Arkansas loss took McElwain down a peg and taught him a lesson

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Gator fans have seen this movie before.

A pitiful offensive performance, which all started at the quarterback position, paved the way to an ugly defeat to a team oddsmakers said Florida was supposed to beat despite those with common sense knowing better. Oh, and along the way, the defense got so tired from having to play more than they should that they bent, bent some more and finally collapsed.

There’s a word for that type of football. It’s called Muschamp football.

This time, though, Jim McElwain has nobody to blame but himself.

One year after running Will Grier out of town, the aftereffects of McElwain’s own haughtiness finally caught up with him. Oh, yes, McElwain ran Grier out of town. Make no mistake about it. And now it’s about to cost him in a big way.

There’s no denying that Grier did something stupid by taking PED’s, and there’s also no way you can fairly blame McElwain for how the 2015 season played out given that Muschamp left him with no better option at quarterback than Treon Harris. But McElwain took a gamble and opted to remove him from his program entirely, a move that first took effect in the Missouri game. Remember, Grier’s one year suspension would have run out in time for him to play against Mizzou.

Instead, that game against the Tigers began a nosedive for a team that’s now free falling into the depths of depravity.

The first five games of the year would have played out the exact same way they did if Grier had still been in Gainesville because he wasn’t an available option, up to and including Luke Del Rio’s injury and the streak ending loss to Tennessee. But had McElwain not forced Grier away, he would have been back for Missouri- and though he may have been rusty in his first game back, the promise he showed last year was enough to spawn hope that he would only get better from there. And maybe even lead Florida to a national championship.

Instead, Gator fans were forced to watch Luke Del Rio struggle in vain to lead this offense, and only fail more and more miserably with each passing week. You could excuse his performance against Missouri as him being rusty or not 100% after coming back from his knee injury, but he didn’t play well against Georgia and he really didn’t play well against Arkansas- even before he suffered the shoulder injury.

No sooner had fans settled into their seats than Del Rio tried to fit a laser into a small window on a slant route. The ball was batted around, picked by Santos Ramirez and then taken back for seven points. The rest of his day wasn’t much better. Del Rio frequently missed reads and open receivers, twice overthrowing teammates on what would have been touchdown passes and once failing to see a streaking Antonio Callaway and dumping it off to a check down instead. And then there was the duck he floated into double coverage in Callaway’s general direction that was easily intercepted at the goal line.

I’m going to preface everything I’m about to say by pointing out that from a personal standpoint, I really like Del Rio. He’s a good person who does the right thing and works as hard as he can. And it says a lot about his toughness to fight through a shoulder injury to keep playing. But when you get down to the facts, there’s no other way to put this while maintaining objectivity: he was awful Saturday, playing by far the worst game of his career and he’s playing worse and worse every week. Blame his shoulder injury if you want, but he made some bad decisions before it happened as well as after. I don’t doubt that he gives his best effort, and I sincerely do appreciate that, but he’s simply not good enough to lead the Florida Gators into battle against SEC opponents.

And yet this was what you wanted, Mac. You had no reason to push Grier out the door, but you were so stubborn in wanting Del Rio to be your guy, so sure that he was that guy, that you opted to eliminate his competition and make him a lock for the starting QB job. And because you promised us all that you could win with your dog, it was all supposed to be OK.

And now you look like a jerkoff. Treon Harris will be remembered as one of the worst quarterbacks in a seven year stretch filled with some really bad ones, but let’s not forget that he actually didn’t play too badly under Muschamp and Kurt Roper; he only started to go down the drain after your arrival. Now Luke Del Rio, the coach’s son, the smart decision maker and the natural leader, has only gotten worse with each passing week under your stewardship. If you’re really as good at developing quarterbacks as your track record says you are, this wouldn’t be happening.

Let’s face it. Despite still being an obvious upgrade over Muschamp, Mac is not the genius we once thought he was. When I went to bed the night Florida hired Jim McElwain, I fell asleep convinced that he would one day lead the Gators to a national championship. When I went to bed Saturday night, I fell asleep still very much believing that this is possible, but no longer convinced of it as a certainty.

At the same time, it’s worth putting the inverse spin on the same message. If you think McElwain should be fired after this 31-10 loss to Arkansas, you’re every bit as ridiculous and unrealistic as you were to call for his firing at any point last year. Having said that, the case to fire him has gained its first valuable bullet point: the guy Mac hand picked to be his starter has proven to be far less effective than the guy he ran off. That alone is not enough to fire McElwain, so away from the ledge you go. Let’s just call it strike one.

Even the professionals, in any business, make mistakes. The good ones learn from them. And so I don’t by any means want Mac fired. I still like him very much and want him to be my team’s coach. Rather, I hope that he learned a very valuable lesson, which is that he’s a good football coach but not a miracle worker who can turn water into wine, a lesson we won’t be able to see if he learned until next year.

In the meantime, we’re left to cheer for the team that we’ve got right now, one that somehow still controls its own destiny to the SEC Championship Game despite being woefully outclassed against a middle of the pack team from the other division. And cheer for them I will, because in all kinds of weather means that I’ll stick by them even when the man in charge of the program made a mistake that may have cost the program a national championship.

14 thoughts on “Arkansas loss took McElwain down a peg and taught him a lesson

  1. SPOT ON!!! Way to go Neil. Takes a lot of guts to write an article like that when you see these people face to face but you told it like it is. Grier appeared to have all the tools but maybe he not of good character and there were other issues besides just taking the supplement but we don’t know for sure. Regardless, you are so right with your analysis – great job of articulating this debacle.

