So Florida has a new coach in Jim McElwain. And Florida State fans want to know: what does this mean for Florida State? Let's take a look.
On the one hand, we know that McElwain was not Florida's first choice. That was Hugh Freeze. But that does not mean that McElwain was a bad choice.
Part of that is that it is hard to make a bad choice at Florida. The Gators have won three national titles in the last 18 years -- only Alabama can match that. And Florida has won at least 10 games in 12 of the last 20 seasons.
And there is a reason for that. Florida is in an incredible recruiting spot at which it is easy for all high school recruits in a loaded state to travel t to. There's a huge alumni base within reach. There's tradition, the SEC, and facilities that are very good (some articles bang on UF's facilities, and Florida does lack an indoor facilitiy, but remember that really the only thing other SEC coaches have on Florida is those facilities. Not location. Not weather. And for most, not tradition, etc.).
Plus, Miami is not necessarily all that committed to winning, which means the in-state competition is really only Florida State, which isn't easy, but is easier than FSU and Miami firing on all cylinders.
But all that stuff is about the job and not the man.
In McElwain, Florida found an accomplished offensive coordinator and head coach, one who won a title (two, in fact) as the OC for Nick Saban. So here is some stuff to know:
-He played quarterback for a small college,
-He produced four top-10 offenses in his four years in Tuscaloosa, ranking 8th, 1st, 2nd, 1st. That's tremendous production. Yes, Alabama recruits at an insane level (considerably better than any other school in the country), but as FSU fans know, it's certainly possible to get great offensive talent in the Sunshine State. And he was the OC for a 2007 Fresno State team that won 9 games almost solely on the strength of its offense.
-He turned around Colorado State from 4-8 to 8-6 to 10-2, showing that not only can he coach and instruct, but that he can pick and manage a staff and program.
-And he's recruited Florida (Tampa and Orlando for Alabama).
I can think of another former small college quarterback who gets the most out of his quarterbacks, had successful SEC coordinator experience under Nick Saban, and had recruited Florida: Jimbo Fisher.
I'm not saying that McElwain is Jimbo Fisher. While they have somewhat similar career paths, they are not identical. While McElwain got to iron out some of the difficulties of being a first-time head coach on a smaller stage, Fisher did not. What Fisher had, however, that McElwain did not, is an intimate knowledge of all the issues that plagued FSU's program, thanks to being its offensive coordinator from 2007-09.
I am looking forward to covering the recruiting battles in this state, as all three big schools are now running offenses that are at least somewhat "pro style," which in this sense basically means "not no huddle hurry up spread or spread option." If you're Miami, that's all the more reason to run more spread offense.
I'm not going to say that McElwain is a slam dunk hire. This isn't one of those "Alabama just got Nick Saban from the Dolphins" situations. That would be dumb.
I also won't say that Florida will win immediately under McElwain. He may not have a quarterback he likes on the roster, and UF may be in line to experience some real offensive line depth issues in Year 1.
I will say that his track record suggests that he'll do well in the longer term. And I'll say that to expect Florida to be mired in perpetual ineptitude is foolhardy.
The tight coaching market
It used to be that when a major job opened up, every coach was interested. Now, though, it seems that more and more coaches are sticking with their current jobs at places that aren't seen as great jobs. Like an Art Briles at Baylor, Gary Patterson at TCU, Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss, etc.
A big part of this is money. It used to be that only the true superpowers of the sport could offer major salaries. That's no longer the case. Thanks to TV money, a coach can get paid in the elite tier at more jobs than ever. And that makes it tougher to uproot a family and leave a community.
At some point, a big school is going to reset the market and pay a coach $7M annually, and then the trickle down will create more defined spacing. But as of now, this is a tight cluster of wage scale.
Still, I do wonder if those schools now shelling out the big bucks are going to start to expect big results? Or is this just the new price of poker?