Who: Rob Sale, Florida
Title: Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach
Previous stop: New York Giants offensive line coach (2021)
Why he's important: Going back to when Steve Spurrier invented Florida football in 1990, 30-odd years of history tell us the Billy Napier era in Gainesville will go one of two ways. He'll revolutionize offensive football and win a national title or two along the way, or they'll run him out of town relatively quickly. Spurrier and his Fun 'N' Gun brought one title to Florida, Urban Meyer's power spread brought two. Otherwise, Ron Zook got three seasons, Will Muschamp got four, Jim McElwain two and a half, and Dan Mullen four. The Mullen case is especially instructive. His Gators tenure started 29-8, and as October began last he had Florida ranked No. 11 in the AP poll following a 2-point loss to No. 1 and defending national champion Alabama. His tenure was all but over a month later.
So, what's Billy Napier's plan to revolutionize football and dominate the game?
That's a little unfair. Okay, that's a lot unfair. Rob Sale can't be expected to transform the game on his own, in part because he won't be designing and building the offense on his own.
An LSU offensive lineman under Nick Saban, Sale was an original member off Saban's Alabama staff as an analyst and an assistant strength coach under Scott Cochran. In 2011, a young analyst named Billy Napier joined the staff. The pair split after the 2011 national title -- Napier to Colorado State with Jim McElwain (irony!), Sale to run the offensive line at McNeese. Sale's work at McNeese led him to the O-line job at Georgia in 2015, but he was swept out after a year when Mark Richt was let go after that season. He spent 2016 at ULM and then re-joined Napier the following year, at Arizona State, with Napier as the offensive architect and Sale the general contractor.
Sale came along when Napier landed the Louisiana job, with both men moving up a level -- Napier to head coach, Sale to offensive coordinator while continuing to coach the offensive line. That arrangement worked wonderfully. Sale sent three Ragin' Cajuns linemen to the NFL and, eventually, himself, coaching the New York Giants' offensive line last season, Joe Judge's last on the job. (Sale seems to have a talent for joining non-Napier head coaches in their final year.)
Along the way, Napier went 40-12 at UL and oversaw an offense that rewrote the record book. The 2019 offense was the best in Cajuns history, tallying more yards and touchdowns than any in school history.
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT: Tim DeRuyter, Texas Tech
Now at their fourth school together in a relationship spanning more than a decade, Napier and Sale no longer need words to communicate. Grunts and nods will do.
“You don’t have a lot of wasted time,” Sale said this spring. “You don’t have to sit there and shut the door and say, ‘We’re putting in these eight concepts.’ We can just send a text or I can just look at the install and say, ‘Alright we’ve got this today.’
“We can walk past in the hall and say, ‘We’ve got this, they’re doing this’ and it’s, ‘Alright, I got ya boss.’ We can be efficient in other areas. We’ve just been speaking the same language for so long and living on the same page as well.”
For proof of the bond between Sale and Napier, Sale will be the only OC/O-line coach in the SEC this season.
"He's one of those guys that had a relationship with before, kind of a foxhole guy, really a guy that I can lean on and have a great relationship with," Napier said at SEC media days.
So when the Gators inevitably transform offensive football a third time, the revolution will start up front.