Fans are grasping for any morsel of news from recruits, worrying about replacing departing talent and who will start at quarterback, and hand-wringing about a coach’s declaration of his team’s future success.
Welcome to the offseason, everybody.
With recruits in attendance, Jim McElwain strode onto the court at the O’Dome on Saturday, during Florida’s men’s basketball game with Vanderbilt, behind Antonio Callaway, Duke Dawson, Martez Ivey, Jordan Scarlett, and Johnny Townsend, and delivered these remarks:
"When we get back to Atlanta next season, we're going to kick the door down!" -- @CoachMcElwain #GoGators #Swamp17 #ChompChomp pic.twitter.com/gUiURak6ha— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) January 21, 2017
As Andy wrote, McElwain’s statement amounts to a sort of guarantee for the 2017 Gators, that guarantee being that Florida will win the SEC East for the third consecutive season, and “kick the door down” - ostensibly by beating the SEC West champion, a position held by Alabama for the last three seasons. While you could, I suppose, argue that that statement is not technically phrased as a guarantee of a win, it was obviously meant to be taken as such and does not leave much room for interpretation.
I’m always a little leery when finite promises or proclamations are made, using when rather than if. That statement would read a lot different had McElwain stated that if Florida made it back to Atlanta, it would be “because of these guys.” The Gators’ head coach did not choose to say something a little more neutral and less declaratory during his appearance.
Silly statements and harmless predictions -whether about ducks and trucks, dog quarterbacks, or life champions - will always be returned to by fans, media, rivals, and people with blogs or Twitter accounts, fairly or unfairly. Think of how many comments you read along the lines of “but he said he could win with his dog!” the last two seasons, even on this very site. There was already a flurry of activity that followed Saturday’s statement and even Florida has already written stories and been tweeting about “kicking the door down.”
This type of sound bite is guaranteed to be revisited in the offseason, during the season, and after the season, especially if the Gators fail to have a successful year. (I doubt that a ten or 11 win Florida team that barely misses Atlanta, or narrowly falls to Alabama in an SEC title game, will hear this quote harped on by most.)
When I heard these words on Saturday, I immediately recognized that this would not be the last time. Jim McElwain surely also realizes that he too would hear these phrases referenced again throughout the year, as a benchmark expectation, and still decided to use them. He’s a competitive man that is paid to lead a team to compete. I have no problem with his confidence, nor did I take issue with Quincy Wilson’s regarding Tennessee, but in today’s sports culture those quotes will become infamous if their predictions fail to manifest.
Did Jim McElwain’s proclamation change your expectation for the 2017 season? Are you now thinking SEC Championship or bust because of what he said during the basketball game presentation? Will we see folks trying to hold the entire season up against this one guarantee?
I’m not going to say “I hope he backs it up.” Let me explain why. Do I hope we win the SEC? Oh my goodness yes. But that statement to me implies that I would be upset with him if we don’t because he made that guarantee, and that just wouldn’t be true. (I’m sure I would be slightly annoyed by all the “but he said” reactions though.)
McElwain took a gamble when he spoke those words into that microphone and set those expectations, and we’ll have to wait to see how it plays out.
*Also, in other Alligator Army news, there will be some promised recruiting coverage coming tomorrow.