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Florida Football

Anonymous Player Parting Thoughts IV - The end of the McElwain era

May 10, 2018



During each off-season, Inside the Gators interviews an anonymous departing player in order for him to share his thoughts on an array of topics regarding Florida Gators football.

Since there was a coaching change, we changed the focus somewhat this time around.

Two departing players were interviewed and asked more about specific areas and instances rather than a strict look at their time at Florida,  highs, lows, games and such.

In this five-part interview, no topic was off-limits as we discussed Jim McElwain, the strength and conditioning program, Dan Mullen, player assessments and much more.

As an aside, allowing a player to comment anonymously obviously has its benefits and downside. The goal of this feature is to give our readers an honest and freely expressive look at the Florida football team, but we also acknowledge the nature of anonymous comments and the stigma that can come with them.

After winning the East back-to-back, heading into that third season plenty of people still weren't sold on Jim McElwain as the head coach. Why do you think that is?

“Even when we were winning the fans, students around campus, people around town, people back home, no one was happy. It didn't feel like a big accomplishment - like it should be celebrated. That's all I heard, we won the East with defense, we aren't playing like Florida should be playing on offense. He had to defend how we won the East two times, you could see he got defensive about it, but it is true, we had to rely on coach [Will] Muschamp players to win and I think it bothered him. On offense, he had the players he brought in and we couldn't score points, we couldn't move the ball and I think that started to wear on him.

“There was already a lot of finger pointing the first two years and then we lost [Jordan] Scarlett and [Antonio] Callaway and we had no clue what to do. They had their mind set on running a scheme and making the players that they had fit into it instead of adjusting the scheme to the players. I think when we lost the players who were suspended, he knew it wasn't going to work out for him here and he was already set on moving on to something new.

“He still cared about how the media perceived him but after we started to lose games he started to behave like he knew his time was coming. I believe he did care about us [players] but he also understood that at Florida you are expected to win games or you will meet the door."

In what will go down as one of the strangest incidents in the history of Florida football, how did McElwain handle the whole 'death threats' saga with the team?

“He told us before he even talked to the media about it. I know some people think he made it up, but he told us about it in a team meeting. He was like, 'I've received death threats, I know Chauncey [Gardner] has received some threats too,' and I was like, he was legit scared, like he really thought that the threats were real. I think that is part of his peronality, to take things to the extreme. That's why he comes off like he is depressed sometimes. I think there was one post toward his [McElain's] wife that was rude, but it wasn't like lets get the FBI in here and investigate this. I don't know anything about players getting real death threats. I saw some of what he thought were threats – it was some dumb_ass fans giving Chauncey a hard time for missing tackles. You always get someone mouthing off online, but I mean someone really planning something out and really threatening to do something, I never heard any of that. I think some fan acting out probably said something and MAC took it too far. He took it to heart. You are going to get fans acting stupid and saying stupid s__t. That's going to happen. At first it came off as he was trying to make it like he was one of us, he is going through everything we were going through. Like I said, he looked scared when he was telling us, like he was ready to go into hiding, but after he talked to us I saw him five minutes later smiling like nothing was going on. But then I think he made a big deal out of because he really didn't want to be here. I think it was too much for him – too much pressure for him. It goes to the shark thing [meme of a naked McElwain lookalike on the back of a shark]. You can't let things like that upset you if you are going to be a head coach. He was too all over the place to be the leader of a team. I think he is sensitive and he tries to hide it with some of the things he does. It all goes back to him coming off as fake.”

You say because of his demeanor it was hard for him to be a head coach, but on a day to day basis, does he really effect a team that much? Doesn't it still come down to X's & O's and Jimmy's & Joe's?

“When the other team has good coaching and as much or more talent, yeah it matters. Like before Georgia, we barely lost to LSU and Texas A&M but we're still in the running to win our division and we need to win this game. We hear all the BS the week leading up to the game, but this is Georgia, we want a piece of them, so we're in the locker-room getting psyched up. Players are jumping around, going around to lockers and getting everyone hype and everyone had forgotten about all the BS off the field that week and we were ready to hit the field. Then here comes MAC, instead of talking about how this is one of our big rivals and if we win it we still got a chance to reach all our goals and getting us fired up to play, all he talked about right before the game was what was going on with him and the rumors of him getting fired. Instead of letting us put that to the side and focus on the game, he made all the BS about him the center point. He was like, 'don't worry about me, put your mind on the game.' It's like, we already did that, now you brought it back up. The atmosphere in the room went from a 10 to a two. It wasn't only you could see guys reaction to it, some guys were speaking out about it, how is he going to bring all that BS up. This is about us playing a game today. Going in we were hyped up ready to play and he took all the air out of us. Look how flat we were. We were ready for it to be over after he talked to us pre-game. Then when we saw the pictures of him laughing coming off the field, we were ready for his ass to be out of there.”

