After the 2009 college football season, Tim Tebow declared for the NFL draft, marking the end of a storied career at the University of Florida. Tebow led the Florida Gators to a national championship in 2008, won the Heisman Trophy in 2007, and captured the hearts of millions along the way. By the time Tebow left Florida, Tebow had set five NCAA statistical records, 14 SEC statistical records, and 28 UF statistical records. Many consider Tebow to be one of the greatest college football players ever, and some consider him to be the very best. Regardless of what you think about Tebow, where he stands in all-time ranking, or about how he was the most open and public Christian football player of all time, one thing is certain: Tebow was the epitome of what it means to be a Florida Gators quarterback.
There have been many storied quarterbacks that have thrown the pigskin for the University of Florida, going all the way back to the 1960s, when Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy in 1966. Tebow may have been the greatest among the storied quarterbacks, but there were plenty of talented and decorated quarterbacks that came before Tebow and entrenched themselves into Florida football lore with their fantastic play.
However, since 2009, Florida has had one of the most interesting and saddening problems of any team in the entire country: They haven’t had a quarterback.
Oh sure, plenty of guys have started games at the quarterback position for the Gators. But Florida has not had THAT guy, the quarterback to truly push them over the hump since Tebow departed after the 2009 season. You’re probably thinking to yourself, “there’s no way that’s true, right? After all, Florida is ranked like every season, and they almost always contend in the SEC East! And Lee Corso loves them!”
Well, today I’m going to be the bearer of bad tidings. Lee Corso does indeed love the Gators, but Florida has not given much to love back over the last 13 years.
I’m going to list every single quarterback that has started a game for the Florida Gators since Tim Tebow has left.
You ready? Here’s the list:
John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, Treon Harris, Will Grier, Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby, Malik Zaire, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask, Emory Jones, and Anthony Richardson.
Wow. That is not a very impressive list. There are names you might recognize on there if you aren’t a Gators fan, sure, like Brissett, Driskel, and Trask. But once you take a deeper look into how these guys played at the quarterback position, it reveals just how big of a quarterback problem the Florida Gators have had the past 13 years.
The starting QB that replaced Tebow was John Brantley. Brantley was the starting QB for the Gators for the 2010 and 2011 college football seasons. In 2010, Brantley threw for 2,061 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The next year, in 2011, Brantley put up very similar numbers, throwing for 2,044 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. 2010 was Urban Meyer’s last season in Gainesville, and 2011 was Will Muschamp’s first year in Gainesville. The Gators went 8-5 in 2010, a year after going 13-1 and finishing 3rd in the country, and In 2011, the Gators actually got slightly worse, going 7-6.
“Well, what about Jacoby Brissett? He is still starting in the NFL today!”
Had Brissett actually been a long-term starter for the Florida Gators, then maybe this article wouldn’t exist. Brissett only appeared in five games for the Gators, as he was the backup to Brantley in 2011 and was beaten by Jeff Driskel for the starting job in 2012. Brissett completed 23 passes on 35 attempts for 249 and a singular touchdown in his career with the Gators, and transferred away to NC State, where he was pretty successful.
2012 was arguably Florida’s best season since the Tebow days. They went 11-2, but with a bowl game loss in the last game, they were really 11-1 and ranked 4th in the AP poll when the season was still truly going on. Florida might have even had a chance to make the championship game, if it were not for the dominance of the 2012 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Florida’s lone loss that season was to Georgia, 17-9, and had they not lost that game, maybe the Gators could have played for the championship.
However, Jeff Driskel was not the reason the Gators were good in 2012.
Driskel’s numbers were not as great as you might have thought. Driskel threw for only 1,646 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. The most amount of yards Driskel threw for in a single game was just a measly 219 against Tennessee in week 3 of that season. No, if anything, Driskel is the reason the Gators were not a championship-caliber team in 2012. The reason the Gators were good that season was because of the players that surrounded him.
Running back Mike Gillislee ran for 1,152 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, and Tight end Jordan Reed, a future NFL starting TE, also gave major contributions. But the real reason why the 2012 Gators won 11 games was their defense.
The 2012 Gators only gave up more than 20 points in a game a singular time. The Gators ranked 8th in all of the FBS in total yards allowed per game, holding opponents to less than 300 yards a game on average. Players such as Jaylen Watkins, Brian Poole, Dante Fowler Jr., Jon Bostic, Jonathan Bullard, Quinton Dunbar, and Matt Elam started on that defense, all of whom went on to be NFL starters. The Gators were pretty dang good in 2012, but it was only in very small thanks to Jeff Driskel.
Sadly, it only gets worse from here.
Between 2013 and 2014, Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg, and Treon Harris all started games. Unless you are a diehard Florida fan, I bet you have absolutely no idea who those other three guys beside Driskel are. The Gators went 4-8 and 7-5, respectively, and Will Muschamp was fired before the 2014 season ended. The Gators QB room was in shambles during these two years, and none of the four guys mentioned here could keep the starting job for an extended period of time, either due to injury or just downright bad play.
In 2013, Driskel went 42 of 61 for 477 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Skyler Mornhinweg went 44 of 63 for 344 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. And finally, Tyler Murphy went 112 of 185 for 1,126 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Yikes.
In 2014, Driskel “bounced back” and went 114 of 212 for 1,140 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Treon Harris went 55 of 111 for 1,019 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. Double yikes.
The Muschamp era ended, and the Jim McEwain Era began.
And it was pretty much just as bad. In 2015, the Gators finished 10-4, an albeit solid start for McEwain, but the QB situation was still just as rough. Treon Harris threw for 1,676 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. However, it looked as though Florida’s QB situation might finally be figured out, after a shocking performance from a seemingly unknown player. On October 3rd, 2015, quarterback Will Grier got the green light to start against number #3 ranked Ole Miss at home, and put on a dazzling performance. Grier went 24-29 with 271 passing yards and four touchdowns, and all four touchdowns came in the first half. The Gators destroyed Ole Miss 38-10, moving them to 5-0 and 11th in the AP poll.
