Florida Football At Crossroads
MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – The Sunshine State is supposed to be the Mecca of football talent with superstar players coming out of every area and always fielding some of the best teams in the country.
But a funny thing has happened to both professional and college football teams in the state of Florida. The 2011 season for all of the pro and college teams has been at best bad and at worst simply comical in its weakness.
The Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, and the Miami Hurricanes are all unranked for the first time since December 6, 1982. Both FSU and UM have losing records and UF is struggling after losing their starting quarterback.
To put the time span of being ranked into perspective, Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson released “Thriller,” E.T was one of the top movies of the year, and the space shuttle program started with shuttle Columbia.
During the 476 weeks of being ranked, the Noles, Gators, and Canes have won 10 national championships and six Heisman Trophies.
Now, all of the major college schools have a first or second year head coach at the helm and all of them are struggling. Florida has won two of the last five national championships, but was on a downward trend before the season started.
Miami was shaken to its core by revelations made by former booster Nevin Shapiro that he paid players at “the U.” Since then, Miami has struggled to beat anybody and is imploding week by week.
Florida State was supposed to carry the state’s reputation this year, but after being ranked in the top five to start the season; the Seminoles have lost three in a row and the team’s last victory was over a team (Charleston Southern) that lost to a Division III school.
FSU and UF seem to be in the best position to recapture past glory thanks to phenomenal recruiting from both FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher and UF head coach Will Muschamp.
But while some of the major college teams seem poised to take a step forward in the next year or two; the same can’t be said for the Sunshine State’s NFL teams.
The Miami Dolphins have started the 2011 season at 0-4 and have lost their starting quarterback for the season. The Fins have shown no signs of life and have to play in New York against the Jets to try and stop the losing streak.
Many Dolphins fans have given up on the team and the franchise and want the entire front office and coaching staff replaced. Plus, fans in Miami are warming to the idea of losing every game in the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes.
Up the road in Jacksonville, the Jaguars are a perennial bottom-dweller in the AFC South. This season, the Jags jettisoned their starting quarterback right before the season and have turned to rookie Blaine Gabbert to right the stumbling ship.
Jags head coach Jack del Rio is in the final year of his contract and barring rapid development by Gabbert as a first-year starter; the Jags are looking at another losing season and del Rio is likely looking for a new job.
The lone bright spot was supposed to be the young guns from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs won ten games last season and were expected to contend in the tough NFC South.
The Bucs are 3-2 on the season, but are coming off a complete demolition at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. In addition, the Bucs have been outscored this season by their opponents by a combined 38 points.
Combined, Florida’s NFL teams have a record of 4-10 during 2011. Opponents have outscored Florida’s NFL teams by a combined 129 points this season.
The Bucs are in second place in the NFC South and are in position to make a move this season if they can recover from getting dominated by the 49ers. After that, Miami and Jacksonville are in a race to the bottom and the Dolphins have a big lead.
Football will remain the top of the food chain in Florida sports, but football fans may have a long time to wait until the Sunshine State teams recapture their old glory.