Jim McElwain Reportedly Fired By Florida: 5 Top Head Coach Candidates
After a rough season and a strange few weeks, Jim McElwain was fired by Florida. What’s next? Who are the top five coaching candidates?
It had to happen.
Jim McElwain was never quite the right fit for Florida, and his style never quite took off with the fan base.
The first problem was recruiting. His classes were fine, but they weren’t among the elite of the elite – even if the results were, for the most part, there.
The bigger issue with the fans was the offense. It’s the school of Urban, and Steve, and Tim, and Danny, and fun, and gun, and innovative explosiveness.
Unlike Will Muschamp – who was genuinely likable, and everyone around the program wanted to see succeed – McElwain didn’t engender the same goodwill to overcome the defensive-oriented, grinding style.
McElwain’s offenses didn’t inspire any excitement despite getting to two straight SEC championships – there wasn’t any pizzazz. Getting blown away by Florida State and Alabama two years in a row showed just how far the program had to go.
And then there was the biggest issue overall – he didn’t mesh with the administration.
Add all that together – along with not catching much of a break losing some of his top offensive stars early on to off-the-field issues – and then came Death Threatgate, and then a blowout Cocktail Party loss, and it became time to move on.
So who’s next? Let the speculation begin by getting the silly part of this out of the way first.
No, Florida isn’t going to hire Charlie Strong, Butch Davis or Lane Kiffin – even though any of the three would be terrific.
No, Bob Stoops isn’t coming out of retirement, Jon Gruden isn’t coming out of the booth, James Franklin isn’t leaving Penn State, and Chip Kelly isn’t a fit for how the program rolls.
And no, Florida isn’t going to punch down. It’s not going to take a shot at a good young Group of Five guy with upside – it’s going to make sure it gets one of the hottest prospects from the top of the list.
Urban was the Next Big Thing. Muschamp – while he didn’t work out – was the Next Big Thing. Florida is going to go get the Next Big Thing – or a guy who’s already a Thing. So with that in mind …
Top 5 Florida Head Coach Candidates
5. Randy Shannon, Interim Head Coach
There’s an outside shot that this becomes an Ed Orgeron LSU situation. If Florida rises up and rocks over the final few games against at Missouri, at South Carolina, UAB and Florida State – not a crazy notion – Florida could still go bowling. It just has to win three of those, and if the team responds, Shannon might just get his shot at redemption after all of the issues at Miami.
Chance of being the next Florida head coach: Full-time? 1%. The past baggage is too heavy, and the program will probably go bigger.
4. Jeff Brohm, Purdue
The fact that he’s been able to do anything at Purdue – compared to, say, P.J. Fleck at Minnesota – has made him a red-hot national candidate for a bigger gig.
He might be a tough head coach, and he might be a task master, but he does one thing really, really well.
He knows how to crank up a passing game.
Western Kentucky lost a slew of key parts from last year’s juggernaut, but the absence of Brohm was the difference. Purdue isn’t exactly lighting it up, but he’s working with absolutely nothing.
This would be getting in early on the stock. Just 46, he’s on the verge of superstardom once he gets his hands on some great offensive talents to do what he’d like.
Chance of being the next Florida head coach: 3%. He has to at least be discussed, but the program will likely want to go with more of a sure-thing star.
3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State
I despise the term Checks All The Boxes, but he does just that.
Young, he’s turning 38 in a few weeks, but he’s generally considered to be among the best coaching minds among the new ranks. There were whispers when Illinois hired Tim Beckman from Toledo a few years ago that it took the wrong guy on the staff, but Campbell was too young.
Now he’s ready.
Iowa State has been a doormat for the longest time, and now it has a win at Oklahoma, a win over a top five TCU, and a good bowl bid coming from a great defense, a fun passing game that isn’t afraid to take shots down the field, and a rock-solid style of play.
The Cyclones don’t turn the ball over, they don’t commit penalties, and they’re efficient.
Throw in that he’s as likable as they come, the players will run through a wall for him, and he’s done the improbable at an impossible coaching job, and he’s an easy chance to take.
Chance of being the next Florida head coach: 6%. Seriously, the dude made Iowa State fun. For a morgue-like Swamp, the excitement needs to come back. He’d be an instant dose of adrenaline.
2. Scott Frost, UCF
The only problem is that he’s done it for half a season.
Last year’s team got to a bowl by not beating anyone with a pulse, and while taking an 0-12 program to a bowl is nice, that wasn’t a typical 0-12 team – it was a strange 2015.
Yeah, UCF is crushing everything in its path but are you ready to turn the keys over to a guy because his team obliterated Maryland and beat Navy?
There won’t be any arguments – he’s the hot candidate out there – but he might not be quite A Listy enough for what Florida will want to do, which means …
Chance of being the next Florida head coach: 15%. He’s the one of ones out there among the coaching prospects. Is Florida ready to take a chance that what he’s doing at UCF will translate over? Maybe, but …
1. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State
The Tebow whisperer also has on the resume his work with Dak Prescott and now Nick Fitzgerald – he’s the guy you want coaching your quarterbacks.
More impressively, in an SEC West that’s been wither 1 or 1A on the Toughest Division in College Football debate, he’s been able to make Mississippi State a factor.
Even his one losing season after his first year – 2016 – finished with a bowl appearance, and that’s because the program was good enough in the classroom to qualify in the APR rankings.
His defense has stepped up this season, his offenses have been strong, and he fits. The offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at both Utah and Florida, he might like the Starkville life and the job, and the program certainly loves him, but Florida is simply the bigger gig.
Chance of being the next Florida head coach: 25%. He’s only 45. He’s young, he’s talented, and he knows how to handle the SEC world. He’s more than ready for the job, but it just depends on whether or not the administration wants to start from scratch. Which means …
Okay, throw out the idea of a Jim Bob Cooter, or a Chip Long, or a Mike Gundy, or a David Shaw.
This is one of the premier jobs in college football, and there’s no name outside of the obvious Saban/Urban/Harbaugh/Dabo zip code that’s too crazy.
It’s not going to be a Ron Zook-like coach coming in.
And it’s not going to be a Jim McElwain type, either.
Chance of someone from The Field being the next Florida head coach: 50%