Despite the hiring of a new coach who has promised to make Florida football fun again, Gator fans are still wandering in the desert looking for offense. They are parched, tired and hopeful that what they see in the distance isn’t a mirage.
Of course, there are no guarantees.
But there are a lot of “what ifs?”
What if Will Grier had never taken the banned drugs that bounced him off the team? What if Jim McElwain hadn’t been so calloused in his approach to Grier the following year and convinced him to leave?
What if Lamar Jackson had ended up at Florida, which was a really good possibility before Will Muschamp was let go? What if Deshaun Watson hadn’t been dismissed as a non-factor when he was interested in UF?
What if the nine guys who were suspended last year for the entire season had more common sense and morality? OK, that may be a big “what if?”
What if Charlie Weis had never been hired and set the offense back a full year and Muschamp instead hired an offensive coordinator that could relate to the players?
What if there were no games lost to hurricanes and the last two teams were on a normal schedule?
What if Florida ran some trick plays over the last three years to ignite the offense?
What if the defense set the offense up with more short fields?
What if I quit reminding you about how bad the offense has been around here for the last eight years?
The Gator Nation knows the landscape of this desert. The late great Sam Kinison once said, “You live in a desert. Nothing grows here. Nothing’s gonna grow here.”
But he was wrong.
You know something can grow here because you’ve all seen it. You’ve seen lush foliage and trees with so much fruit on them you couldn’t eat it all.
You have experienced the joy of touchdowns and the thrill of blowouts. The trouble is that you have to Google highlights to remember what it was like.
Because over the past eight dreadful offensive seasons, Florida — the school with three statues in front of the stadium as tributes to offense, the school of Sexy Rexy and Shaner and Mercy Percy and Ike and Reidel — has averaged 25.0 points per game.
That’s three touchdowns and a field goal. That’s in the bottom 20 percentile nationally.
And as we all know, the team that scores the most points wins.
We remember when scoring wasn’t optional. We remember when getting to 250 first downs in a season wasn’t a dream. We remember when converting better than 40 percent of your third downs was mandatory.
The good old days. Are they on the way back? Nobody knows for sure. I’ve always said you have to have two things — great players and smart coaches — to have a great offense. One without the other simply does not work.
Here in the desert, everyone is aware of that.
Now that I have you thoroughly depressed and you can’t even find out whether offense has found its way back to Gainesville for a couple more months, let me leave you with these six Florida teams, the six best offensive teams statistically at UF, all within the last 25 years.
All of them had one thing in common – they averaged scoring in the 40s.
1. The 1996 team.
PPG: 46.6; Total offense per game: 503.9; 3rd down%: 40.7; rush-pass: 170.0-333.9.
2. The 2008 team.
PPG: 43.6; Total offense per game: 445.1; 3rd down%: 51.6; rush-pass: 231.1-213.9.
3. The 2001 team.
PPG: 43.8; Total offense per game: 527.5; 3rd down%: 45.4; rush-pass: 122.4-405.2.
4. The 1995 team.
PPG: 44.5; Total offense per game: 534.4; 3rd down%: 49.7; rush-pass: 173.6-360.8.
5. The 2007 team.
PPG: 42.5; Total offense per game: 457.2; 3rd down%: 44.3; rush-pass: 200.2-257.0.
6. The 1994 team.
PPG: 43.4; Total offense per game: 462.8; 3rd down%: 51.9; rush-pass: 151.1-311.7.
These six teams, the only ones to average more than 40 points a game, combined for a record of 66-11-1. Two won national titles and a third played for one.
The last eight years — 60-41.
I know, I’m not telling you anything new. I just thought I’d illustrate the obvious, that Florida’s offense was once caviar and lately has smelled like fish left out in the sun for weeks.
You should know. You’re the ones stuck in the desert.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.