The Colorado Buffaloes are in the midst of finding their next head football coach. We’re here to break down the top candidates and grade them based on how they would fit in at Colorado.
After coaching in the NFL and having high-profile assistant jobs, including at Alabama as OC, Jim McElwain’s first coaching experience was at Colorado State. There he had great success in three seasons and earned one of the most coveted positions in college football at Florida. He then piloted the Gators to a fiery crash in the Everglades, never to be seen again. He won two SEC East titles at Florida, but considering the talent on hand, the dearth of quality teams in the East, and the roller coaster rides that got them there, those seasons were all disappointments. He fired seven games into the 2017 season for many reasons.
Part of why those Florida teams were such a disaster was because their coaching scheme was a complete mess, particularly on offense where McElwain had experience as a former Alabama offensive coordinator. Those Gators tried a ground-and-pound approach, but they punched themselves in the face repeatedly. Their passing game was famously inept as they cycled through six starting quarterbacks in three seasons. If Mike MacIntyre’s conservative playcalling bothered you, that’s nothing compared to McElwain’s penchant for engaging in punt battles. If you get fired and replaced with Randy Shannon, you’re not doing a great job.
Recruiting & Player Development
McElwain was a solid recruiter, but it’s not exactly difficult to recruit to Alabama and Florida. That was also before he tarnished his reputation. At Colorado State, he had some quality teams, but much of that was because he took fliers on talented players larger programs were purposely staying away from. CSU did produce NFL talent in Shaquil Barrett, Kapri Bibbs, Garrett Grayson, Rashard Higgins and Ty Sambrailo. (Not that any of those players had character issues.)
At the same time, however, McElwain wasted all the high-end offensive talent he brought to Florida. Of all the blue chips he brought in, only Will Grier, Matt Jones Antonio Callaway turned out, more or less, and even Grier had to transfer to West Virginia and Callaway and Jones were never fully utilized. Besides, many of those other players too were embroiled in a credit card scandal that occurred under his watch.
McElwain is still getting paid by Colorado State and Florida (), so there’s a chance he’s financially comfortable enough to want less than $3 million per year. But then again, he probably wants a hefty buyout because it’s inevitable he would get fired.
Interest in Colorado
Depending on what McElwain wants to do in his career, he could stay at his current job coaching WRs at Michigan, or pursue another head coaching gig (if someone inexplicably offers him). He has enough money to retire and may prefer to remain an assistant at a traditional power.
Cumulative GPA: 1.45
In these previews we have discussed Jeff Tedford and Mark Helfrich, and for both, we said an emphatic “no, CU should not consider these coaches.” Either would be substantially better than McElwain. Honestly, I would rather hire that dead shark as head coach.