Back Nine: Murphy’s UF stay likely longer than it should have been

Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy (3) and teammate Cody Riggs (31) leave the field after the Gators' 19-14 loss at South Carolina on Nov. 16.

Doug Finger / Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, December 16, 2013 at 11:23 p.m.

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend of withdrawal that included sleeplessness, headaches, hives and nausea. College football, come back. I know there was Army-Navy, but once you cut through the ceremony and adoration of our fighting men and women, that was one bad football team with no chance.

10. I made it a policy more than a decade ago never to question a player’s decision in any sport to go pro early, to transfer to another school or to quit a football team. For every athlete, it’s his or her life and we’re just observers. Losing Ian Silberman hurts Florida from a depth perspective, but the only major loss is Tyler Murphy. Murphy gave Florida an experienced backup quarterback, but he wasn’t going to beat out Jeff Driskel and he knew it. You can argue Murphy felt the deck was stacked against him. I just know from my observations Driskel is better than Murphy and that the offense had to be simplified when Driskel went down. And I think the reason Murphy left wasn’t that he couldn’t beat out Driskel, but that he couldn’t beat out incoming freshman Will Grier. The amazing thing was Murphy stayed as long as he did at Florida, especially because sources told me he felt slighted two years ago when he was dropped to fourth team behind Driskel and Jacoby Brissett. In the end, Gator fans should thank Murphy for being the quarterback who saved the day against Tennessee and kept Florida from ending its winning streak against Kentucky. Other than that, wish him well.

11. As I said earlier, I’m taking a stand on this Heisman Trophy thing and not revealing my vote after the award because the Heisman people have forbid me from revealing it ahead of time under the penalty of waterboarding. Hey, suits, I turned down several requests to reveal my ballot last week, just so you know. To me, the most interesting thing about the final voting wasn’t that there were 115 people who left Jameis Winston off their ballots. It’s that 33 people voted him third. If you felt a moral obligation to leave Winston off your ballot, OK, that’s your choice. I get it. But if you voted him third because you thought there were two players better than him this season, I have to wonder if you watched any college football. My gut is that a lot of those third-place votes came from the Northeast, where Winston had his lowest vote total, by voters who were trying to boost the chances of Boston College’s Andre Williams. That’s why we have more than 900 voters, to keep regional bias from being a factor. Except that it still is a factor when Ka’deem Carey isn’t among the six finalists. Arizona played a majority of its games when East Coast voters were either in their jammies or had quit watching the games because they were in the middle of a karaoke contest.

12. I didn’t have a lot of contact with Mack Brown during his tenure at Texas, but one memory stands out. It was an April day and I was assigned to do a story on something silly like the abolition of spring football and I called a bunch of sports information guys to see if I could get their coaches on the phone. And the one guy who called back was Brown. He gave me all the time I needed and became the lead to the piece. There are a lot of current coaches who could take public relations lessons from Brown. But I also understand why he had to step away. Since that 2009 title game against Alabama, Texas is 18-17 in the league. Now it gets interesting. Who does Texas hire? And what kind of crazy domino trail does it set off? The USC firing of Lane Kiffin really didn’t set one off that reverberated around the country. This one might. Imagine if it’s Jimbo Fisher, which makes some sense. Has Gus Malzahn built up enough on his resume? Is Art Briles too Texas? Does Kevin Sumlin’s contract really mean anything? This story has suddenly turned Florida’s search for an offensive coordinator into a sidebar.

13. I watched a lot of college basketball over the weekend and I will tell you that the SEC is better this season, even if that’s not saying much. The problem for the SEC is that it can’t seem to get the marquee wins that stand out when the selection committee meets in March. To date, Florida and Missouri are the only teams in the top 40 of the RPI (I know it’s early because Louisville is ranked 71st) and Florida, with its win over Kansas, and LSU, with its overtime win over Butler, are the only SEC teams with wins over top 40 RPI teams. Some conference teams still don’t get it when it comes to scheduling tough in the non-conference to impress the committee in March. According to, which calculates the strength of schedule of every Div.-I school, Mississippi State’s is No. 321. Thanks for coming.

14. So if a few weeks ago I brought up Matt Flynn’s career and the Miami Dolphins as a Jeopardy answer, you would have said, “What are two things that are dead?” Flynn had been cut twice before returning to Green Bay and didn’t look good when he returned. The Dolphins were caught up in the whole Richie Incognito mess and when they lost to the Bucs it was five losses in six games and they were voted the team most likely to fold its tent. Since then they have won four of five games and have a really good shot at the playoffs and Flynn threw four touchdown passes in the second half at Dallas to keep the Packers’ hopes alive. The NFL is fickle, which may explain why the Saints were so bad at St. Louis and how the Texans, Falcons and Giants could be 34-14 in 2012 and 11-31 this year. Or not.

15. OK, so we survived the first weekend without a bunch of college football, but help is on the way. Believe it or not, there are four bowl games Saturday, including one between ranked teams when Fresno State plays Southern Cal. Gator fans will be watching the USC offense and critiquing every play called by offensive coordinator Clay Helton because he is considered a candidate for the Florida job via media speculation. Does he make some sense? Sure. But if every coach who has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Brent Pease was hired by Florida the assistant coaches payroll would be in the billions. It’s coming. Any chance the Gator Nation could be patient? I didn’t think so.

16. It was certainly sad to hear of the passing last week of Charles “Rabbitt” Smith. For those of us old enough to remember, he was a running backs coach and head recruiter for Ray Graves at Florida from 1964-69. He went on to become a high school coach at Eastside where he won three state championships. He was 89.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from my man Adam Richman, the host of a hundred TV food shows including “MAN VS. FOOD” — “It always amuses me how having a free blog account makes the dumb & deluded think their ignorant rambling is investigative journalism.” Welcome to my world Adam. Now go eat a seven-pound burrito.

18. I thought Kings of Leon did a solid job on Saturday Night Live, but were there really four guys playing electric guitars in the band? Anyway, try these downloads — “Clark Gable” by The Postal Service, “You Should Be Happy” by Snow Patrol and because I was asked to get really retro by a devoted reader “Summer Breeze” by Frank Sinatra.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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