I will confess it, I was a Steve Spurrier fan.
In the 1990s, the Fun N' Gun offense was all the rave and set the benchmark for passing offenses. Florida is the only college football team to score at least 500 points, including bowl games, for four consecutive years (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996) since the NCAA began keeping statistics in 1937. Florida went 122–27–1 overall and 87–14 in SEC play, won the SEC East nearly every year, won 6 SEC Championships and one national title in 1996 when he beat "Free Shoes University" in the Sugar Bowl rematch. They played for another in 1995 when they got spanked by Nebraska and Tommie Frazier.
In all of it, the only coach that really gave him fits was Bobby Bowden. Ray Goof didnt, Jim Donnan couldnt, nor did The Great Pumpkin, nor could Gene Stallings. Steve was always good for one great smartass remark during any press conference. He was cocky, he was a total ass, but he won football games. I always appreciated a coach that would talk trash and back it up. Most of them are too scared to give their opponent bulletin board material to ever sound anything more than mildly confident. Steve would tell you that Florida was going to put 50 on you and that it was your job to stop his offense once he had the big lead, not his.Any coach with the balls to say Peyton Manning only came back for his Senior year to win the Citrus Bowl MVP award again, then back it up, should be respected. I'd watch Florida in the '90s just to see what Spurrier would do or say, and to study that offense that no one could stop.
That is until Steve abruptly quit to take the job as Head Ball Coach of the Redskins at the end of the 2001 season, and everything fell apart.
After just one season, I never really saw any more of that arrogant attitude from Spurrier. I was convinced he'd get back into college somewhere along the way.
Around the same time, I started following Nick Saban at LSU. He had done well at Michigan State and the way he coached on the sideline and his appearance to the media made it quite apparent that all he really cared about was winning football games. He had built LSU up after Gerry DiNardo skyrocketed, then flopped. In 2003 I went to LSU for graduate school but couldnt really get into LSU football initially because it almost felt like I was betraying Clemson to even watch another team and pull for them. My blood runs orange and I never missed a Clemson game. But, after the Georgia game in Tiger Stadium, I really started to follow them and study what Saban was doing defensively, since I really love X's and O's. Those teams reminded me of what Danny Ford used to do at Clemson: strong power running game and great defense. Matt Mauck had little NFL-caliber skills, but he was a winner, just like Rodney Williams. Their defense was the most complex and aggressive one I could recall seeing aside from Buddy Ryan's 46-blitz Houston Oiler/Philly Eagle teams and Joe Lee Dunn's fly-by-wire, F-you-I-dont-need-a-callsheet defense. It could even handle newer spread offenses well.
Nick wore his emotions on his sleeve on the sidelines. He was nearly always pissed off about something. On local TV, you could hear him cursing on the sidelines, and several times to the TV reporters he'd slip and catch himself cursing: "Well shit, the Fu-....the call just went against us and I dont understand it." He never smiled that I ever saw until he picked up that crystal football in the Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma. All he thought about was football. He was going to out-recruit you. All he knew that he could do in football is out-work and out-prepare his opponent, a la Bill Belichick. He took a total businesslike approach to LSU football and built everything the right way. If his competitors had something LSU didnt, he'd demand it be built. He didnt care if you liked him or not, all he cared about was winning football games. When I'd watch Tommy Bowden come out and choke against Wake Forest, I'd go drink beer and tailgate in preparation to watch LSU demolish somebody and think to myself, "No way would Saban lose to Wake Forest 45-17, I wish Clemson could ante up and get him."
Then Nick left for the Dolphins, and I knew that NFL coaching was a dream of his since his days in Cleveland under Belichick, and he broke the hearts of many LSU fans. I was sad to see him go, because I was learning something new about defense in every game I saw or attended, and then twice as sad when I learned that Les Miles was a total idiot who had no clue about football.
But something wasn't right in Miami, and though Nick's teams weren't downright horrible (9-7 and 6-10), he realized that the NFL was not the place for someone who wanted to win every game, just like Steve did when he quit in Washington in 2003. I predicted at the time that within 3 years Saban would have Bama as SEC champs, and I was almost right last year.
Nick came back the right way, he took a program that was full of tradition and was chock full of good recruits that had been underdeveloped by Mike Shula, and took them to the SEC Championship game in his 2nd year. It was never a hopeless situation in Alabama, despite the down years. Saban never lost his attitude during his 2 years in Miami. He didnt break in the NFL, he got out first. Alabama is a place you can win, and only a true winner will ever last long there, or put up with the pressure.Its one of the best financial situations in college football every year. Anything Saban wants, Saban gets in Tuscaloosa.
But Steve came back castrated and broken from what the NFL did to him, and into an entirely hopeless situation. I expected when Holtz resigned that Spurrier would talk all kinds of garbage against Clemson during his first press conference. Tommy Bowden had a quick (quivering at times) lip and I expected some verbal banter between them. Carolina fans all thought they'd own Clemson from then onwards. In 5 years, I've seen hardly any of that cockiness and arrogance, and a 2-3 record against Clemson. His ego is still there, but dwindles further after every UConn-style defeat. Columbia is not a place you can win consistently.Two other championship winning coaches couldnt do it. Lee Corso had it right for once, before he caved in and retracted. 35-28 and 18-22 in SEC play, and only one winning SEC season, that in his first year, is going to wear on him until he's just a shadow of his former self, as if he wasn't already.....playing golf and wondering about how great he could've been had he just stayed at Florida.
You need to get out Steve Spurrier, before you become a total joke like Holtz.
Although I had not seen it before writing this post, my search for links dug this up, so I include it for completeness since it was published first.