Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Jones: Would Florida yawn if Jim McElwain left for Oregon?

Here's a rumor you never thought you'd hear.

Oregon is interested in Florida football coach Jim McElwain. Surprising because I thought Oregon liked offense.

Okay, that's a cheap shot.

Here's another:

McElwain says he gets violently ill when watching Alabama on film. Gators fans get nauseous when they see McElwain's offense.

Seriously, though.

It's way too early to know if there is anything to these so-called "whispers'' that Oregon, which Tuesday night fired coach Mark Helfrich, is flirting with McElwain, but my guess is Gators fans wouldn't be all that broken up if McElwain actually left.

Just a sense I get.

Gators fans can't really be too hard on McElwain. In two seasons, he's 18-7 with two SEC East titles. In lots of places, that gets you a fat extension.

But it feels like there's something not quite right about McElwain and Florida. Something feels a little bit off. Square peg, round hole kind of thing.

You just get the sense that Florida isn't crazy about McElwain and, because of that, McElwain isn't all that enamored with Florida.

Again, it's nothing overt, nothing openly hostile. Just a funny feeling that keeps you from automatically dismissing these McElwain-to-Oregon rumors.

Florida and McElwain are stuck in a comfortable relationship.

It's not that bad, certainly not bad enough that either side would openly suggest a break-up. But not so great that university folks need to think about which street should be renamed for McElwain.

McElwain's record is too good for anyone to even suggest that he is on a hot seat. But many, including those who bleed orange and blue, will tell you that record is a tad deceiving. It's somewhat surprising that Florida is playing in its second consecutive SEC Championship Game. That might say more about how lousy Florida's division is than how good Florida has been.

To be fair, not all Gators fans are down on McElwain. Many like the fact that the Gators are a good team and that McElwain seems like a good man who runs a clean program.

But nobody, even McElwain's supporters, are happy with how last season ended and how this season appears to be ending.

Last season, the Gators were 10-1 and ranked 10th in the country then lost their final three to Florida State, Alabama and Michigan by a combined score of 97-24.

This season, the Gators rose to as high as No. 8 and were 8-2 before being pounded by FSU last week. Another stomping is expected this week when the Gators are served up to Alabama in the SEC title game.

And it's how the Gators limp the end of the season with a pathetic offense and no signs of life out of the quarterback.

No quarterback at Florida? That's just crazy.

Because of that, McElwain seems like only a slight upgrade over the last coach, Will Muschamp, who also had a good defense and not even a pulse of an offense.

No wonder Florida fans are growing restless. Instead of being a little more patient to see if McElwain can eventually dig up a quarterback and find some offense, they would rather dream about whom they could get to replace Jimmy Mac.

Jimbo Fisher? Bob Stoops? Dan Mullen? Heck, even Lane Kiffin sounds fun because he can draw up a play or two.

Actually, you know who would make Gators fans perfectly content?

Steve Spurrier.

Not today's Steve Spurrier. Not the 71-year-old Steve Spurrier.

I'm talking Spurrier in his prime — the Ol' Ball Coach who would hang 52 on Florida State and talk smack about Tennessee and put such a hurtin' on Kentucky that it might think about dropping the program.

See, this is part of Florida's problem. Gators fans might not want to hear this, but they still are over the moon with their first love: Spurrier.

No one — not even Urban Meyer — measures up. No one will ever be as loved as Spurrier.

Then along comes a guy like McElwain.

He isn't brash like Spurrier. His aw-shucks persona is the antithesis of Spurrier. Most of all, his sputtering offense looks nothing like the pitch-and-catch, wide-open offense that used to light up scoreboards under Spurrier.

McElwain just hasn't brought enough pizazz to energize the fan base. There haven't been enough victories to suggest that Florida is on its way to competing for a national title anytime soon. It's not a Top 10 program anymore.

No one is looking to run McElwain out of Gainesville, but if he's looking for directions to Oregon, he'll likely find plenty who are willing to point the way.


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