All they want to be is entertained, these Florida fans who now been waiting seven years since Urban Meyer did just that.
It has been seven years and two head coaches since Meyer carried on Steve Spurrier’s legacy. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen would be the logical choice in the wake of Jim McElwain’s firing on Sunday, but for now, that’s less of a discussion than how it got so bad offensively at Florida in the first place.
Will Muschamp, you can almost understand. The Gators were his starter job as a head coach in 2011. As recently as 2012, Muschamp was what Kirby Smart is today — that is, a first-time SEC coach at 8-0 in his second season.
But the entertainment value was never there. And at Florida, that’s the first box that needs to be checked. The problem now is lengthy, chronic and mysterious.
Points sell everywhere. National scoring records are being set almost every year. Most of the head coaches being hired are from the offensive side of the ball.
Will Mullen or Scott Frost be an automatic fix? Consider McElwain seemed like the perfect replacement for Muschamp in 2015, dropping in almost directly from Nick Saban’s tree. He was an accomplished coordinator with two rings and Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram, 2009) on his resume.
If you can explain what has happened since, you might have a better batting average lately than revered former athletic director Jeremy Foley, who is now 1-for-4 in his football coaching hires.
In fact, Sunday was 13 years and three days to the day the Zooker was axed after losing to Mississippi State.
This is more than a trend, it’s becoming the Gators’ brand. If you’re going to blame McElwain today, you must pass some of it to Foley and Muschamp from yesterday as well. The wear is beginning to show on a still-proud program.
Florida was run out of the its rivalry game with Georgia by five touchdowns on Saturday after running its collective mouth during the week. It was a week during which McElwain claimed his family and the entire team received death threats. That may or may have not have happened. The point is that’s not an accusation thrown around lightly.
When the administration asked for proof, McElwain waffled. That, more than anything, may have gotten him fired after seven games. It also might be why the administration isn’t OK with paying his entire buyout.
I like McElwain. Still do. He’s a proud man.this past spring when a couple of us asked about his emotions during that disgusting shark episode. McElwain called it “an indictment upon society.” He was right. No one should be treated that way.
He was also right about the fans who didn’t give him enough credit for winning those two division titles. There are fans at Tennessee, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Mississippi State — I could go on — who would kill for their teams to play for the SEC title once.
But Florida fans were spoiled. They were also bored. They are used to being entertained. Letting Alabama blow you out by 38 points is not entertaining. UF was 0-6 against the three best teams it faced in McElwain’s tenure — Bama, Florida State and Michigan — with all of those losses coming by large margins.
Lately,every day drawing ball plays as athletic ambassador. I don’t know whether McElwain ever used those plays, but did anyone ever ask Spurrier what he’d do? The Head Ball Coach would have made a hell of a consultant since, you know, he set the standard at Florida.
Meyer changed the course of his career and the Gators program by choosing Florida over Notre Dame in 2005. Since his departure, it’s just been kind of an offensive wasteland in a division that is seemingly winnable every year.
There really is little explanation. There were distractions. Florida lost three games in the last few seasons due to hurricanes. There was an NCAA violation (Will Grier) and have been injuries, arrests, suspensions, recruiting hits and misses.
I spoke to two former coaches this fall who gushed about the talents of quarterback Feleipe Franks in recruiting. So far, Franks hasn’t developed. Neither has any quarterback at Florida pretty much since Tim Tebow.
“We’ve been blessed at Florida,” Spurrier said, “but they’re hard to find.”
Except that UCF is undefeated with talented sophomore McKenzie Milton, the nation’s most accurate (72.9 percent) and efficient (199.68 rating) passer. Milton was recruited to Oregon while Frost was there. Turns out those talents translate whether you’re in the Pacific Northwest or Florida.
Oklahoma is winning with two-time walk-on Baker Mayfield, already a Heisman Trophy finalist. Grier, now at West Virginia, is tied for the national lead in touchdown passes (28). He was forced to leave Florida in 2015 after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance.
Would Grier have saved McElwain’s job? Judge for yourself after reading this.
Instead, Florida sits at 3-4, 113th nationally in total offense, with Malik Zaire finishing up the rout by Georgia on Saturday. Even worse for Florida, the best program in the state is Miami, followed by UCF and South Florida.
You will hear Frost’s name long and loud at Florida until McElwain is replaced.
McElwain will be remembered for what he didn’t do — get the ball in the end zone more often — than what he did in winning consecutive East Division titles at Florida for the first time since 2008-09 under Meyer. Those Meyer teams were championship-caliber. McElwain’s division champs seemed to be the best of a mediocre group in the East.
The firing signals more upheaval in the SEC. The league began the season with six coaches with tenures of three years or less. It is ending with seven coaches either fired or on some degree of hot seat (Texas A&M, Missouri, Ole Miss, Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Auburn).
How did it get this way? Again, a mystery. McElwain has two championship rings from Alabama. Saban still swears by him. McElwain succeeded in his starter job for three seasons at Colorado State. In 2014, the Rams scored 58 touchdowns, 34 points per game and McElwain was Mountain West Coach of the Year.
The next year, he took over for Muschamp and never got out of the offensive mud, unable to finish higher than 12th in the SEC in total offense (out of 14 teams).
There is no doubt McElwain flamed out spectacularly. This thing might have fixed itself eventually. As Mac tended to remind us, he did win those two SEC East titles. But McElwain always seemed to be at odds with Florida fans. He was never appreciated enough, but that’s par for the course among the 90th percentile of college football coaches.
Most of them can never do enough.
McElwain also slowly and surely eroded any goodwill he built up and burned it to the ground. There was the random, unsubstantiated mention of death threats and a strange tweet featuring Nebraska gear.
Florida fans are hungry for touchdowns. A third coach since Meyer will try to gorge them again.
For the very latest recruiting fallout from Jim McElwain’s firing, check out GatorBait.net. They’re on the ground in Gainesville with up-to-the-minute coverage, including updates on who will be the Gators’ next coach and how the future of the team will be changed forever. Visit now!
Jim McElwain could not deliver on promises of entertainment or offense at Florida – CBSSports.com