In spite of comments directed at his family, Emory Jones mature enough to not let it affect play, Gators coach says

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
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Florida head coach Dan Mullen, left, talks with quarterback coach Garrick McGee during Friday Night Lights last summer. McGee talked Tuesday night about some fans' reaction to Gators' quarterback play.

Having spent the prior two decades coaching at the Division I level, Florida’s quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee understands the fan quandary: through the highs and lows, they’re emotionally invested in the program. 

And McGee realizes many won’t view the game through the same lens, which can lead to frustration or anger when things don’t quite go according to plan. 

However, that doesn’t justify or excuse the treatment Emory Jones and his family have faced this season, said McGee, as the redshirt junior continues his development as Florida’s signal-caller. 

Before the Gators travel to Columbia, Missouri, to take on the Tigers, where McGee spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Florida’s assistant coach was asked about the progression throughout the year from Jones and redshirt freshman Anthony Richardson, and he discussed the areas in need of further improvement as the pair look to close out the SEC slate with a win. 

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“They’re still in the process of learning how to be great quarterbacks, what it takes to be a great quarterback, you know the type of emotional and mental strain that you have to have for 60 straight minutes is something that they're working through,” McGee said. “I always say that every man is made of three parts. Mentally, you got to be right. Physically, you got to understand how to execute your technique and fundamentals, and then emotionally, you have to be strong enough to hang in there and battle snap after snap for a long period of time. And I think they're getting to the point where they're learning how hard it is mentally and emotionally to be a quarterback on this level.”

Florida quarterback Emory Jones accounted for 550 yards and seven TDs in the Gators' come-from-behind, 70-52 win over Samford last Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

There’s little doubt as to how cerebral the game is, though it has to be experienced to be fully understood, while the emotional development of 18-to-22-year-olds is frequently hard to predict and often impossible to accelerate. 

But there’s another aspect of resolve that Jones has shown this season, as McGee revealed Florida’s starting quarterback has continued to battle throughout the year while some fans chose to direct vitriol at games toward his mother, Trina. 

“There was a time in the season, early in the season, where it was hard for his mom to even come to the games. And it was hard for her to sit in the stands during the games, because, you know, people were saying things to her about her son that probably wasn't fair,” McGee said. “And he had to deal with that while he was out on the field trying to execute and worried about his mom who’s in the stands, and those types of things are something nobody talks about.”

Rather than just ignore the issue and hope it dissipated, McGee addressed the discord straight-on with the Jones family. For Jones’ part, it required an understanding that an immaculate performance would be the only way to appease the result-oriented crowd who didn’t understand the trajectory of improvement. 

“We would have these deep conversations, me and him, him and his mother, about how we're going to withstand this and keep battling through this, and, you know, so me and his mom ended up developing a really good relationship. And then the kid just kept grinding,” McGee said. “There was times early in the season where he, I believe one of those early games, he played 60 snaps in the game. He had six really bad plays, and 54 really good plays. But he had to learn that those six bad plays are all that anybody cares about, including us. You know, as the guys that got to get it corrected, those six plays are what's going to cost us games, and those types of things I think he learned during the season just what it's like to be a starting quarterback. It's hard.”

He also defended the team’s supporters, saying their constant devotion to the program can evoke emotions when things go awry; there’s a line that may often be crossed, but McGee understands they have a right to express their dissatisfaction.

“We talked about it: everyone has a job to do. Fans are fans. They want everything to be right. They're going to come to the stadium, they're going to scream their lungs out for us. They want things to go right,” he said. “And when things are not going right, they tend to let that go also, and so we can't expect them to come to the stadium and really scream for us, and yell for us and then not get on us when things aren’t going well, so it's a part of it. It's a part of playing this position at this level.”

It’s not just Trina facing the brunt of fans’ anger, as Jones’ father, Daryl, has attempted to explain the situation to fans while imploring many to have a more positive mindset regarding the play of his son. 

When McGee’s comments made their way to social media, divisive opinions poured in, with many admonishing those who spoke poorly to Trina, while many doubled down and reiterated McGee’s point that it comes with the territory. 

Soon, Jones commented, saying “and that’s sad honestly” in response to McGee’s revelation that Trina felt she could no longer attend Florida’s games; Trina responded, too, saying “Just for the record, Emory Jones’ mother is fine, as is Emory Jones” before encouraging her son to “keep striving.” 

To say he didn’t know this was coming would be inaccurate. Jones watched as fans criticized former starting quarterback Feleipe Franks while calling for him to usurp him in the starting rotation. Again, there’s no formula for speeding up maturation, but having experienced both ends of the spectrum has allowed Jones to continue battling through the noise. He’ll face a raucous crowd come Saturday, but by now Jones has just about heard it all. 

“Feleipe and Emory were best friends just like Anthony and Emory are best friends. There was times when him and Feleipe were standing next to each other and there are people screaming, ‘We need to get Feleipe out and get Emory in.’ And so now it’s all happened in reverse. It was ‘let’s get Emory out and get Anthony in’,” McGee said. “So Emory had been through this situation on both sides, and so his maturity of understanding emotionally how to handle it I think really helped. For him, to just keep grinding and keep playing, he would say, ‘I'm not worried. I'm fine. I’m gonna just keep trying to get better every single day and give us the best opportunity to win.’”

Saturday

Who: Florida (5-5, 2-5 SEC) vs. Missouri (5-5, 2-4)

When: 4 p.m. 

Where: Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Columbia, Mo.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

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