Is Graham Mertz the best option for Florida football in 2024?

Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) looks to throw during the first half against the
Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) looks to throw during the first half against the / Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun / USA

Returning to Florida football in 2024 is veteran quarterback Graham Mertz. This was a welcomed move by most in the program because he was far from the reason the Gators went 5-7 and he actually had a career year as a Wisconsin transfer.

His return doesn't exactly guarantee success, however. Just because you have a veteran quarterback doesn't mean you're going to win games -- we saw that in 2023.

Mertz finished the 2023 season with 2,903 yards and 20 touchdowns with just three interceptions and a 73 percent completion rate. His numbers actually aren't all that different than projected first-round selection JJ McCarthy who won a national title with Michigan -- he had 2,991 yards, 22 touchdowns, and four picks with a 72 percent completion rate in four more games.

Would Mertz be at that level if he were surrounded by more talent like Michigan had in 2023? Potentially, but there's no way of telling one way or another. He has arm talent and everyone who followed him as a recruit would agree, but it may just be time for the program to move on to a five-star freshman like DJ Lagway.

Is Mertz the best option for the Gators in 2024?

I'm going to take a controversial stance (potentially?) and say yes -- at least early on. Mertz did have really good numbers and made minimal mistakes last season. He was not the reason the Gators struggled but he's going to help the program transition into the Lagway era seamlessly. He could start the season and be the veteran presence the team needs while Lagway learns but if the season is lost or it calls for a fresh look, then the freshman can take over.

Don't sleep on Mertz just yet. He gets a ton of unwarranted criticism but he's one of the best returning starters in the SEC and all of college football.

Having Lagway as a backup is just icing on the cake.