We accept the Blogpoll's Straight Bangin' Award with pride this week, and mostly because of our creeping suspicion of the pistol with a bayonet that is the Florida offense.
The pistol with a bayonet: our metaphor, stolen wholesale from Wes Anderson's American Express commercial, seen only a choice handful of times on network television because it is long, and it requires two minutes to show the whole thing, thus rendering it useless but nevertheless brilliant. (Much like The Life Aquatic.) Anderson rushes through a set beleaguered by questions from do-people; one approaches him with a stage gun; Anderson replies that he likes it, but could it have a bayonet on the end, too?
Seconds later, the flunkie returns with a mockup:
And voila! There you have the Gator offense 2005-2006: two things potentially lethal things put together in an inefficient and odd construction.
Does the Gator offense rely on too much...strategery, as Kevin and Gatorpilot have suggested? There's hints of that, sure: the endless end-arounds, reverses, option fakes, and triple lindys* Mullen's spinning in the second half are sure signs of an offense with zero confidence in its ability to run up the middle against quality defenses.
It's not complexity, though, that's sinking the offense.
For the most part, the playcalling has been simpler than it appears thanks to the multiple formations and spreadulation-type looks you see. In fact, little's changed from last year save the protections and the fact that for the first two to three drives of the game, Florida shows actual creativity and ability to move the ball. Beginning with the fourth series, you see:
1st down: ineffective run up the middle off the qb read thingy.
2nd down: second ineffective run/curl route for 3-5 yards.
3rd down: dropped pass no more than 12 yards down the field or WR screen for little gain.
4th down: punt. Watch Orson shake imaginary 8-Ball of sentiment, scream "I hate you Chris Leak!" until Leak throws TD, whereupon the 8-Ball miraculously instructs us to scream "I love you Chris Leak!" Repeat until time expires.
The problem is, sadly, more complex than mere complexity. It's two young coaches getting a feel for playcalling, especially Mullen, who has shown promise but hasn't gotten the handle quite yet on how to put the throttle down in the second half. It's the sudden surfeit of talent that just begs to be exploited without obviously creating plays designed for them and tipping the defense off to the play design. It's the ongoing mismatch between Leak and the offense, with Leak's odd refusal to go deep without play-action even in single coverage hamstringing the effort to stretch the field. It's an offensive line that at times still plays matador to onrushing linemen and linebackers.
But the salient critique hasn't changed: Leak at quarterback has passed, but not excelled in his final exam, a ballbreaker of a test designed by instructors who themselves may not know the answer to the questions they write. In the handbook of cliched fanboy analysis, we choose combo #21, "wrong personnel" with a side order of "novice coaching." The offense didn't adapt far enough, and Leak hasn't maximized potential. (Or maybe he has--the kind of unprovable proposition that two pitchers of beer and a spirited discussion about football usually generates.) And Meyer/Mullen haven't adjusted the scheme adequately to Leak's talents. Somewhere between the two, there's the intersection point where the dysfunction begins.
In short, it's a pistol with a bayonet: a scheme and personnel who could both work, but don't seem to be all that useful together. Tebow should see significant time against Vanderbilt; whatver that means, it's a step closer to Tim Tebow being the starter. Blame rhythm, blame playcalling, but everything in the fast-break spread option keys off a quarterback who is willing to run. Everything. Leak's production curve in his offense has flattened--this is what he's got, and this is what he'll be, and yet he's done everything that's been asked of him, including running and occasionally getting concussed we meant "dinged."
It's cruel, it's unfair, it's the kind of thing talk radio will love to reheat over and over again when the lines go dead: Chris Leak's 7-1 as a starter this year, and Meyer's upping the minutes of an 18 year old with zero starts in the SEC. He's either a genius spinning string theory in his head between black-belt judo sessions in his underground dojo, or a complete fucking imbecile grasping at straws. Or potentially both.
The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad.--Salvador Dali. Or Urban. We're not sure anymore.
*Triple lindys are dangerous, and should only be attempted while wearing a singlet and after the age of 50.