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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Really Old Ball Coach

Georgia Sports Blog ranked each of the 12 SEC coaches today. I find it hard to argue with any of their selections -- although it's funny how good Les Miles' numbers are compared to what fans tend to see on the field. He definitely seems to make some questionable decisions from time to time, but since I'm an idiot with a keyboard and a blog, and he's an SEC coach with a national title, I suppose I'll defer to what the results say.

What I find more interesting about GSB's rankings is who is at No. 5 -- Steve Spurrier. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing with his placement there. In fact, that's pretty much where I've seen Darth Visor listed in virtually every ranking I've looked at this season. Besides, fifth isn't too bad in a conference with eight coaches who have won BCS bowl games, but it is fascinating to see how much the respect level of a guy who once owned this conference has deteriorated.

Here's what GSB had to say:

If Spurrier were still at UF, he'd be an easy No. 1. History will show Spurrier to be the second best coach in SEC history, but right now he's languishing in Columbia. Shiny Pants still knows how to coach, but he's learning the inherent limitations of some recruiting bases. It seems like the league has caught up with him. Carolina has pulled some great upsets under Spurrier, but he has failed to increase Carolina's normal slot in the conference bowl order.


I'm not going to disagree with where history may rank Spurrier, but I think I might argue with GSB's first point: Would Spurrier easily top this list if he were still at Florida?

Obviously, it's an impossible question to answer, but that's what makes sports discussions fun.

First, let's look at Spurrier's record since leaving Florida.

At Florida, Spurrier was 122-27-1. Since, here are the numbers:

2002 -- Washington Redskins (7-9)
2003 -- Washington Redskins (5-11)
2005 -- South Carolina (7-5)
2006 -- South Carolina (8-5)
2007 -- South Carolina (6-6)

So in five seasons away from Gainesville, Spurrier is a combined 33-36.

True, he faced tougher competition with less talent in Washington and South Carolina, but this is a guy who went 20-13-1 at Duke!

As GSB notes, Spurrier has pulled some upsets at South Carolina, but heck, Bobby Johnson's done the same at Vanderbilt.

Also, it's important to note that in DC, the Skins were significantly worse his second year, and at South Carolina, Spurrier has failed to improve more than marginally as more and more of "his players" have come through the system.

True, it's too early to really say for sure since most of his top recruits are not yet juniors and seniors, but it is curious.

Now, we can assume Spurrier would have superior talent at Florida than what he has now -- but wasn't Spurrier's genius always more about his schemes than his players? Wasn't the point that he could win with Shane Matthews as easily as he could win with Joe Montana? Again, the guy won at Duke.

So why hasn't he had better results after leaving Gainesville? Perhaps it could be because his system -- the one that took the SEC by storm and was simply better than everyone else's for more than a decade -- is now commonplace.

At Florida, Spurrier made his career by being outside the box -- chucking the ball around the field with faster players than everyone else had. Now, everyone is fast. In fact, the SEC is clearly the fastest conference in the nation. Urban Meyer and other purveyors of the spread offense have taken Spurrier's fundamentals and expanded upon them to great effect. Far fewer teams are living by the Bear Bryant-style of hard-nosed, run-first offenses in the SEC now than ever before.

So could it be that Spurrier's offensive philosophy is a bit antiquated? That the rest of the SEC has caught up and surpassed its resident genius? Granted, even if that's true, he should get bonus points for spending 10 years being smarter than everyone else, but the point is, he's not any more.

Again, this is all just food for thought, but I think it does say something when the vast majority of fans and pundits look at a guy with six SEC titles as, at best, middle of the pack among conference coaches.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You're dead on with this. Spurrier repeatedly said during the 90's that "the rules favor the offense", and its true. There were, I believe, rules changes in the late 80s/early 90s that greatly facilitated his offensive scheme. Was he a great coach? Yes, would've achieved great things at Florida no matter what. But he had some help from the rules committee, whose sole duty seems to be to please TV.