Jim McElwain had barely settled under the lights for his first appearance at SEC Media Days and given a brief statement before he was hit with his first question. It would set the tone for much of what would follow.
Just curious, how quickly do you think you can get things turned around or get this program back to that elite National Championship caliber level? Do you have a sense for what the rebuilding process is going to take yet?
To reiterate: Jim McElwain has been coach of the Florida Gators for about seven months. He has yet to see his team even play an actual game in the SEC. And the questions are already about when he expects to be playing for crystal footballs.
But perhaps McElwain told himself that it was just the first question. Things would surely get better from there. Question Three:
You talked about having time to build something at Florida. The last five coaches in this league that were fired were fired in four years or fewer. How do you turn it that quick, especially in the offense, which is in the state of Florida they expect you to have a great offense with the high school talent. How do you flip that that quick?
Jim McElwain might have been the first coach in the history of SEC Media Days to be faced with a hot seat question before his first loss. And there were other questions along the same vein. McElwain was asked about being the offensive coordinator for two teams that won the national championship. Steve Spurrier's name appeared in three different questions. Urban Meyer showed up twice. There was no mistaking the undercurrent every time those names emerged: The last two coaches to leave Gainesville on their own terms won national titles. Are you up to the challenge?
In fairness to the reporters in the room, those expectations might not be that far ahead of where they are at Florida itself. Even some Gator supporters will admit that it's not a fan base known for its patience. McElwain answered the questions as best he could with the time-honored stock answers: Preach patience and manage expectations --
I think part of the experience of being in this conference is realizing it doesn't happen just overnight. It's something that we know. And yet every time we go to work every day, every time we wake up, our responsibility is to try to go out there and win.
-- and say that you welcome the challenge.
I think one of the things, it's kind of great to have the expectations. That's something that we look forward to and we embrace.
The task McElwain faces in 2015 is not to win a national title or even contend -- no one expects that -- but to show some progress toward that goal. If he does so, maybe the questions will be a little kinder in 2016. If not, they'll only get more difficult from here.