Toxic Swamp: Who Would Want the Florida Job if Jim McElwain is Fired?

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The only drama emanating from the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail, which Georgia led 35-0 in the early fourth quarter, surfaced via Twitter:

A quick rundown of the week’s events:

  • Jim McElwain referenced death threats earlier in the week, to which the University of Florida responded with a statement that McElwain “offered no additional details.”
  • A lawyer kicked off Saturday with a handful of tweets saying Jimmy Sexton and UF brass were actively negotiating Jim McElwain’s buyout.
  • Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde refuted the Twitter reports. This wouldn’t be the first a lawyer in the SEC footprint was off, after all.
  • UF releases a statement half-heartedly denying the report, but with gaping loopholes.
  • Georgia begins its deconstruction of the Gators in Jacksonville.
  • Edward Aschoff and Mark Schlabach report discussion of a McElwain buyout is ongoing.

That about cover it?

Georgia’s blowout of Florida marks the nadir of Florida’s tough season. The Gators move to 3-4 with the loss, while the Bulldogs face a clear path to the SEC Championship Game with little resistance.

Of course, Georgia likely reaching the SEC Championship Game unseats two-time defending divisional champion…Florida. And that’s what is so mind-blowing about the sudden deluge of buyout discussion swirling around Jim McElwain, just midway through his third season.

With today’s loss, McElwain is 22-12 in his time in Gainesville. The trend’s moving in the wrong direction, no question: His first team won 10 games, his second nine (with a cancellation). This season’s squad will be fortunate to reach a bowl game, needing to go 3-1 in November amid talk of its coach’s imminent firing.

Meanwhile, Jim McElwain’s former University of Alabama colleague Kirby Smart is rolling with Georgia. The Bulldogs’ dominance Saturday does nothing to dissuade the notion Georgia could put up more of a SEC Championship Game fight than Florida did the past two seasons, if not unseat the Crimson Tide for that automatic berth int the College Football Playoff.

A rival’s success invokes envy — keeping up with the Joneses, and all that — despite the context of Georgia having been in much better shape when Smart arrived than when McElwain came to Florida.

All the explanations for firing McElwain are clear, just as they were when Will Muschamp — who is overachieving this season at South Carolina — was fired to vacate the position for McElwain.

Still, I am no less dumbfounded a coach eight games removed from this second consecutive SEC Championship appearance appears on his way out.

Florida will be able to offer its next target boatloads of cash, regardless what it pays McElwain in a hypothetical buyout. But my question: Who will want everything else that comes with the job?

Coaching at Florida is competing not just with the SEC, or Florida State (which has its own struggles), or even national championship contenders. A Gators coach is measured against Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.

One doesn’t get into the profession without competitive fire — and if they do, they don’t last long. And what better measuring stick than some of the game’s all-time greats?

And yet, even Meyer, who won a pair of national titles, reportedly bowed out at Florida fearing for his life if he didn’t.

Even when hefty salaries are at stake, football isn’t life and death; at least, it shouldn’t be. One coach fearing for his health and another being publicly thrown under the bus when lamenting death threats suggests otherwise.