For years now I have been clinging to the same philosophy when it comes to coach searches at Florida.
You don’t get a guy who has no SEC experience to step into a pressure cooker like the Gators job. He needs to know the region and its recruiting rhythms. Needs to have been a big winner as a head coach already. Needs to have a ton of confidence and the ability to snatch up and develop a championship quarterback or two or three.
So when the Gators hired Urban Meyer, I had major doubts about going with a flavor-of-the-month from the old Mountain West. (Wrong about that)
And when the Gators hired Will Muschamp, I felt pretty good about it based on SEC roots and recruiting power and was willing to overlook the lack of head coaching experience. (Wrong about that, too)
And when the Gators hired Jim McElwain, I was somewhat ambivalent but satisfied that at least with a reputation for building a quarterback at Colorado State he probably could do it again. (Wrong, wrong, always wrong)
So what’s the proper combo for 2017? The only right answer now is whatever makes fans and boosters happy in the moment because they’re just about ready to shred their season tickets right now.
The Gator program has jettisoned too much of its cachet with this constant coaching churn. Whoever gets the job now will be lucky to keep it for three years. McElwain couldn’t, and he won the SEC East title in each of his first two seasons there.
I’d probably be wrong, under the circumstances, to eliminate Scott Frost as a candidate because he is winning big in the American Athletic Conference and hasn’t even been doing that for long. (Florida wouldn’t want anything to do with playing Central Florida right now or anytime soon).
Probably wrong about crossing off Dan Mullen, too, just because he got rolled by Georgia and Auburn this year and is about to get rolled by Alabama, too.
Probably wrong about doubting Willie Taggart for being 5-5 in his first year at Oregon, or Mike Norvell for being at little ol’ Memphis, or Matt Campbell for pulling off a few flashy upsets in the Big 12 but being 9-12 at Iowa State overall.
The only thing that might feel just right, at least at this very moment, is Justin Fuente, but Miami just slowed his progress at Virginia Tech with a thorough whipping of the Hokies on Saturday night.
The whole thing will have to be wrapped up, one way or the other, by Dec. 10 or so. Got to get the next recruiting class coming in. Got to find a guy who is willing to do more than just play Florida for a bigger contract at his current job. Got to prove to Gator boosters that the program didn’t peter out the day Tim Tebow left.
Whatever happens, the reaction column I write can’t possibly be as strong and as certain as they used to be. Nothing about Florida is certain anymore, including the idea that any ambitious young coach would die to be there and to stay there for years and years to come.
That may be true again one day, but for now, with even UAB a major threat to stick it to the Gators in a few weeks before a half-empty stadium, what’s happening at Florida may actually be enough to scare some pretty good candidates off.