Dooley: Next four games an opportunity

This file photo shows Florida Gators quarterback Malik Zaire during warmups before the Tennessee game, in Gainesville, Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Cyndi Chambers/ Gainesville Sun/Correspondent]

Florida will make its every-other-year trip to lovely Columbia, Mo., Saturday for an off-Broadway production of Les Miserables.

I mean, way off-Broadway.

You know you are not the featured game of the day when toe meets leather at 11 a.m. local time. Florida-Missouri is the comedian they put on before the warm-up act.

And there aren’t a lot of fan bases who fit the “miserable” category more than these two.

On the one hand, you have Florida, a once promising season shot down by a combination of suspensions, injuries and all of the imagination of a beige leisure suit.

On the other hand, there is Les Missouri, an example of the myth that fans don’t mind losing as long as it’s entertaining.

Mizzou has scored 284 points this season, the fourth most in the SEC. Of course, 192 of those points came in the Tigers’ three wins against Missouri State, Idaho and UConn and Missouri is still looking for a conference win.

Anybody having fun at Faurot Field?

The irony is that Florida’s coach has/had three conference wins this season and two SEC East titles and was fired. Missouri’s coach Barry Odom has two SEC wins in two seasons and the feeling in Columbia is that he has a chance to save his job for a third year if the Tigers finish with a pulse.

Is this a great country or what?

Perhaps they should move this game a couple of hundred miles south to Branson, Mo., which bills itself as the Live Entertainment Capital of the World. They’ll put on a show in Branson at the drop of a hat and there will be a lot of auditions going on Saturday.

Despite interim coach Randy Shannon’s declaration that his new job isn’t an audition, it is.

Not for the Florida job. Even a strong finish for the Gators — like gaining bowl eligibility — is unlikely to get him a permanent succession to Jim McElwain. Nothing against Shannon, but I just don’t see Scott Stricklin hiring a defensive coach from the current staff when the pool of available coaches is so deep.

Stranger things have happened, I guess. But it’s still an audition for Shannon.

There are going to be other jobs available when the coaching carousel starts spinning so fast we’ll have a difficult time keeping up with it. For every major job that is filled, another smaller one will open up.

This is a chance for Shannon to show he can hold a fractured team together and put him in position for his next job.

Think the other coaches on the staff aren’t auditioning?

Hey, Doug Nussmeier, this is a great opportunity for you to show that Florida’s pathetic offense the last three years hasn’t been all your fault. Feeling up to the challenge of a live audition?

The other coaches are auditioning for their next jobs as well, whether they are hoping to be retained by the next Gator head coach and not have to change addresses or are lining up for other potential jobs.

The players may not think this way, but they are definitely auditioning.

Those who have their sights set on the NFL have at least four more games to put on tape and playing hard and being productive in trying circumstances will catch the eyes of professional scouts and general managers.

The players who will be back have a chance to show the next Florida head coach just what they are capable of and how much playing football means to them even when a season has turned into a dumpster fire.

If Malik Zaire wants to be in the mix at quarterback next season, here’s your chance. There’s no telling what kind of offense Florida will be running next year, but a quarterback who produces is a good way to start.

More than anything, this game is the start of a new season. It’s an opportunity all around, even for an understudy thrust into the starring role like Shannon has been.

Playing out the string in November isn’t going to help anybody in the months that follow.

On a chilly Saturday morning, we start to find out how long this play can run. Or whether it closes before we get to December.

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


    • I thought the same thing… wonder there was no rush to throw him in there. Hopefully he’s got the system down, because he’s always seemed to be a leader from the different things i’ve seen about the team. Hopefully they are able to hold onto Matt Corral and deepen the QB pool even more with Zaire, Franks, Trask (who might even still get four years), and Corral. The next guy should be able to do something with that crew.

  1. Well said Pat. At the beginning of the season, who would have thought we’d be in this position? Let’s see what they can do.

    What an opportunity for Shannon. He’s got a lot of talent to work with as an interim. I would not bet against him turning things around quickly and making himself a viable candidate for the job.

  2. Awwwww c’mon Pat.
    Time to come down from the press box. Losing reality up there. Chilly morning? It doesn’t have to be ninety degrees to play ball. It’ll be a great time to break out that gator hoodie that’s been hanging in the closet forever. Be a welcome change from the heat.

  3. I like Coach Shannon – did not know about his very challenging childhood – and I admire how is has overcome such adversity. I really like what he tells his players – don’t let anyone steal your happiness and find peace. No matter what happens today and for the rest of this season, I believe Coach Shannon is an asset – I don’t want to see him go anywhere. He is my 3rd choice for our new HC (Mullen is 1st, Strong is 2nd). If either my 1st or 2nd choice gets the HC job, he needs to keep Shannon as either assistant HC or DC. As for the Mizzou game, I would love to see Malik lead our offense to victory. For this to happen, our OL needs to stop giving up sacks and Perrine and Thompson need to get it done on the ground. Also, our defense needs to step up their game – looked pretty bad against Georgia – I know they are better than that! GO GATORS – BEAT MIZZOU!