Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When Will Muschamp took the podium at his Gator Bowl press conference Thursday evening reportedly looking less than "thrilled." Muschamp rarely looks happy in front of the press, of course, but in this case he had particular reason to be on edge: his offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis, had left Florida for the Kansas head coaching position without reportedly even offering Muschamp the courtesy of telling him he was interviewing.
Muschamp did say he was "very happy" for Weis and "and clarified that running backs coach Brian White -- a holdover from the Urban Meyer staff -- will serve as the team's coordinator in the bowl game. The short term fit of Meyer's players with Weis's schemes has been awkward all season, and the short term situation between now and taking on Meyer's own future Ohio State Buckeyes is even more awkward.
Long term, though, we wonder if Weis didn't just do Muschamp a favor. Muschamp has stated repeatedly that what he wants out of an offense is the kind of offense his old bosses Nick Saban and Tommy Tuberville used when Muschamp was their coordinators; a pro-style, run-first, pound-it-out offense that milks clock, controls the game, and makes putting together a championship-quality defense that much easier. He reiterated in Thursday's press conference that he will be hiring another pro-style coordinator, someone "very similar schmatically."
But in retrospect, Weis certainly wasn't going to produce the smashmouth offense Muschamp wanted with Meyer's leftovers -- the Gators ranked 75th nationally in rushing with Muschamp openly coveting larger tailbacks by seaon's end -- and it seems likely Weis wasn't going to produce that offense in Gainesville, ever. He hasn't produced it anywhere, with the exception of a few games with the Kansas City Chiefs; his Notre Dame teams were centered on the arm of Brady Quinn first and then Jimmy Clausen second, with the running game an afterthought. The proof is in the statistical pudding: his five Irish teams finished 55th, 72nd, 115th, 105th, and 84th in FBS rushing.
Finding a new offensive coordinator is no doubt going to be a headache for Muschamp; along with White, the only candidate mentioned in the press conference was famous 1980s Gator quarterback and current Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell. (Another possibility: former colleague and current Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher.) Whoever Muschamp picks will have to do quick work to win over recruits before Signing Day, get his system into place in spring practice, and have things ready to roll with the Gators' new starting QB next fall. Upheaval is never easy.
But given how little Weis's offense both this year and in past years resembled what Muschamp had requested of him, it's for the best for Muschamp and the Gators that the upheaval is taking place now, before Weis's failures in the ground game gobbled up any more seasons and particularly seasons with more promise than this transitional one ever had. Muschamp may not be thrilled at the moment. But if he makes the right hire this time around, he may be thrilled when he looks back on it some day.