The following is a guest commentary column written by Marc Ryan, host of the Morning Wrap on The Ticket Sports Network 100.3 FM in the Florida panhandle. You can follow Marc and his sports ramblings on Twitter @MarcRyanOnAir.
It’s a job title millions list as their dream position. It brings with it an immense degree of power, influence and say-so. That’s not to mention the fact that a seven-figure salary is likely another part of the package.
Sound too good to be true?
The position of major college football power head coach is not for the faint of heart. It’s a job in which daggers are thrown much more often than thanks are spoken.
Many doctors believe it’s among the most stressful and potentially unhealthy. Nothing’s consistent. There are incredibly long hours filled with enough pressure to vacuum up the entire city of Gainesville, FL with one flick of the switch.
Thus it comes as no surprise Will Muschamp has encountered turbulence in his first year at Florida’s helm. It’s a rocky flight that has spared not even the best ever at the job. Steve Spurrier hinted at a lack of appreciation following two-loss seasons, and Urban Meyer exhibited all the signs of a burnout.
How much of the Gators’ five losses are on Muschamp? What percentage of the multiple stinging punchless performances in a row was poor coaching? Why didn’t he call this play in that situation, or that play in this situation? How well is he really doing?
It all depends.
• There’s no such thing as a quick fix in college football.
• While it is possible to maintain the level of play of your uber-successful predecessor, it’s quite impossible to instantaneously take the program a notch above.
• Most of all of the soon-to-be mentioned coaches have had looks of strain, stress, and erosion on their faces in their attempts to pull an Alex Honnold-like ascension up the side of a treacherous mountain with no ropes or protection.
Tommy Tuberville was largely forgotten until an unfathomable win thrust him back into the limelight a few weeks ago. Houston Nutt has tried and failed at Ole Miss. Jimbo Fisher has fan support but has not fulfilled the high expectations he had as a top team in the preseason.
Dan Mullen’s ride up the hill has run over a nail at Mississippi State. Bo Pelini has definitely pulled Nebraska back from the abyss, but even they have been denied first class seating to date.
Bobby Petrino’s best case scenario is a bronze medal in his conference, and they’d be off the medals stand completely if you believe the SEC Eastern Division Championship is held in higher regard. Derek Dooley? 10-13 overall and 3-12 in conference play at a once storied program desperate to reclaim what’s rightfully or wrongfully theirs.
For every Gene Chizik or Brady Hoke – who is now or has very recently been the toast of the town – a swift three-game slide is all that stands between them and the burnt crust of your local slimy bar. It’s a tenuous, treasonous (by some fans) existence marked by the ever-reaching failure to “please all the people all the time.”
There are no cures, no David Blaine tricks or magic bullets. In this job, the bullets are fired in a coach’s direction, and just like Neo in the Matrix, it takes many great coaches a while to learn how to dodge them.
Muschamp is still dealing with that learning curve, whether he wants to admit it or not. How much he improves – and the level to which the team responds in kind – will determine how successful he can be as a head coach in the long run.