Florida fans should be glad Emory Jones wants to rewrite his final chapter at UF | Whitley
The last time we saw Emory Jones in a Florida uniform was supposed to be the last time we saw Emory Jones in a Florida uniform.
It was two nights before Christmas in the Gasparilla Bowl, the final game of a season Gator fans would rather forget. It ended with a loss to UCF and the starting quarterback looking for a new school.
But there he was on Tuesday, throwing passes at the first day of spring practice. It was an oddly familiar sight, and you know what familiarity supposedly breeds.
Contempt may be too strong of a word, but it’s safe to say a lot of fans looked at No. 5 and saw the ghost of Christmas and seasons past.
Some fans not happy to see Emory Jones back
If you’re not too thrilled that Jones is back, please take a deep breath. There’s nothing wrong with a guy trying to improve himself and change how he’ll be remembered.
“I don’t really see a narrative with myself,” Jones said. “I’m here. I’m excited to be here, working my butt off every day. That’s all I can do.”
There is a narrative, of course.
After patiently biding his time for three years, Jones was supposed to be The Guy last year. A lot of times, he was.
There was the near upset Jones engineered against Alabama. The 550 yards of total offense he personally racked up as once-mighty UF staved off little old Samford.
Jones led the team in rushing and threw 19 TD passes. But you know the rest of the story.
The defenses he misread. The open receivers he never saw. The 13 interceptions.
And the boos.
Jones pretended not to hear them, but they got bad enough that he wanted his mother to stop coming to games. The experience was just too upsetting for her.
Jones never made excuses. He’d own his mistakes and say he needed to get better. But he never really did.
He was pretty much hooted off the field after throwing his third interception against FSU. Everybody figured that was the last they’d see of Jones at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Jones stuck around for the Gasparilla Bowl. That alone should have earned him some love, since by then the Gators didn’t have another QB who’d ever taken a college snap.
Billy Napier's staff makes a difference
A few days after that game, Jones met with the new coaching staff.
“I honestly went in telling them I didn’t want to be here,” he said.
He wondered if the feeling would be as mutual with Billy Napier as it was with the UF fan base.
Napier and QB assistant coach Ryan O’Hara told Jones they’d watched him on film and liked much of what they saw. They put him in touch with Levi Lewis, the obscure recruit they’d turned into a star QB at Louisiana.
“They said that I am very talented, and they can do a lot to change how I played in the past,” Jones said. “I watched film on their quarterback last year. He’s very talented, and he did a lot of great things. That definitely sold me.”
Jones said that after practice Tuesday. Stories were posted online within a couple of hours, and it’s obvious a lot of fans don't want Jones to get another chance. Typical comments:
“This is possibly the worst possible news to kick off spring football.”
“I hear Emory’s got some oceanfront property in Arizona as well.”
There are good reasons to be skeptical that Jones can become an efficient passing machine.
There’s no reason to ridicule him for trying.
At worst, Jones would take some snaps away from an aspiring young QB. Then in a few weeks, he’d decide it’s not going to work at UF and transfer.
If Jones sticks around, the worst scenario is the Gators would have a backup with a starter’s résumé. A lot of teams would love that.
But suppose Napier could cure Jones of his QB ailments. We’d have a comeback story nobody could have imagined not too long ago.
“They think they can make me a way better player than I have shown,” Jones said. “Basically, I just wanted to give them a chance.”
All he wants to do is become the best player he can be. And maybe allow his mother to enjoy a game or two before he leaves.
Why not give him that chance?
David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley