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Memo to Jim McElwain: Later, Gator

By Martin Fennelly
MONICA HERNDON | Times Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain at the start of the fourth quarter of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field, in Jacksonville, Fla. on October 28, 2017. The Georgia Bulldogs won 42-7.

JACKSONVILLE — Why was that man smiling as he walked off the field?

And why wait?

End the Jim McElwain error at Florida.

The Florida-Georgia game, "The World’s Largest Outdoor He Offered No Additional Details," offered up a 42-7 human sacrifice Saturday. The blowout, and McElwain’s bizarre, self-inflicted week leading up to it, should seal the deal for Florida’s interim head coach.

The McEl-mess could end as early as today.

Who are the man’s allies at this point?

What did it say about the current state of the nation that UF athletic director Scott Stricklin had to issue a statement on Florida-Georgia day to refute a rumor that the school and McElwain were negotiating a buyout?

After the game, a candid McElwain sounded like someone who had 1˝ half feet in the grave. He said he didn’t find out about the buyout rumors until he was on the way to the team’s pregame meal, adding, "The eggs didn’t taste too good."

McElwain knows full well what goes into this omelet.

"At the end of the day, I was brought here to win, and we haven’t done that," he said.

Would he be surprised if Saturday was his final game?

"Nothing in this world surprises me," he said. "I know what I was brought here to do. We haven’t been good on offense. I get it. We’ve won a few games, but we haven’t won enough, haven’t won a championship. That’s real. That is this business. I take full responsibility for all of it."

Losing to Georgia isn’t what seals McElwain’s fate. I’m not sure a win over Georgia would have unsealed it.

There is clearly something in the air beyond winning and losing — an apparent distance and disconnect between the head coach and his employer, a glaringly open wound after his death-threat chatter and his refusal to offer details. A few last shovels full of dirt.

Really, McElwain’s fate might come down to something simple: Who likes this guy?

McElwain doesn’t seem to have many friends and protectors at this point, including inside the university’s athletic department. McElwain has always come off as an outsider — and nearly three years into his job.

The only question is what will go on the tombstone.

Will it be, "He offered no additional details" as McElwain refused to do this week, even with UF administrators, after he mentioned there were death threats directed at his program?

Will it be, "I believe I can win with my dog Clare-a-bell," when McElwain the quarterback whisperer was introduced as Florida coach?

Or will it be a late entry: "Leave No Doubt 14.5" — the T-shirts McElwain, his staff and players wore this week, pointing out that Georgia had been listed as a 14.5-point favorite for Saturday’ game.

Leave No Doubt.

The Gators didn’t. They’re 3-4

But there’s more to this than just the losing. Florida’s athletic program has long prided itself on everyone rowing in the same direction, no popping off, no room for arrogance, all for one. It’s not a place for a lone wolf. By many accounts, McElwain appears to be that wolf.

When you win like Nick Saban, you can rub people the wrong way. When you don’t win like that, and it’s Florida, and you throw in felony arrests of players and zero style points on offense, it’s trouble.

The telling sign: Florida did nothing to truly back McElwain after he spoke of death threats, then — all together now, kids — offered no additional details! I think that was the last straw.

UF did not even try to place McElwain in the overhead rack. He was thrown under the bus.

"At the end of the day, I was brought here to win," McElwain said. "And we haven’t done it."

Start passing the hat around, Gator boosters. It’s buyout time.

And it should be.

Contact Martin Fennelly at [email protected] or (813) 731-8029