Monday, April 16, 2012

Chemistry is for Laboratories, Urban Meyer Edition

Here's my reaction to Matt Hayes' piece on Urban Meyer.  In short, I thought that the whole thing was overblown, mainly because Hayes was describing a time period in which Florida was remarkably successful.  In fact, the piece serves as an unintentional rejoinder to everything that Kirk Herbstreit says about the emotions and intangibles of college football:

To summarize the article, Florida's players engaged in various forms of bad behavior during the 2008 season. The highlights include Percy Harvin complaining about running stadium stairs and then choking his position coach, Janoris Jenkins getting into various scrapes with the law, Meyer applying laxer discipline to his best performers, and Florida players generally smoking a lot of marijuana.

And here's the punchline: it's an afterthought in the article, but Florida won the national championship in 2008. In fact, there's an argument to be made that 2008 Florida was the best team of the Aughts, as evidenced by the fact that their yards-per-play margin ranked up with those of 2001 Miami and 2005 Texas, despite the fact that the Gators played a tough schedule. The Hats Guys of the world (and there are plenty of analogs in the world of college football) want us to believe that teams win based on senior leadership, authoritative performances from quarterbacks in the huddle, and "everyone coming together as a team." According to this ideology, 2008 Florida should have been terrible, as their players should have been split apart by inconsistent discipline and a star player being permitted to commit a battery on a coach. Instead, they ended the season passing around a crystal football.
The piece then goes on to criticize both John Pennington for using the article as a platform to dump further praise onto Tim Tebow (Tebow being a great college quarterback just isn't enough anymore) and NFL personnel directors for letting the smoke surrounding Florida players cloud their judgment as to just how good those players are.  (Good lord, that was a terrible pun on my part.)

There are additional weaknesses to the piece that I'm sure have been noted by Ohio State fans.  For instance, the bit about Bryan Thomas falls flat for two reasons.  First, it makes it sound as if a football coach can make a unilateral decision to give a player a medical hardship letter without any involvement from a doctor.  Second, Florida wasn't a serial abuser of the hardship rule like their buddies in Tuscaloosa.  In fact, Florida has been one of the paragons in the SEC in refusing to engage in oversigning generally, a fact that refutes Hayes' argument entirely. 

In the end, the article just struck me as a kitchen sink approach.  Hayes took every single negative that he could find about Urban Meyer since Meyer moved from Utah to Florida and then threw them into a piece without providing context.  Some of the allegations are indeed pretty interesting, most notably the story about Percy Harvin choking Billy Gonzalez.  They reflect poorly on Meyer and well on Hayes' ability to obtain information.  However, Hayes then goes haywire when he moves from reporting the stories to claiming that Florida's weaker performances in the last two years are the result of a lack of discipline.  It's a fitting result that a guy named Hayes would write a column about the Ohio State football coach and then he would go nuts.


Jeff said...

I agree the article has some holes. Is it possible though that there is some truth to the idea that some (but not all) of the reason Florida fell apart is that the inmates were running the asylum? That kind of thing seems OK when you have tons of talent and you're winning but if the talent drops slightly and the players stop trying because they feel too entitled or disgruntled, things go bad. It seems like that's what happened with UCLA hoops the last few years.

D M said...

Every article has some holes. The WSJ article on Alabama has some holes that Trent Richardson's grandma could run through. But the articles become gospel truth because enough people dislike the person the article's about to WANT to believe it.

Meyer clearly had discipline problems at Florida, and those catch up to you in a program.

Look at Enron. They actually made a TON of money for awhile - but the discipline eroded, and they cratered. Not a concept to grasp, actually.

Presence of success does not necessarily mean absence of discipline issues - especially when such abysmal failure follows, and follows rather quickly.