Jim McElwain’s dead fish analogy isn’t something new.
During a media teleconference on Wednesday, current SEC Network analyst and former Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy revealed that McElwain routinely brought up the same seafood imagery while serving as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
The coach would even bring pictures.
"Mac always talked about two ways to think and approach a practice," McElroy said. "You can either be dead fish, and he put up a picture of a dead fish in the aisle in the ice, or you could be Charlie Tuna. … Which guy do you wanna be around?"
Charlie Tuna, or officially referred to as Charlie the Tuna, is the happy, cheerful mascot for the StarKist tuna brand. He’s also symbolic of the type of personality McElwain wants his teams to have, as well as the attitude McElwain himself embodies.
"I think that’s one thing that gets lost in the shuffle," McElroy said about his former coach. "Dealing with all the other aspects of playing football at the college level, it can wear you out, especially at season’s end with the pressures these young men have to operate under. So having a coach that makes it fun I think is really important."
McElroy said he knew even back then that McElwain was head coach material, just from the way the coach carried himself off the field and how he handled his players on it.
McElwain was a master of instilling confidence in his team, both by ensuring that his players were as prepared as possible and that they believed in their game plan heading into each game.
"I thought he did a really nice job making me feel good about the plan every single week, making sure I didn’t have any questions about what we were doing offensively," the former quarterback said. "He was just a really good teacher."
That preparation was showcased in the 2009 Southeastern Conference Championship game between Alabama and Florida.
McElroy explained how McElwain’s scouting had shown weaknesses in the Gators, whether it was lining up Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones in the slot to neutralize UF cornerback Joe Haden’s strengths on the outside or exposing Florida’s blitz patterns for big plays.
"I think what he does a really good job of is recognizing tendencies, big-picture tendencies, too, not just on his side of the football, but on the other side," McElroy said. "What they’re doing offensively and how that affects how the defensive coordinator usually acts."
Even with all the respect the former Crimson Tide quarterback has for McElwain, he’s still blown away with what the coach has done in a short time with the Gators and says he believes it’s a testament to how good he can be.
"I love him as a coach, and he’s obviously done an incredible job really overachieving in year one with Florida," McElroy said. "If you look at the personnel that they had in the spring and how much that personnel improved from then until now, it’s absolutely off the charts."
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UF coach Jim McElwain walks out of the tunnel prior to Florida's 27-2 loss to Florida State on Nov. 28, 2015, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.