Final thoughts on the end of Florida Gators' Jim McElwain era
GAINESVILLE - We'll get into the Florida Gators' coaching search plenty over the coming days (and weeks). Before we do, a few final thoughts on the end of the Jim McElwain era:
• As I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times, McElwain and UF simply weren't a good fit. It's hard to explain, but you could see it every now and then. One example: McElwain was usually in a good mood for his Monday news conference, no matter what happened the previous weekend. Not this year. After the first few times, the AP's Mark Long asked McElwain why he seemed so unhappy.
"I haven't really thought about it," McElwain said. "I apologize if I'm not doing something right."
With the benefit of hindsight, I think he looked like someone who wanted out.
• I didn't think McElwain was a long-term solution at UF, but I didn't expect his tenure to end this year, unless the on-field product was a disaster (worse than a 3-4 start) or he was involved in an off-field scandal. This was somewhere in the middle, and the speed at which it devolved remains stunning. Driving to UF a week ago today, I never would have thought he'd be gone so suddenly.
• Some of McElwain's downfall was his hubris. He had to have it to get by in the Big Sky, but it rubbed people the wrong way - including fans. Somewhere at The Swamp, the epitaph on McElwain's coaching tombstone reads: "I believe I can win with my dog Claire-a-bell."
• If there's one decision that led to this point (beyond the death threat comment and response), it's whatever happened with Will Grier. Before Grier's suspension and subsequent transfer, UF put up at least 28 points four times in six games. The Gators have done so only eight times in the 28 games since then.
• I have no idea what McElwain's future holds. There has already been speculation about him heading to Oregon State, but this messy, toxic, midseason exit will be a problem - even at a program that just endured a messy, toxic, midseason exit. The fact that his on-field product worsened is, obviously, another major problem. Whenever he gets back into the profession (whether it's as a head coach or coordinator), I think he heads back West. The fact that his newborn granddaughter lives in Arizona is something to remember, too. Speaking of babies...
• I'll close with a McElwain story I haven't shared here. My wife and I had our first child in January, between the national title game and signing day. Apparently McElwain heard about it. He gave my newborn son a shout-out at the first news conference I attended afterward. McElwain didn't have to do that, but it meant a lot to me and my family. When my son is old enough, I'll show him the video clip of the head football coach at a top-tier program taking a moment to welcome him to the world. And that, as McElwain would say, is pretty cool.