It was a remarkable win, and with another solid performance against the Missouri Tigers the next week, Gator Fans could hardly contain their excitement. It looked liked Florida had finally found its QB.
And before Gator fans could be hopeful for at least two full weeks that they had finally found a quarterback, it all came crashing down.
Grier was suspended on October 12th, 2015 for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Grier never played another snap for the Gators after the suspension. He transferred to West Virginia, and after sitting out the 201 6 season, Grier had two very good seasons, throwing for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in both 2017 and 2018 for the Mountaineers.
The Gators finished the 2015 season 10-4 after starting 6-0. Such a disappointing finish to the Will Grier era at Florida.
2016 was much of the same: Quarterback disappointment.
In 2016, Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio were the QBs for the season. Appleby threw for 1,447 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and Del Rio threw for 1,358 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Gators finished 9-4, and somehow had won back-to-back SEC East titles, but were destroyed by Alabama by a combined score of 83-31 in both 2015 and 2016.
2017 was arguably the worst season since 1979 for the Gators. Florida went 4-7 and fired Jim McElwain before the season was even over. Feleipe Franks was the main starter in 2017, throwing for 1,438 yards with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Malik Zaire also appeared in some games, throwing for 349 yards on 32 completions with no touchdowns and a singular interception. The Florida Gators’ Quarterback was the arguably the worse it had been in recent memory, and it prompted a coaching change
Out goes Jim McEwain, in comes Dan Mullen.
Things looked promising in the beginning of the Mullen era. The Gators improved to 10-3 in 2018, and Florida had it’s best season at the quarterback position it had since Tebow left. Franks threw for 2,457 yards with 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions. While that is by no means out of this world, it was something that Florida fans would absolutely take, considering just how bad the Florida Gators’ quarterback play had been since 2010.
However, in 2019, something interesting happened. In a tragic turn, Franks injured his ankle early in the 2019 season, and was forced to miss the remainder of the season. Kyle Trask came in and delivered a fantastic season considering how little he had been prepared, throwing for 2,941 yards with 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. The Gators came very close to handing the 2019 LSU Tigers, arguably the greatest college football team ever, their first and only loss of the season on October 12th, 2019. The 42-28 score doesn’t reflect just how close the game truly was, as Trask threw a late interception with roughly seven minutes left in the fourth quarter that eventually led to a Tigers score. The Gators finished 11-2 in 2019, and looked to be a contending team in 2020.
Then, in 2020, Kyle Trask was by all means one of the best QBs in the country.
Trask lit it up with Kyle Pitts and Kadarious Toney in 2020, throwing for 4,283 yards with 43 touchdowns, the school record for most touchdowns thrown in a single season, and only eight interceptions. The Gators finally had a quarterback!
Except they didn’t have a defense, and a 8-1 start and time at number #3 in the country turned into an 8-4 finish, loosing three games in a row in which LSU, Alabama, and Oklahoma in the bowl game put up 37, 52, and 55 points respectively. The greatest season by a Florida QB in over a decade was ruined and overshadowed by a horrible defense.
2021, and so far 2022 too looks to be right back to bad.
The Gators were a mess in 2021, finishing 6-7 and so far are off to a pretty rough 2-2 start in 2022. Emory Jones was extremely disappointing in 2021, throwing for a solid 2,734 yards, but only 19 touchdowns to 13 interceptions after Gator Fans hoped that he would be a suitable Kyle Trask replacement. The Gators went from loosing to Alabama by two points on September 18th, 2021, to loosing four of their next six games, and almost letting lowly FCS team Samford beat them in a closer-than-the-score-says contest that ended in a 70-52 Gators win. The Gators were awful in 2021, and so far it doesn’t really look all that much better in 2022.
Anthony Richardson, after looking promising against Utah in week 1, looked downright terrible in the next two weeks, throwing for a combined 255 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions against Kentucky and USF. He looked good against Tennessee, throwing for 453 yards and two touchdowns and one interception, but the Gators defense looked just as bad as it looked in 2021, and Billy Napier has already made such questionable in-game decisions. Granted, it is very early in the Napier tenure, but it hasn’t been the ideal start that Gator fans were hoping for.
With the exception of Kyle Trask, the Florida Gators have massively disappointed at the QB position over the last 13 years.
From 1996 to 2009, the Gators had the likes of Danny Wuerffel, Doug Johnson, Jesse Palmer, Rex Grossman, Chris Leak and Tim Tebow throw balls for them. In that 13 year span, they won three national championships, had two Heisman Trophy winners, and only had three seasons under head coach Ron Zook in which they did not win nine games or more. The Gators were 141-39 over that span, with 15 of those losses again coming from failed head coach Ron Zook, the only head coach to coach the Gators during that time other than Spurrier and Meyer. The last 13 years? The Gators are a staggering 97-59. From 1996 – 2009, the Gators won 78% of their games. The last 13 years? The Gators have only won 62% of their games, almost a 20% drop.
Florida Gator football is not what it once was.
I hate to proclaim this, and they aren’t exactly to a Nebraska or Miami level of “former blue blood program” yet, but this football program needs to get back on track with its quarterback position. If that’s with Richardson, great. If not, the Gators desperately need to find their quarterback, and they need to find one soon, and while they’re at it they need to find a defense too. Otherwise, the Gators might be heading down the same ol’ path that Nebraska, Miami, and even Texas have gone down: blue blood programs that just aren’t what they used to be anymore.
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE