Take a damn breath, Florida fans, it will all be OK

By Adam Silverstein
November 26, 2017
Take a damn breath, Florida fans, it will all be OK

Image Credit: ESPN Images

The college football season — regular season, mind you — ended less than 12 hours ago at the time these fingers are hitting the keyboard, and Florida Gators fans are in full-on panic mode … and have been for a few days now.

Alright, calm down, relax, start breathin’ …

I’m not trying to be patronizing here, but this entire coaching cycle — and the vast range of emotions that come with it — is so predictable that we created and have already filled out an entire bingo sheet of assumed rumors, activities, fan sentiments and the like over the last month.

Don’t you worry, Florida will hire a new head football coach.

Are you going to like him at first blush? That remains to be seen. Will he be the “next Urban Meyer” or “just like Jim McElwain?” It’s impossible to know until the person takes the job and gets to work.

What I can tell you for sure is that you’re freaking out over nothing. Yes, I get that you’re exceedingly frustrated after, as one follower called it, “eight years of mediocrity,” but that’s not what this is about.

Every time a coach gets hired (one so far, Chip Kelly by UCLA) or another is fired (most recently, Todd Graham by Arizona State) panic sets in about the market drying up, too many jobs being open or the Gators potentially not getting their first choice.

What I can tell you — this is now my fifth time covering a head coaching search for Florida (four football, one basketball), and that doesn’t count the numerous coordinators the Gators have needed to hire over the years — is that this situation is extremely unique both in the timing of UF’s decision making and in the top candidates the program has considered for this job.

Unlike Ron Zook and Will Muschamp, both of whom were on the chopping block entering what became their final seasons, and even Urban Meyer, who briefly retired the year prior only to return and thus UF had some expectation he could leave again after 2010, there was no plan to oust Jim McElwain this season. He forced the Gators’ hand in that regard. It happened in a sudden fashion without much notice.

Florida had little choice but to “part ways” with McElwain, and doing so in the middle of the season was the right move by athletic director Scott Stricklin not because of what went down and how it transpired but because Florida needed to have a jump on the rest of the college football world. There are many other ADs who would not have had the foresight to make that decision and get out from under McElwain’s bloated contract the way he did.

And despite striking out on Chip Kelly — yes, they struck out on Kelly, more on that in a minute — the Gators are still well ahead of the pack.

Ultimately, there is one consideration that needs to be made at the end of this saga: Will Florida football be better off with its new coach than it was a few months ago? If the answer is “yes,” particularly if it’s a resounding “yes,” that’s a net positive for the Gators no matter how rocky the path taken to get there.

It’s Nov. 26. Florida has not hired a coach before Dec. 2 (Jim McElwain, 2014) since well before Steve Spurrier donned his visor at the field now named after him. There are extenuating circumstances this year with the first early signing period where getting a coach in as soon as possible is a massive benefit, but the Gators are still on pace to do that — at least as this is being written.

So take a breath. Calm down. Relax.

You will have a new coach soon. Just hope he’s better than the last one.

While I have you, let’s take an opportunity to dispel some misconceptions, answer questions and brush off opinions about the rest of this coaching search.

Florida struck out on Chip Kelly
Yes, it did. There is no denying that. How it went down — whether Kelly did sign a back-dated contract and went back on his word to take UCLA, or UF was simply ahead of the pack due to its open position but still wound up missing on him — is irrelevant. What is not accurate is to say that Stricklin slow-played the process. The Gators clearly locked in on Kelly, but it’s not as if the Bruins fired Jim Mora Jr. and suddenly decided on Kelly. The firing and decision to pay a massive $12 million buyout to Mora was almost certainly done with the knowledge that Kelly would take the job if available and if he liked what he heard about the program’s investment in the future. Furthermore, it is insane to think that Kelly picking UCLA over Florida is somehow indicative of the quality of the Gators’ job. This decision was made because of fit. That’s not changing the narrative, it’s a fact. What Florida deserves criticism for is not “missing” on Kelly but rather seeming to go all-in on him as a top target while it should have known his reservations.

And for those of you upset because you were “told” Kelly-to-UF was done, you clearly got your hopes riled up by listening to blatantly false “reports” as opposed to taking our advice, being patient and just letting this coaching search unfold in front of you. I know waiting is the hardest part, but if you don’t, stuff like this happens.

The Gators may miss on Scott Frost, too
It’s not only possible, at this point, it might be likely. And on this one, more criticism may be deserved. If early reports are to be believed that Nebraska and Frost is already a “done deal,” then it would be clear overtures were made and negotiations began well before the season ended with Frost’s representatives. Everything about Florida’s interest in Frost to this point had it choosing to wait until after the season was over to make first contact, which is reportedly coming on Sunday. That first contact may have come exceedingly too late with the Cornhuskers already going all-in on Frost — even while they still had a coach — with the Gators doing the same with Kelly. But whether being “first” in the Frost pursuit would actually change his ultimate decision is an unknown. As with Kelly, Frost appears to be a unique cat who — unlike Urban Meyer — may value returning to his alma mater over a program better suited for his style and in a better position at which to win national championships. While that, in some ways, runs counter to what we were led to believe about Frost, it appears to be accurate. And if that’s the case, it’s not UF’s fault either.

Florida should hire _______
The Gators are not hiring Steve Spurrier, Les Miles, Lane Kiffin, Bret Bielema, Mike Leach or Kevin Sumlin. Hey, I’m just responding to myriad nutty tweets I get on a daily basis here.

What if there is something we’re missing?
This question was also posted to me on Twitter, and I think it is a legitimate one. Florida may have had Kelly and Frost 1-2 on its list. And it also may have been concentrating on Kelly (who was out of work) and Frost (a fan favorite) while working on something behind the scenes. Don’t forget: Every coach besides Kelly in whom the Gators might be interested may not have been available to initiate discussions until Sunday. Whether that means there’s a wild card candidate or Florida is going after some massive fish not previously reported — Justin Fuente? Chris Petersen? James Franklin? — remains to be seen. Again, it’s still really early despite the Gators’ job being open for a month now. And while none of this may be the case, it’s a plausible consideration at this juncture.

OK, we’re in a good spot now and Florida basketball is about to play Duke in nine hours. Don’t worry, we’ll pick this up again soon.


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