It’s not something that you like to think about, but love to talk about.
It’s the second question I usually get asked on a radio appearance or at a Gator Club, the first being — Who is going to start at quarterback?
Because of the second question, perhaps my answer should be — does it matter?
The second question is this — How does a place like Florida go eight years without a quarterback?
The answer to the second question is way more complex than the first, because the answer to the first question is simply a guess until it all starts back up today.
This is the part of this column where you may want to avert your eyes, because I need to present some statistics that will make you want to regurgitate your corn flakes.
These numbers are a reflection of how bad it has been at Florida over the last eight years and I’m not even going to present the annual embarrassing ranking in total offense for the Gators since Tim Tebow.
Tebow’s last game of his career was a doozy, 482 passing yards in the Sugar Bowl against Cincinnati. That gave him five games of over 300 yards passing in his career.
Three players — Rex Grossman, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel — combined for 46 of those games during their careers.
In the last eight seasons, Florida has two — count ’em, two — 300-yard passing games, one of them against Furman.
Wuerffel threw 74 touchdown passes in his final two seasons at UF. Tebow threw 83 in his three seasons as a starter. Florida has averaged a little over a touchdown pass a game since Tebow.
Need an Imodium tablet yet?
Since Tebow, Florida has trotted out John Brantley IV, Jordan Reed, Trey Burton, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris, Will Grier, Austin Appleby, Luke Del Rio, Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks behind center.
Not once during those eight seasons has Florida averaged 20 completions a game. The most yards the Gators have thrown for in a season during that stretch was 215.8 in 2016. In six of seven other seasons, the average was under 200.
What in the name of Steve Spurrier is going on here?
I’ve got more stats, but you already know Florida has smelled on offense over the last eight seasons. It has been well documented and it’s one reason Dan Mullen is here now. And I know you’re tired of wandering around the desert looking for big plays.
But let’s not blame the quarterbacks I listed above. Two of them are in NFL camps right now. Two others are NFL starters at different positions. Brantley was a big-time recruit. Grier is a Heisman Trophy contender at West Virginia.
The point is that there has been talent. It’s not like Florida hasn’t had quarterbacks with potential.
Which leads us to the biggest reason Florida has been the poster child for bad offense since the 2009 season.
It’s why you think Mullen can get something out of his ragtag bunch at the quarterback position. (Sorry, but one guy was an abject failure last year, one hasn’t played a meaningful snap in three years and the third is a true freshman. And that’s it.)
Mullen has been able to get a lot out of the position throughout his career. We’ll see what happens with this year’s offense.
But this is about the past, not the future.
Quick, name the best offensive coordinator Florida has had since Mullen left for Mississippi State.
Steve Addazio? Charlie Weis? (Spit-take optional). Brent Pease is now at Montana, the college football equivalent of the Russian front. South Carolina fans couldn’t be happier that Will Muschamp got rid of Kurt Roper after last season. And then there was three years of Doug Nussmeier — and this is going to make you throw your newspaper down — he probably was the best of them all.
Florida won two SEC Easts with Nussmeier and had its only two seasons of 200-plus yards per game passing under him and it’s best TD-to-interception rate in the last eight seasons in 2015 (20 TDs, 10 picks).
Of course, when Nuss is your best coordinator of the last eight years, you have a problem,
Certainly, one can make the chicken/egg argument. Were those coaches hamstrung by bad quarterback play or were the quarterbacks held back by poor development and play-calling?
I tend to go with the chicken salad theory, that the right coach can make a quarterback out of even mediocre talent.
In the end, the blame goes back to the head coaches. Urban Meyer was stubborn with Brantley, who probably would have flourished in a different offense. Will Muschamp was stubborn sticking with Driskel longer than he should have. Jim McElwain could have handled Grier’s situation a lot better.
It would be irresponsible not to point out the injuries to Driskel, Brantley, Murphy and Del Rio that certainly were a factor in their development and the lack of success offensively. And certainly, Grier’s bone-headed judgment changed the quarterback dynamic drastically.
So I guess what I’m saying is that there are a lot of reasons why Florida hasn’t had an All-SEC candidate at quarterback in eight years.
And I’m not sure there is an SEC quarterback on the roster now.
We’re about to find out.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.