels began to fall off.
Florida was demolished by a Big East team that was genuinely overmatched in terms of talent. However, despite the blowout loss in the Sugar Bowl, Florida returned what many had deemed the most talented secondary in the country and the Gators were expected to compete for an SEC East championship again in 2013.
They were a consensus Top 10 team but they struggled in a season-opening win over the Toledo Rockets. The following week they traveled to Coral Gables and laid an egg against a Miami Hurricanes team that would climb into the Top 10 before being exposed as fraudulent by Florida State later in the year.
However, Florida found their stride again, handling three inferior SEC opponents (Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas) to open conference play. And even though Will Muschamp and the Gators hadn’t beat anybody of consequence, it seemed as if the temperament in Gainesville was serene.
Yet, a schedule that featured seven eventual bowl participants and Georgia Southern loomed.
Florida stumbled in LSU and then was blown out by the surging Missouri Tigers. They lost a tight one to the Georgia Bulldogs in Jacksonville before falling flat on their face against Vanderbilt.
By the time they lost to South Carolina in the other Columbia, Will Muschamp was fielding questions about his job security, although, in fairness, it wasn’t until the next week that there would be any significant questions about his job status.
Despite being at 4-6, the Florida Gators had a tune up game and then a chance to spoil their arch rivals’ season for a shot at bowl eligibility. When they hosted FCS Georgia Southern, it was supposed to be an opportunity to spark a little life in an otherwise lifeless Florida offense. What actually happened was something else entirely.
In one of the more embarrassing displays in recent SEC history, Will Muschamp’s Gators could only muster up 279 yards of total offense, while giving up 429 rushing yards and losing to a subdivision opponent that didn’t complete a single pass. Not one.
They say a rising tide lifts all ships, but the adverse is also inherently true. So when the Georgia Southern loss vociferously shifted the tides, it left the entire Florida coaching staff shipwrecked on some previously unforeseen plateau.
The next week matters were only made worse with a 37-7 loss to the Seminoles at home.
However, throughout the process, Jeremy Foley, Florida’s athletic director, remained vehement in his support of Will Muschamp, and, to his credit, Muschamp handled questions regarding his job with poise. On Sunday, those suppositions were affirmed by the firing of Pease and Davis.
Florida’s 113th-ranked scoring offense was being tied around the neck of the offensive staff and Will Muschamp was essentially guaranteed another year at the helm in Gainesville. But was it the right choice?
There’s no question that Will Muschamp is still the head coach at Florida based entirely off the goodwill he’d been hoarding from 2012, and the fact that he was able to make a BCS game a year removed from the mess he inherited from Urban Meyer. However, 2013 was such a colossal failure that Muschamp has lost all fan support.
And when fan support goes in the SEC, it’s all but impossible to earn it back. See Gene Chizik, who–speaking of goodwill–won a national title in his second year and then was gone two seasons later.
Brent Pease and Tim Davis have conveniently become the scapegoat for Will Muschamp, but at what point during a stretch of three offensive coordinators in four years in an administration that’s generally offense-averse do we point the finger in Muschamp’s direction?
Muschamp’s focus might be on the defense, and that side of the ball might not be the problem for the Florida Gators, but as a head coach you’re responsible for the collective, and the collective was utterly horrendous in 2013.
But, alas, Will Muschamp is still the head coach of the Florida Gators…