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Thursday, Oct 18, 2018
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Jones: Maybe the Florida job isn't as good as we thought

These are strange, unsettling times for the University of Florida.

The Gators need themselves a football coach.

They offer a terrific job. Maybe one of the best jobs in the country.


Uh, right? (Nervous laugh.)

Well, we'll soon find out. Maybe this isn't such the give-my-right-arm-for job we all think it is. Maybe the brand has been scuffed up and dented so badly by previous coaches Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain that the Gators simply can't have their pick of the litter anymore.

In many ways, this is a referendum on just how good this Gators job is.

Will the Gators land a big fish, a trophy such as Chip Kelly or Scott Frost?

Or will they swing-and-miss Bugs Bunny-style over and over again until they try to sell their fan base that some young assistant is really who they wanted all along?

When McElwain was fired last month, we all wondered which great coach Florida would pick. Maybe what we should have asked is which coach can Florida actually get?

There's a lot we don't know behind the scenes.

We really don't know if Frost is interested in this job or prefers going back to Nebraska, where he grew up and played. We really don't know why Kelly is dragging his feet after it appears Florida offered him the job.

What we do know is that Florida still has an opening and its two leading candidates appear to be interested in jobs that supposedly aren't as good as Florida.

You can understand why Frost has a soft spot for Nebraska. But only to a point. In the end, you take the better job, don't you? You do what's best for your career. Example: former USF coach Willie Taggart is from here. Yet he gave up the USF job and moved all the way across the country to Oregon. Why? Oregon is a way better job.

If Frost loves Nebraska so much, he can visit there in the summertime. Yet, apparently there's not that much of a difference between the Nebraska job and the Florida job.

Meantime, who knows what Kelly is thinking? He's an odd duck and it wasn't all that long ago that he jilted another football team around here. A few years ago, we all went to bed convinced he was the next head coach of the Bucs. When we woke up the next morning, he had changed his mind. Who knows why?

We hear stories that Kelly is a West Coast guy, that he prefers the Pac-12 where he had so much success as the coach of Oregon.

It looked like he was in the fast lane to becoming Florida's next coach and then UCLA fired its coach and suddenly Kelly slammed on the breaks.

UCLA is a big-time program, no doubt.

But UCLA is not even the biggest football program in its own city.

Yet, apparently, it's close enough to the Florida job that Kelly is making a pros and cons list at this very moment.

And there are pros to UCLA.

It might be easier to get to the college football playoff out of the Pac-12 than the SEC.

In Los Angeles, Kelly would be like the 931st most famous person in town. Even sports-wise, with USC and six pro teams, Los Angeles is loaded with more celebrities than Kelly. He could walk down the street and not get hassled.

In Gainesville, the football coach is literally the Big Man on Campus. He couldn't go through a drive-thru at McDonald's without someone giving him advice on who the quarterback should be.

So, in lots of ways, UCLA can be a more attractive job.

Still, we all just think Florida is a better job. Of all the jobs out there, I thought Florida was the best.

Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we're all wrong. Maybe Kelly doesn't think Florida is the best job out there. Maybe he prefers the West Coast. Maybe Kelly is hoping the Taggart leaves Oregon and he can go back to where he had his greatest success.

But there's a reason he hasn't said yes to Florida just yet. Clearly, he's waiting to see if he has a better option.

And all this time, we didn't think there were any better options that Florida.

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