Steve Spurrier opens up about Jim McElwain, Florida football, Gators’ coaching search

By Adam Silverstein
November 10, 2017
Steve Spurrier opens up about Jim McElwain, Florida football, Gators’ coaching search
Football

Image Credit: ESPNI

With the Florida Gators floundering this season and attention now being paid to the program’s coaching search as it looks to hire a fourth coach to open a season in the last nine years, everyone wants to know what former Florida national championship-winning head coach and current Gators ambassador Steve Spurrier thinks of the predicament his alma mater finds itself in.

In an extensive interview on Thursday with The Buddy Martin Show, Spurrier shared some candid opinions about the state of Florida football, former head coach Jim McElwain‘s tenure, baseless rumors about former Gators defensive coordinator Bob Stoops, whether he’s had any inclination toward returning to coaching and an incident in the Florida facility that almost made him cry.

Here are some choice thoughts from Spurrier’s conversation, which can be listened to in full by clicking here.

On McElwain’s tenure with and departure from the Gators:

I think he’s a good coach as far as really getting the players ready to play. I thought our guys came with energy, fire and passion just about all the time. And we won a bunch of close ones and then we lost those two close ones … and then the Georgia game … and the death threats … and whatever. Maybe it was time for a change. Offensively, no, I don’t think [we were good], but you know, he really didn’t run the offense. Coach [Doug] Nussmeier runs the offense and he tries as hard as he can to run a good offense.”

On Florida’s offensive problems and running his old system (with a humble brag):

The offense we ran in the 90s, that’s not what they do here now. People always say, ‘Well, Coach Spurrier, why don’t you give them some ball plays?’ I say, ‘Listen, every play that we ran in the ’90s is there on video at the University of Florida. If they want to go back and watch Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews throw all those touchdown passes — we led the nation in touchdown passes through the 90s, more than any other school — it’s all on tape there. Go back and watch it. They don’t do that. Coaches coach what they know, and they coach how they’re comfortable coaching. And the way we coach at Florida now is not the way we coached back then. I’m not saying ours was a whole lot better – maybe it was – but they’re trying the best they can to coach what they know. It was hard for me to try to give some positive ball plays here and there.”

“There’s probably three guys in America that could coach the way I tried to coach it back in the ’90s. Shane Matthews is one of them. I watched his son Luke the other day on video; he took his steps, looked to the left and all of a sudden fired the perfect strike to Keith Kelsey’s son going down the right sideline. I said, ‘Dang.’ … Shane can coach the way we coach. Danny Wuerffel could. And son Steve [Spurrier] Jr. Steve Jr. was with me about 17 years as a coach, and he was a ball boy at Duke. My son Steve Jr. could coach this offense. Those three guys could run an offense similar to what we did in the ’90s. There’s a lot of running in there; it’s not all passing. You can’t just give somebody a ball play. The quarterbacks got to know [the decisions, progressions and options]. Things like that have to be taught in repetition all the way through spring ball, through the summer and then preseason and then the season. That’s how you develop a really good quarterback.”

On a recent moment at UF that nearly made him cry:

“I was getting a workout on the treadmill, bike and so forth. One of the players came by. I said, ‘Good luck Saturday, man, have a good one.’ He sort of said, ‘Coach, we need you here.’ I almost started crying. I said, ‘You guys will be alright, go get ‘em.’”

On his hope for the future of the Gators:

“Hopefully, we’re going to get a coach that everybody believes in, and he’ll hire an excellent staff. Hopefully, one or two Gators on the staff I think would be helpful. It’s not always completely necessary, but I think it would be good to have some more Gators represented in the coaching staff, I really do. And there’s some excellent coaches on the staff now; I really believe that also.”

“Scott Stricklin, our AD, he’s well-connected around the country, and I believe we’ll have an excellent coach here in 3-4 weeks. … The coach is with his team now. The coach we’re going to hire is probably – I would almost 100 percent say – is coaching his team today, this weekend and through the end of the season and maybe through the bowl game.”

“Florida is going to be OK. We’re behind a little bit now, and I sort of wish the attitude is, ‘Hey, we are behind!’ … We’ll get a good coach in here. But do I miss being on the sideline with [my Florida star players]? Oh, sure! … We’re going to get a good coach in here. The Gators have got to be ready to really get behind the next guy. And hopefully we bring in a guy who is proven, he’s proven he’s done some good stuff, maybe at other places. And if he’s done good stuff at other places, he’ll do real well here at Florida – very well.”

On whether he cooked up a plan for Bob Stoops to return:

“Someone started a rumor that I had told Bobby Stoops that McElwain would retire this year, he could resign in the summer … and come back. That was really insulting to think that somebody would think that I would do something like that. … That was sort of sad and insulting. If I had done something like that, they ought to take my damn name off the stadium there at Florida. That would’ve been really disgusting if a person would ever stoop to that level to do something like that. No, no. Bobby’s got to speak for himself, but he’s said many times, ‘If I wanted to continue coaching, I just left one of the best jobs in America. … I could’ve easily gone another 4-5 years.’ … Bobby, I think, is very happy.”

On his plans for Florida-South Carolina:

Despite being a Gators’ alumnus and coaching both Florida and South Carolina, Spurrier will not be attending or watching the game on Saturday. Instead, he will be watching David Keene play as Berry takes on Trinity for Senior Day in Mount Berry, Georgia, at 2 p.m. ET.

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