Mike Bianchi: After Gators beat Vols, can we please stop with the Napier nonsense?

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Can we please stop with the ridiculous rhetoric now?

Can we please stop all of this nonsensical talk about how Billy Napier is going to be fired after this season?

Will the lunatic fringe of Florida Gators fans now please quit ripping Napier on social media and saying he’s not up to the challenge of coaching in the SEC?

Will those in the national media — people who are supposed to be responsible and credible — quit speculating on Napier’s job security after only one season at UF?

All of you, go up to the blackboard and write it 100 times:

Billy Napier is not getting fired.

Billy Napier is not getting fired.

Billy Napier is not getting fired …

Napier and his Florida Gators not only beat the 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers 29-16 on Saturday night; the game was never really in doubt. And now, hopefully, the nattering nabobs of Napier negativity will be muzzled for good.

First of all, Napier wasn’t going to get fired this season even if he’d lost the game Saturday night, but now maybe the clanging cymbals on social media will finally shut up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The Gators and their administration are going to give Napier an adequate amount of time to rebuild the program. And by an adequate amount of time, I mean more than one season and three games.

But if you listened to some of those in the national media and the many more on social media, you would have thought Saturday was a make-or-break game for Napier’s future. No doubt, it was a big win for the Gators and Napier, who was 1-6 against ranked teams heading into Saturday night and 0-4 last year in UF’s rivalry games (Tennessee, Georgia, LSU and FSU.), but it wasn’t a must win.

But in the days leading up to the game, all we kept hearing was how Napier needed to win this game to perhaps save his job. Is this where we’re at now in college football — a college football coach who takes over a program mostly bereft of talent is placed on some sort of make-believe hot seat after one 6-7 season?

Even ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, who I consider the most influential media voice in college football, began writing Napier’s coaching epitaph earlier this week when he floated the rumor that Deion Sanders of Colorado could end up at Florida after this season.

“You’ve got a brand new president [at UF] in former Sen. Ben Sasse who is a forward-thinking guy who would look at Deion and go, ‘I like this.’ I think he could consider this the ticket,” Finebaum said on a podcast hosted by prominent national college football writers Bruce Feldman and Stuart Mandel. “It is considered as one of the premier public universities in the country. They just finished No. 1 in a [Wall Street Journal] poll and I think Deion fits their makeup very well.

“The fact that he played at Florida State makes it even more intriguing and more enticing for Deion. How can you not be attracted by that fertile recruiting ground down there?”

Really, Paul?


Personally, I always thought this Napier’s-on-the-hotseat talk was absurd and he will end up being a great coach at Florida if the fans and media just give him a chance to do his job.

And maybe now they will.

That’s why the victory wasn’t just a victory for Napier and the Gators; it was a victory for prudence and common sense.

“How sweet it is,” Napier said as he walked into his postgame news conference. “You want to see your people experience some success and see the fruits of their labor, and I’m not just talking about the players. I’m talking about the adults. It validates your plan. It validates what you’re selling.”

Napier no doubt heard all of the negative overreaction to Florida’s 24-11 road loss to 12th-ranked Utah in the season opener. Granted, the Gators didn’t play well and made a ton of mistakes, but they lost on the road to the two-time defending Pac-12 champions who haven’t lost a home game in more than two years.

After the Utah loss, the offensive line was called terrible, the running game was called terrible, quarterback Graham Mertz was called not ready for primetime and there were screams for Napier to give up play-calling duties, hire a special teams coach, show more emotion on the sideline, blah, blah, blah

Do all of those Napier critics out there still think he needs to hire an offensive coordinator? No, it wasn’t an offensive fireworks show Saturday night, but I consider Tennessee’s Josh Heupel to be the best offensive mind in college football and Napier’s offense outgained Heupel’s 281-182 in the first half before the Gators went conservative in the second half. If you’re scoring at home, Heupel’s teams never scored less than 17 points during his three seasons at UCF.

Does anybody still think the offensive line is terrible and the Gators can’t run the ball? Running back Trevor Etienne rushed for 172 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown.

Does anybody still think Mertz is just some rum-bum, run-of-the-mill transfer from Wisconsin. Mertz was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and played like it Saturday when he efficiently completed 19 of 24 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. He also deked a defender on a key third-down play and ran for a touchdown as well.

Does anybody still think the Swamp has lost its magic and mystique? The 12th-largest crowd in school history (90,751) was at its rocking, roaring, loudest, proudest best on Saturday night, consistently disrupting and distracting Tennessee’s offense and sending the Vols home with yet another loss at a stadium they haven’t won at in 20 years.

It was a good night to be a Florida Gator.

It was a good night to be Billy Napier.

Can we please stop with the ridiculous rhetoric now?