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TSK Roundtable: Reactions to Florida firing Jim McElwain, what’s next for the Gators?

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There was big news over the weekend. Here are some of TSK’s reactions.

Florida v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Florida Gators will be looking for a new head coach this offseason. Jim McElwain, who was at the helm for the last 2.5 years, mutually parted ways with the Gators on Sunday. Mac’s quarrels with administration were evidently too much to handle anymore. Some of TSK got together to react to the news and ponder what’s next for Florida.


What do you make of Florida firing Jim McElwain?

Chris Novak: Firing someone in the middle of the season never really helps things, but this was probably going to happen at some point anyway. There seemed to be too much conflict going on between Mac and the administration. The fact that Florida wasn’t winning much this year didn’t do enough to help that cause. And yes, they went to back-to-back SEC Championships. But were they really up to snuff? The offenses were always anemic. The defense took a step back this season, and there wasn’t much progress made offensively, either. Recruiting finally took a step forward for 2018, but now that’s all for naught.

Brandon Cain: Missouri and/or Tennessee appeared to be the likely candidates to fire a coach midseason. Florida though? Not so much. McElwain seemed safe until the Gators lost at home to Texas A&M. Even with back-to-back SEC East division titles, Florida looks like a distant third in the Sunshine State to Florida State and Miami. The Gators will need to make a pitch as good as Alex Faedo can to land a top coach to turn Florida around and keep them competitive against a rising Georgia program in the SEC East.

Jonathan Waldrop: I agree with Chris that it certainly doesn’t help, but UF is lucky in the sense that they have a guy on staff (Randy Shannon) who’s done it before that can see them through the rest of the season. A lot of times these decisions are made without really thinking of the guys that have to do the heavy lifting, but the offense continued to regress and that just doesn’t cut it Gainesville. In the end, it was just the wrong fit.

I’ve always believed that there is a certain philosophy at UF that a football coach has to have to be successful there. Only two coaches have had continued success there in the last 50 years: Spurrier and Meyer. McElwain was not either of those two. And that honestly sucks, because he’s a good coach. He just needs to go to a program that doesn’t have a built-in history of success. For Florida, they were kinda skeevy about it, but, hey, that’s college athletics.

Nicholas Sullivan: We did a roundtable earlier in the season asking who would be the first SEC coach to be fired. A few names floated in my mind, including Barry Odom and Kevin Sumlin, before I landed on Butch Jones. I’m frankly more surprised that he still has his job than that Jim McElwain lost his. With Florida’s struggles this season and the tenuous relationship with the administration, an offseason firing wouldn’t have surprised me. This did.

I guess, in a way, I commend Florida for having the guts to do what Tennessee hasn’t. The biggest concern with this move would have to be the impact on the 2018 recruiting class. A quick offseason coaching switch would have made more sense on that front. But this does give the school ample time to find the right coach.

Tom Stephenson: What the hell, Florida? Before last week, there weren’t even any whispers that McElwain was in trouble. And then you’re going to fire him because he claimed to have received death threats and lost (badly, but still) to Georgia? There’s no way that this doesn’t come off as knee-jerk. I’m sorry, Florida, but you guys are insane.

Joe Boone: Knowing the backstory all along, I am not surprised by these developments at all. Foley’s mantra was to “never delay the inevitable” and it looks like Stricklin is following in the same mold. Abrasiveness and arrogance will get you only so far as a winner and will get you run out of town if you do not win, especially in Gainesville. The reports coming out of the UAA all week spelled doom for the 3-3 coach and I commend Stricklin for getting a head start with the early signing period looming.

Jess Leslie: I was surprised to hear the Jim McElwain news. He led Florida to two straight SEC Championship games in his first two years as head coach. Sure, things weren’t looking great on the field offensively in year three, but I tend to think he would have turned things around had he been given more time. That being said, there have been multiple off-the-field issues that Florida has had to deal with in his tenure as head coach, so maybe Scott Stricklin wanted to have a fresh start with a coach that he brought in.

Who should be the next head coach of Florida?

Chris Novak: Depends, really. I guess. Dan Mullen’s an option, but will he leave State? He seems pretty happy in Starkville, but I’d guess Mullen will be a top priority. Someone like Mike Norvell at Memphis would be an intriguing hire for Florida. Whatever happens, they need to make it right and hope it’s right. Especially with how Georgia has taken an absolute stranglehold of the SEC East.

Cam Newton: Lane Kiffin.

Brandon: If Florida doesn’t go with a big hire, I could see Louisana Tech’s Skip Holtz being the pick. Holtz, the son of legendary coach Lou Holtz, has guided the Bulldogs to three straight bowl wins in four seasons, including Conference-USA titles in 2014 and ‘16.

The Gators could go the fun/wild route by hiring Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and his offensive coordinator/runnings backs coach Calvin Magee in a packed deal.

Jonathan: Whoever it is, Scott Stricklin needs to tread lightly. Don’t be afraid to go big, but don’t dig yourself into a Muschamp/McElwain hole. Basically, don’t pluck from the Saban Tree, again. Nick Saban is Nick Saban. None of the guys who have ever worked for Nick Saban are Nick Saban.

Chris is right about Mullen. The guy knows how to recruit to and win in Starkville and that takes skill. Most importantly, he knows how to develop quarterbacks for the college game. Alex Smith, Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott and, most recently, Nick Fitzgerald, are all Mullen pupils and I can guarantee he can mold Feleipe Franks into a similar type of QB.

And to top it all off, Mullen knows the culture in Gainesville and Stricklin was his last AD in Starkville. Test the waters with Mullen and if it doesn’t look like he’s the guy, get a young gun like Matt Campbell or Jeff Brohm who doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the SEC.

Basically, you either go for the home run hire or you pay less money for a coach is too cocky to know what’s he’s getting into.

Nicholas Sullivan: At this point, I think the first name on anybody’s list has to be Matt Campbell. What he has done at Iowa State this season has been nothing short of spectacular. He apparently won’t come cheap. But, as the article mentions, Florida worked a deal with McElwain and Colorado State. It could do the same thing with the hottest young coach in college football.

Would it be a gamble to risk that much on a fairly unproven coach? You bet, but the options might not be as great as the school things they will be. As mentioned above, Dan Mullen makes sense and would be a fine, safe choice — should he be persuaded to leave. But Campbell would be the home run Florida thought it hit with McElwain.

Tom: Hey, guys? How am I the first person to mention Scott Frost when he has Central Florida in the top 5 of S&P+? Frost is a Nebraska alum and assuming the Huskers rid themselves of Mike Riley, he’s probably going there. But Florida has a lot of advantages over Nebraska, and there’s no harm in making Frost think about it.

Boone: In the past 24 hours, many names have been thrown around and more will be rumored over the next two months. Personally, I am firmly against the reunions with Charlie Strong or Dan Mullen and do not want to see the Stricklin go back to the Saban tree (which i think is unlikely because there aren’t any hot names and the Gators are 0/2 going to that well). And please stop with the Stoops and Gruden nonsense.

We know that the Gators need an offensive fix and Stricklin said as much in his press conference Sunday. Two names that I am looking out for are Oregon’s Willie Taggart and UCF’s Scott Frost who are Chip Kelly disciples although I would not be surprised if Purdue’s Jeff Brohm or SMU’s Chad Morris are considered because of their offensive prowess. Whatever happens, Stricklin needs to get this one right.

Jess: Dan Mullen or Rich Rodriguez. I would also call Urban Meyer to make sure he’s getting more time with his family. You know, since that’s why he left Florida.