One former University of Florida football coach is revered for his unapologetic honesty.
The other former University of Florida football coach is reviled for his manipulative deceptions.
Guess which one is Steve Spurrier?
The Spurrier vs. Urban Meyer “debate” over which guy is the “Greatest Gator” has always been somewhat of a joke. No sense in keeping score. It’s a rout, and the point spread keeps growing in Spurrier’s favor.
Spurrier’s jabs at Nick Saban and Mark Richt last week underscore why he is a rock-and-roll star in college football. His coaching brilliance is laced in sarcasm, wit and honesty rare among his peers. Spurrier throws haymakers on the football field with his innovative offensive schemes, and often peppers opponents with verbal jabs.
On Saban’s Alabama legacy: “If he wants to be the greatest coach or one of the greatest coaches in college football, to me, he has to go somewhere besides Alabama and win, because they’ve always won there at Alabama.”
On Richt’s Georgia program: “I sort of always liked playing them that second game because you could always count on them having two or three key players suspended.”
Even now, as head coach at South Carolina, Spurrier channels the profile of the Prefect Gator: A blend of cockiness and charisma. A man who embraces all the darts and arrows. A man who loves to pile on, just because. What’s not to love?
This is why Spurrier – years after leaving – will forever be king of Florida football, while Urban Meyer is a bit like the emperor with no clothes.
Sure, the two national titles are fancy ornaments on his resume, but Meyer’s legacy will forever be tarnished by the rest of his “accomplishments.” In simpler terms, he was nothing more than a hired mercenary who did his job, got sloppy, bored and disinterested, and helped dismantle a program he helped rebuild into a national power.
It isn’t fair – but it sure is fun – to play the revisionist game with Florida football history. I’m convinced that the vast majority of the Gator Nation would love to give Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and the UF administration a mulligan back in 2004 for picking Meyer over Spurrier.
It’s understandable why Foley was smitten by Meyer – he is a heck of a football coach and the hottest ticket available at the time. But he would have gotten much more out of Spurrier – a heck of a football coach who loves the Florida football program.
Spurrier is the most prominent face on Florida’s Mount Rushmore – which also includes Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow and Emmitt Smith.
Spurrier is Florida’s first Heisman trophy winner. The first coach to lead them to a national title. The first coach to lead them to an official SEC championship.
Yes, Spurrier’s ego clouded his judgment when he left Florida in 2002, thinking he could work his X’s and O’s mojo in the NFL. Spurrier’s marriage with Florida wasn’t perfect, but it was as close to eternal bliss as you could get.
Spurrier and the Gators had a chance at recreating the magic in December of 2004 and botched it.
Florida’s run with Meyer was like the guy who marries a manipulative trophy wife with no personality. It gets tiresome after a while, despite the fab photo ops.
Spurrier will forever bleed orange and blue. Meyer bleeds green, preceded by a dollar sign.
Spurrier is unplugged. Meyer is a lip-synching drone.
Better yet, which coach would you rather kick back and have a few beers with? Spurrier is bound to be lively and engaging. Meyer is as appealing as a swig of O’Doul’s, even if you happen to be in his infamous “circle of trust.”
Nearly eight years after Florida missed out on rehiring Spurrier, the hangover continues.