JACKSONVILLE — A strange week in a strange season received a moment of clarity Saturday night.
Jim McElwain came clean.
He probably knows what is coming and in an effort to head off possible Florida efforts to fire him with cause over the “death threats” flap, McElwain basically said what a lot of Gator fans have been thinking, tweeting and shouting from the ledges of tall buildings.
That he has done a lousy job of coaching this football team.
“We were all brought here to win and we haven’t done it,” McElwain said in a post-slaughter news conference where he was the most candid he has been at UF.
“We haven’t been good on offense and I get it. We’ve won some, but we haven’t won enough. I take full responsibility for all of it.”
That may have been an effort by McElwain to make the decision on his future all about football or it could have been his awakening to the reality of the situation.
Or it could just be that this pummeling administered by Georgia knocked something loose in his noggin.
But after watching his team get destroyed by a bunch of Bulldogs, McElwain looked like a defeated coach walking off the field holding his wife Karen’s hand for what was possibly his final Florida-Georgia game as a Gator.
There are a handful of reports out there, enough of them that some of them are probably correct. I know this — McElwain could be fired today or he could be fired next week or he could be fired when the season is over.
But the chances of him being retained past this season have dropped dramatically and it has nothing to do with last night’s result.
This isn’t about football even though this season is heading in such a bad direction I’m not sure anyone WANTS Florida to reach bowl eligibility because it would mean having to watch this offense for an extra game.
It’s about everything I wrote about Thursday involving culture, stubbornness and doing things the right way.
The football part is just making it easier to shovel more dung on an ever-growing pile.
I could talk about the football part of this awful display, but it’s almost too easy to point out how badly outplayed and outcoached this team was Saturday.
So I’m not going to bore you with the details of brain-dead play calling at the goal line in the second quarter when Florida still had a chance.
Or the Gators’ inability to stop one simple isolation play that Georgia used to run for a big chunk of its 292 rushing yards.
Or Feleipe Franks having his worst game as a Gator (and that’s saying something) and then snapping at a reporter who asked why the offense hasn’t improved this season. (It hasn’t).
You saw it, saw all of the numbing penalties (14) and all of the pathetic passing plays (most of them) and all of the differences between the two programs, a gap that escalated almost as quickly as McElwain’s fall from Gator grace.
You saw it, those of you who didn’t turn it to another game or go outside and wash the car.
The football part was the least surprising part of the day. Georgia is really good. The Bulldogs have better players and coaches than Florida. A program that came in with 20 knots on its head in the last 26 games made up for about half of them in one game.
Instead, let’s talk about the way the day began. After a trying week where the noise got so loud it could not be ignored, McElwain delivered some more to his team at pre-game meal.
Florida AD Scott Stricklin met with the coach to tell him that a Saturday morning report that Florida was negotiating a buyout with McElwain’s agent Jimmy Sexton was false.
“First I had heard of it,” McElwain said. “My eggs didn’t taste real good.”
But he told his team about it anyway. For all of the things that have been said about McElwain, his players love him. So right before they board a bus to play in a season-saving game, he puts that in their heads.
Just another bad decision that isn’t about X’s and O’s.
“What he told us stays in that room,” cornerback Duke Dawson said.
He didn’t need to tell us what effect it had on the team.
We saw it right from the start.
Georgia ran eight plays from scrimmage and it was 21-0.
The players who spoke to the media after it was over had a standard reply when asked about McElwain’s future.
Now we brace for the biggest question.
When will the plug be pulled? It seems inevitable and McElwain’s demeanor said a lot about where this thing is heading. He went from the usual evasive guy talking in circles to a coach who seems resigned to what is going to happen next.
So he was candid.
And the truth was painful.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.