We're still days (probably weeks) away from the Florida Gators naming their next head coach. That gives us plenty of time to examine some potential candidates to replace Jim McElwain. I intended to list these all by Bovada's betting odds, but we're switching the order today to get to…
Current ESPN analyst, former head coach at Oregon, 49ers and Eagles
Odds he's UF's next head coach (per Bovada): 8/1
Why he makes sense: I don't know if you've heard, but the Gators' offense has been dreadful since Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer left. Kelly might be the sharpest offensive mind on the market. Kelly was 46-7 from 2009-12 at Oregon, where he made it to four consecutive BCS bowl games (including one national title game). His team's scoring offense in that span:
36.1 points per game (eighth nationally)
41 ppg (first)
46.1 ppg (third)
49.6 ppg (second)
If Kelly put up those kinds of numbers at Oregon with a system predicated on speed, what could he do with Florida athletes?
If money matters, he's still getting paid by the 49ers after failing in San Francisco, which could make him cheaper, at least early in his contract. Don't let his unsuccessful NFL tenure fool you; plenty of great college coaches have failed in the pro game, including one Head Ball Coach who still has an office in Gainesville.
Kelly is also regarded as an innovator in other ways, like sports science/nutrition.
The buzz around Gainesville is that Kelly wants this job, and he would be the splashiest hire of the offseason (unless the Vols somehow land Jon Gruden).
Why he might not work: Kelly received an 18-month show cause penalty for recruiting violations at Oregon. That penalty has since expired, but the stain remains. UF prides itself on winning with integrity, so a previous instance of NCAA violations is a major negative. So, too, is the fact that UF's administration would have to explain itself to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey before the hire. Not a deal breaker, but not good.
Kelly's personality might be a problem, too. Some Eagles seemed to think he was racist. Regardless of that idea's validity, Kelly isn't known as a rah-rah team player. His personality seems more in line with the guy UF just got rid of – McElwain. Would the Gators really want to go down that road again?
One lesser issue: Kelly isn't regarded as a great recruiter; his Oregon recruiting classes were ranked 30th, 12th, 12th and 14th. The Gators are in this mess thanks in part to poor recruiting in McElwain's first two classes. That problem can be solved by hiring the right assistant coaches, but it's worth mentioning.
Final thoughts: I switched up the order of this series because there's some fresh speculation about Kelly, after Yahoo! Sports reported that the Gators are vetting him. Of course they are. They'd be foolish not to look at a coach with his resume. But there are a lot of steps between vetting and hiring. AD Scott Stricklin – whose Twitter game has been fantastic – responded to a thread about UF wanting to hire Kelly, except former AD Jeremy Foley is in the way: "There is a lot of bad (i.e. incorrect) info out there, but this is a whole other level of bad info."
Our Tom Jones is among those who think UF should hire Kelly. If Kelly didn't have the NCAA problem in his past, it'd be an easy choice. But he does, and that's going to make the Gators think long and hard about hiring him.