The first thing that went through my mind when I found out that Florida had hired Will Muschamp was this:
Nothing. A complete blank. I knew that this was an unacceptable reaction as a Gator fan, so I dug deep. I reached down to my emotional core and produced this: What?
Like everyone else, I had been thrown off the scent by Jeremy Foley. Of all the guys I had prepared myself to see in the Orange and Blue, Muschamp wasn't one of them. He was on a few candidate lists, but always down there with long shots Kevin Sumlin and Randy Edsall. Those guys definitely weren't getting the job. Why should Muschamp?
And yet, it is Muschamp who's taking over the program. It still doesn't feel right. He coached at LSU and Auburn when I got to know who he was, so he's just another one of those SEC West guys to me. Guys like Tommy Tuberville and Houston Nutt who always stay over there.
I have no reason to doubt Foley when he says that Muschamp was the only guy he spoke to and the only guy he offered the job to. However, I also have no doubts that Foley's minions had been putting out feelers to several other coaches to gauge interest in the job. As great a job as Florida is, it's not for everyone (e.g. Chris Petersen, most likely), and no job in college football carries enough weight to pry away a coach who is happy and well compensated (e.g. Bob Stoops).
So while I never thought that Muschamp was Foley's No. 1 guy all along, and he wasn't, he clearly made a heck of an impression on him. I think the parallels to Bob Stoops in 1999 are valid: he's an outstanding coordinator ready to take a head coaching job at a good school. While Florida isn't exactly as down as Oklahoma was in '99, it's worth noting that Muschamp would be heading up Texas right now had it been Mack Brown and not Meyer who retired last week.
I am withholding final judgment on the hire itself until after the coaching staff is set. In the absolute worst-case scenario, Muschamp is going to leave the cupboards full of talent when he leaves for not working out (putting aside NCAA trouble, which Muschamp's never been in). In the best-case scenario, Florida with have a top 10 defense four of every five seasons. That alone will give the Gators the chance to compete for SEC and national titles about three of every five seasons.
All told, that's not bad as far as best- and worst-case options. It still feels strange though, as Florida's had an offensive-minded head coach for all but three of my years on this earth. If he does work out, I'll have to learn a new normal where the defense is the given and the offense depends on the coordinator.
I have a good feeling about Muschamp, but it's going to take some time for this to feel natural. And as great as his defenses will likely be, this much is still true: he'll be judged on how his offenses do. Every head coach at Florida always is.