With Darnell Stapleton leaving, Billy Napier has choice to make for Florida Football

The co-offensive line coach took a job with the Washington Commanders

Florida Gators assistant coach for offensive line Darnell Stapleton talks with Florida Gators
Florida Gators assistant coach for offensive line Darnell Stapleton talks with Florida Gators / Doug Engle / USA TODAY NETWORK

Last week when Billy Napier was asked about the coaching staff for Florida Football, he indicated that all positions were solidified and that anyone left who had an expiring contract would be renewed.

That lasted a week as the Washington Commanders announced that Florida's co-offensive line coach Darnell Stapleton would be joining the team in a similar role.

It is possible Napier knew this was coming and has his next move ready to go. It is also possible this caught him off guard and he is scrambling. Either way, Napier has an important macro level choice to make that could dictate his own future in Gainesville.

Florida Football: Choose Your Path

Last year it was on February 22 that Patrick Toney left the Gators to go be an assistant with the Arizona Cardinals. Almost instantly the Gators announced they would be hiring Austin Armstrong and there was no vacancy on the staff as the offseason trudged along.

But that was a swap of defensive coordinators and if it wasn't Armstrong, it was going to be someone else to take over the defense. The departure of Stapleton opens a different can of worms, espcially if this move wasn't anticipated by Napier.

As we and many others have chronicled, Florida is one of the few college programs to employ two offensive line coaches among the ten on field assistants they are allowed. Given the importance of the offensive line the idea has merrit to it, but it also means that Florida has to forego a coach for another group and someone has to double up.

In Florida's case, that means Napier doubles up as the offensive coordinator.

Thus, the departure of Stapleton leaves Napier with a choice to make. He can stay with the status quo and opt to go out and get another offensive line coach. Or he has a chance to make a splash and finally grab an OC.

We are on record of stating that while Florida's offense has been adequate at times, it hasn't been special enough to justify having Napier double up. Napier has stated in the past that calling plays makes him feel more connected to the game and that's fine. But there have been far too many little things that have popped up on the field the last two seasons that feel like could be fixed if Napier wasn't worried about having to call plays while also managing the game.

Plus, on the defensive side of the ball Napier stated last week that Armstrong will call the plays while new addition Ron Roberts will "coach the coaches." If that model is what he wants for the defense, why exactly can't Napier "coach the coaches" while someone else calls the plays?

If we had to guess, Napier will hire a second offensive line coach and life will move on. Based on the hints he was leaving at his press conference last week, it's possible that Russ Callaway is line for an expanded role with the offense in 2024.

Whichever direction Napier opts to go, this opportunity to change course will be circled back to as either proof Napier was right to bet on himself, or as his missed opportunity to right the ship and save it from sinking.