genius: something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight
There's no debating that Steve Spurrier has been a good thing for the South Carolina Gamecocks. His name alone has helped bring attention to Carolina. He's certainly done more than just bring his name, as well. However, after nearly seven seasons of doing little impressing with his offense, it can certainly be argued that the terms "offensive genius" and "offensive guru" should be put to rest. Geniuses adapt and evolve. They see new ways to accomplish great results. Or, they get passed by and people remember that they had once been genius, but aren't anymore. Steve Spurrier falls in the latter category.
At Duke, where Spurrier brought the "Fun 'n' Gun" to college football, he turned around what had been a dismal era of Blue Devils football and, in just three years, led them to back-to-back winning seasons and a share of the 1989 ACC Championship. How'd he do so much with less talent than his opponents? He had an innovative offense that defensive coaches were baffled by and he made excellent adjustments to what he saw from them. After 1989, Spurrier left Durham to head to his alma mater in Gainesville to take over a Florida Gators team that hadn't seen long strings of success. In 12 seasons at Florida, Spurrier won 6 SEC Championships and 9 of 12 SEC Eastern Division Championships. His overall record was 122-27-1 and his Gators teams never once lost more than four games in a season. Throughout the 90's, the "Fun 'n' Gun" was a dominant force on collegiate football fields. Steve Spurrier's offense was creative and it was exciting. It was genius.
Fast forward to 2005. After leaving Florida at the end of the 2001 season to test his coaching abilities in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and then sitting out of football for a year, Steve Spurrier becomes the head coach of South Carolina. He's back in the SEC where he'd reigned supreme for over a decade. Will the offense that vanished in the NFL make a return to college football? Nope.
South Carolina has averaged a total offense rank of 69 (of 120 FBS schools) since Steve Spurrier arrived in Columbia, good for 7th in the SEC. Comparably, the Lou Holtz-led teams averaged a total offense rank of 81 (9th in the SEC). Holtz certainly wasn't known as an offensive specialist and he led us out of a much darker hole than Spurrier. We were 6-5 in Holtz's last season, whereas as Lou inherited a 1-10 team with very little to excite an incoming coach. The talent level at Carolina under Spurrier has been higher than the Gamecocks have ever seen, yet Spurrier hasn't been able to consistently produce offense. In fact, only twice has South Carolina finished among the top 50 FBS teams in total offense. Listed below are the past and current finishes by the Gamecocks in total offense and scoring offense since Spurrier took the job:
Total Offense Scoring Offense
2005 - 100 (9*) 75 (7)
2006 - 20 (3) 44 (6)
2007 - 77 (8) 70 (8)
2008 - 97 (7) 96 (8)
2009 - 82 (9) 102 (11)
2010 - 47 (7) 38 (6)
2011 - 57 (4) 35 (4)
Avg. - 69 (7) 66 (7)
*SEC rank listed in parentheses
College football has changed since Steve Spurrier was at Florida. He had far more talent on those Gators teams than most of the rest of the SEC. There's more parity today in the conference and outside of it than ever before. That's a good thing, but it makes it harder to do what he did again. And I don't think any realistic Carolina fan expected a repeat of what he put together in Gainesville, but I believe we all expected better offensive production that what we've gotten. I also believe we expected better overall results than we've gotten. South Carolina has not had a single season under Spurrier where the team lost less than five games. That's not very impressive. He never lost more than four in a season at Florida, and that travesty only happened twice.
With Spurrier at the helm, no scholarship QB has yet started and finished his career as a Gamecock. Cade Thompson, Tommy Beecher, Chris Smelley, Stephen Garcia, Aramis Hillary, and Reid McCollum all washed out in one form or another. Only two of those guys were even capable of playing in the SEC at a high level. There was a time when most parents would have wanted to send their QB son to play for the Ol' Ball Coach. Not anymore. It looks like a mindscrew and a half from a fan perspective, and no one really desires to play in an offense that only works when executed to near perfection. That's my take on part of the problem with Spurrier's offense today. It's too complex for the guys we typically have to operate it, and without a very accurate passer who has smart receivers who are on the same page as him, it sputters. The QB needs to be able to see what Spurrier sees, and we haven't really had that at all. Connor Shaw may be the best chance for that, though.
I recently heard West Virginia Mountaineers QB Geno Smith say that head coach Dana Holgorsen's highly regarded offense was simpler to run than his high school's. From my knowledge, Steve Spurrier's offense is no such thing. In addition, there's rarely a rhythm to the game and the tempo is poor as a result of not having the coach-on-the-field-QB mentioned in the previous paragraph. I don't think all the blame for the offense's troubles fall on Spurrier, but the point is that an "offensive genius," a "guru," makes adjustments and finds a way to excel. He hasn't done that. The Gamecocks have been in the last half of the SEC in total offense in five of his six complete seasons and have never finished better than 6th in scoring offense. Not only is that not genius, it's not even good.