  2. This is why I like your site so much, Neil. Everyone else is afraid to put someone on blast unless it’s just blatantly obvious. But you don’t mince words: you clearly state that you like McElwain, and in the same breath admit that he fucked up. For most people it’s usually black or white, but life has a funny way of being gray sometimes.

    Listen Mac: you messed up. Bad. Hopefully now you know that you need to actually recruit talent and that you can’t win with your dog after all. You’ll get another shot with Jake Allen in a year or two. Don’t fuck that one up, too. He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would make a mistake as dumb as Grier but if he does don’t you dare run him off to take another stab at proving you can with your dog. Because you can’t. You’ve tried that experiment twice and failed twice…

    In all kinds of god damned weather, smh

    1. Yeah I agree, this is why In All Kinds Of Weather is the best Gator blog on the web. Andy at AA is pseudo-smart but acts all holier than thou and is a PC cop. He’s basically got the world view of PC Principal from South Park except he’s a huge pussy on top of it. Only Gators is a good place to get all the facts but Adam seems afraid to step on any toes. Gator Country is eh, their recruiting info is hit or miss, their writing is unappealing and Spivey is just a plain loser.

      Not to say I agree with everything Neil says either, but 99% of the time he’s right on the money. And even when I disagree with him he at least lays out the argument well enough to make you think.

  3. Really?

    Mac was left with a SHYT sandwich on the offensive side of the ball. He performed miracles just fielding a serviceable line.

    It is ONLY year 2 and Not even finished.

    Grier was not that great. And it is not generally smart to start a Frosh QB.
    That MAY – again MAY – have been a mistake.

    Please, let’s let this play out.

  4. To be totally fair, Grier did something stupid enough that banning him from the program could be argued to be a logical move given that he’d have to miss six games of this year.

    But it absolutely wasn’t necessary, and Mac made a bonehead move. Now we just have to live with it and pray that either Feleipe Franks or Jake Allen are all they were hyped up to be.

  5. Damn, Neil… I thought for a second I was gonna be convinced to dust off my Muschamp craigslist ad and change it to Coach Mac this time.

    There’s a lot of truth in that rant you posted, but I also believe there’s some bizarre voodoo curse on this program that can’t be explained. And I dont know that Grier would have been the answer to this offense’s woes. Nobody can predict that, and being an armchair qb or coach is pointless.

    I feel really bad to Mac right now. He is gonna be vilified by everyone until they reach the mountaintop again.
    Something tells me though, it’s gonna take Saban stepping down before that happens, no matter what. But that’s a different comment for a different day.

    Go Gators

  6. There has to be more to the Grier story. There must have been something else in that drug test to make Mac turn so quickly. He, nor the University could disclose it if that was the case. It would be up to Grier to release it and that will never happen.

  7. Totally agree.. It certainly looked like to me that Grier was well on his way to becoming a special player. He f’ed up for sure, but I for one, was ready and willing to forgive him. What he went thru and the ensuing suspension was way more than he deserved. Yet all indications were that he was going to stay and stick it ouy up until the infamous meeting with his dad and Mac. I’m not buying that he gave Mac an ultimatum to be the starter upon his return to eligibility. More likely Mac highly encouraged him to move on down the road, probably to eliminate a potential qb distraction/controversy for 2016. Sadly, the potential (at the time) of having two good qb options and a qb controversy would have been a good problem to have. Especially compared to what we have now, which is a shit-burger at the qb position. There is no way that Florida should STILL be this bad on offense, starting with the QB. Unexplainable and unacceptable. And make no mistake that SC is going to come into the Swamp believing and expecting to win. My money is on SC doing just that. It’s going to be a loooong rest of the season…

  8. We will find out this week whether we made the right decision with McElwain. Up to this point he has shown he is not a QB whisperer, nor is he a good recruiter. Neither he nor Nuss can create explosive plays on offense. Collins’s defense looks horrible. If he loses to Muschamp I would fire him on the spot.

  9. You speak the truth…plain and simple…there is nothing new about the offense as whole ..they add nothing new week to week and its predictable….they don’t stretch the field vertically…Felipe Franks 6-6 big arm freshman was an LSU commit 4-5 star recruit supposed to be quarterback quru..develop him and balance the offense..or watch him transfer.Coach Mac is living off Muschamp defensive recruits…

  10. Neil I remember when you first started blogging about the GATORS years ago and you are still doing a wonderful job. I have felt like this program has went from sugar to shyt every since Tebow left. Never understood why we didnt try to hire Dan Mullen or Charlie Strong from the day Urban Meyer decided to leave. Instead of recruiting a dual threat QB like all these other teams that make it to the big games year after year, we settle for transfers! Oh yeah, transfers only transfer for 1 reason. You figure that 1 out… Its not all Mac’s fault, but please take control of the play calling. We have top notch athletes that for some reason are absent on gamedays. How do you plan on selling the program to a talented kid that wants to wear the orange and blue? Get it together or we will continue to be a laughing stock in the SEC East. Go Fucking GATORS !!!!

  11. Putting Appleby as the No. 1 quarterback reminds me of a coach looking to run out the clock at the end of the game because he is afraid of the team making a mistake. I believe McElwain is running scared after last weeks loss to Arkansas and is looking to a guy to lead the team that will not be around next year. He is afraid to start a freshman because he is afraid of the criticism he will face if he loses. He is running scared. If we had a coach that had a lot of self confidence, we would be starting a freshman and building for the future.

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