Daily Cavalcade - Urban Meyer's Lost Focus
Florida head coach Urban Meyer
Florida head coach Urban Meyer
Posted May 13, 2009

First it was new Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin who got under the skin of Florida head coach Urban Meyer, and now it's former Gator QB and current radio show host Shane Matthews. Do these little spats matter? Pete Fiutak argues why this is a problem in a Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy.

Fiu's Daily Cavalcade of Whimsy

Urban Meyer's Lost Focus ... May 13

a.k.a. Frank Costanza's Festivus Airing of the Grievances ... or the obvious attempt to keep readers coming to the site on a regular basis during the off-season.
By Pete Fiutak   
What's your beef? ... Fire off your thoughts  

Past Whimsies:  
- Florida State's vacated wins

- Stories from the Combine
- 10 Tidbits From Recruiting Season
- Making peace with recruiting
- The NFL announcers
- The Mark Sanchez situation
- The NFL Playoffs vs. The BCS
- Why Florida really is No. 1
- The Jagodzinski situation
- Auburn's big coaching moves
- 10 Reasons Why Fla Will Win
- 10 Reasons Why OU Will Win
- The Andre Smith suspension
- NFL Mock Draft (top 10 picks)
Holiday Wish List For All 119 Teams
- Chizik, Gill, & the Race Card
- Why Paterno isn't too old

Past Whimsies

- 2008 Season
2008 Preseason Cavalcade
- 2007 Season
2006 Season

“From now on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. Silence! In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check.” … To go cliché, there might be only one team that can beat Florida this year and that’s Florida. That needs to be put on a bumper sticker and slapped on head coach Urban Meyer’s car after getting involved in yet another kitten fight.

First, Stewie Griffin, a.k.a. Lane Kiffin, did the equivalent of “I’m not touching you,” while holding his finger one inch away from Meyer’s face, by claiming the Gators violated recruiting rules. Meyer and Florida AD Jeremy Foley where in the right by saying Kiffin was out of line, but instead of blowing off the new guy who was obviously trying to stir the pot, they got involved and let him get under their skin. Meyer has even taken jabs at Kiffin for the now-infamous stunt of ripping off the shirts of recruits in a gimmicky tough-guy ploy. Kiffin is in Meyer’s kitchen and he’s making biscuits.

Now, Meyer is taking on former Florida quarterback and radio show host Shane Matthews, who criticized the offense and the team after last year’s loss to Ole Miss, by basically saying in a talk to the Gator Club that outside opinions will not be tolerated or accepted unless there’s an I Grok Gators attached to it.

“You’re either a Gator or you’re not a Gator,” was the exact line Meyer used, and while he didn’t call out Matthews by name, it was well known who the intended target was.

Meyer is violating a time-honored rule that you never debate down. If you’re in a superior, high-profile position, you’re going to be open to swipes, jabs, and put downs to try to knock you off your pedestal. By acknowledging the slap and trying to fight, you’re showing weakness instead of being confident in your place in the world. By fighting back against the inferior opponent, gas is being poured on the fire.

Act as if.

Act as if you’ve won two national titles in three years.

Act as if Shane Matthews is Shane Matthews and you’re Urban Motherf’n Meyer, one of only four current college football head coaches, along with Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, and Dennis Erickson, who have won multiple national championships (yes, I’m aware of Pete Carroll’s work, but it’s BCS or bust at this point).

Act as if nothing can get to you and the criticisms roll off your back.

Act as if you’re not freaking over trying to sustain your current level of unrealistic success.

Most of all, act is if you have the best college football team in America.

The defending national champions are beyond loaded with everyone coming back on defense, a veteran offense that will be more than fine once a few receivers emerge, and with No. 15 under center, who’s making a bid to be considered the greatest quarterback in college football history if he can pull off another national title and/or a second Heisman.

The schedule works out extremely well with only three dangerous games, at LSU, Georgia, and at South Carolina. If the Gators are fully focused and play up to their capabilities, they won’t be touched in the other nine games, they’ll likely overcome the emotion and the spotlight to beat the Gamecocks, and they’ll be the better team than Georgia. They can even lose in Death Valley to the Tigers and still wind up playing for the national title by beating everyone else and winning a rematch in the SEC Championship.

This will be the No. 1 team in the country in every preseason poll that matters, and most of the ones that don’t, with anyone picking someone else for the top spot doing it just to be contrary. There’s simply no reasonable argument to put anyone but Florida on top of the rankings based on returning talent, but that doesn’t mean it can’t all be undone if the pressure proves to be too much for Meyer.

So how could it all go wrong? How could this near-perfect team blow it? They could start to let all the outside distractions become a problem.

Coaches preach over and over and over again to be confident, but not cocky. Stay focused, don’t get caught up in the silly stuff, do your job, blah, blah, blah. While 94% of that goes in one ear and out the other, there is something to the rhetoric if teams don’t actually adhere to those basic principles. Essentially, barring a rash of major injuries, if Florida can handle the periphery parts of being the defending national champion with a bull’s-eye on its back, and if it doesn’t get caught up in its own hype, it should win another national title. But Meyer has to be a steadier leader.

If Meyer loses it every time there’s a little bit of criticism, the team will be tighter. He can’t be distracted by every shiny ball of tin foil that rolls past him, and better yet, he needs embrace the critiques and keep improving rather than bunker down and get defensive. If he can’t handle the jawing, how is his team supposed to react the first time someone steps up and get all chest-thumpy? Remember the celebration by Georgia after its first touchdown in the 2007 win over the Gators and how Meyer’s team effectively wilted? Again, it all starts at the top.

Matthews actually had a valid point after the Ole Miss game, claiming the coaches didn’t take advantage of certain mismatches on offense. He wasn’t criticizing to be mean or vindictive; he was saying it out of love for his team and his beloved program. Being off-base would have been to criticize the team’s lack of effort and focus, but he didn’t have to go there. Tim Tebow took care of that for him and was immortalized for it with a plaque that hangs on Florida Field.

Matthews has taken the high road through all of this and hasn’t used the controversy, if it really is one, to further his own radio show host profile, but it hasn’t hurt. Now Meyer has to act like an adult and embrace his newfound role as a head coaching God.

Leave the petty stuff to the rest of us, Urban, and come up with the best answer possible by winning another national title. And be prepared to sit back and groove on the criticism if you don’t.