That game of course was the end of his Florida coaching career. What was your initial reaction?

“We found out the same way everyone else found out. We knew he was probably gone, but we found out the same time as everyone else. They sent us a text message after it was already out. They didn't let us know before that or have a team meeting before they told everyone else.”

One of the most telling quotes about the season, maybe about McElwain's tenure at Florida, came after Randy Shannon was named the interim head coach and talked about having fun and bringing energy to practice. That players are going to feed off the attitude of the coach.

“Coach Shannon embraced the idea of just letting us have fun and play football. That is just coach Shannon's personality. That's why players love him. You know what you are getting with him. He's a rock. He's firm, but laid back enough that he lets you be you. I think the biggest difference between him and MAC is that coach Shannon is coach Shannon and MAC might be five different people in a week depending on what day it is. That gets old, never knowing what you are going to get.

"I'll tell you about coach Shannon, the joke is that the best way to play early at Florida is if you are a five-star or from Miami. If you were from Miami you were going to get your shot because coach Shannon looked out for his Miami players. How do you think he gets so many guys from there? It's because he tells the coaches and parents he has the Miami player's backs and he does. You can't get mad about that. S__t, we all wish we had someone like that. The only defensive player who really didn't like him was Brad Stewart – and where was he from? [New Orleans] Not Miami. Anyone of us would love to play for coach Shannon, I don't think anyone would want to play for MAC.

“I want to put this out there because you know someone reading this is going to think that I hate Florida and MAC. Believe me, besides my family and being a Christian, I am more proud of being a Florida Gator than anything else. Let me see you out wearing something with the Gators on it and I will be the first to throw up a Chomp and say 'Go Gators!' Wherever I end up, you can bet my degree will be framed and hung proudly on my wall somewhere. The same with MAC. I love him as a person. Away from football, he is a good man. I really mean that. If I saw him today I would put my arm around him. I don't think he was a good head coach because I don't think he knows who he really is and wasn't ready for this big a job, but that's not his fault. That doesn't stop me from loving him."

Speaking about which coaches players did and didn't like, who were they?

“Off the old staff coach Shannon, coach [Tim Skipper] Skip and coach [Chris] Rumph were the most liked. Some coaches are all business and there's some that are about business, but will let you in a little because they depend on you for your job. Then there are coaches who are more like family, you can go to any one of them and talk about whatever. That's how those three are. Upfront, they'll get on your butt at practice and you'll be ready to fight them, but then afterward they'll come up, put an arm around you and tell you why they jumped on you and what you need to do. It's not all business with them, they talk about their families, and your family and life. It doesn't seem forced with them, they legit care about you.

“The least favorites were MAC and probably coach [Brad] Davis. MAC, the same as I've been saying, he is a good man, and probably going to be a good assistant coach, but I don't think he is steady enough to be a head coach. Coach Davis, when you first meet him and listen to him he sounds like the real deal, but when you listen to him every day you start to feel like that is a front and he is trying to sell you something."

You brought up the tone of the responses, just to be clear, because the head coach was fired, in this edition of the series we are asking questions pertaining mostly to the negative aspects of McElwain's tenure. Overall though, how would you rate your Florida experience on a 1-to-10 scale?

"On a scale of 1-to-10 my time at Florida was a 20. We didn't accomplish our goal of winning a championship, but I loved it and there were many more good times than bad on the field and off it. Besides I wish we could have won more I wouldn't want to change that much. It's still the best years of my life."


Part V - This & That and a look at returning players
Part VI - Moving forward with Mullen

Anonymous Player Parting Thoughts IV - The end of the McElwain era

9,486 Views | 4 Replies | Last: 4 yr ago by G8rhoo
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His responses here really seem to hit the nail on the head about the grasp so many of us were trying to get on Mac.
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Sheesh..... crazy crazy....

Good stuff as always....
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So yeah, some jerk on Twitter is not a death threat
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