Please, save me your sighs.
This will not be a column advocating for Randy Shannon to be Florida’s next coach. I do not want athletic director Scott Stricklin to halt his coaching search, turn away from free agent Chip Kelly, spurn UCF hot-shot Scott Frost and instead hand Shannon a four-year deal. I do not think Shannon will be the next coach, and I don’t think he should be.
Seriously, think about it: An offensive-starved team making a defensive-minded ex-linebackers coach its new leader? A guy who went 28-22 in four seasons as the head coach at Miami before being fired? Can you imagine the outrage from the fans? The boosters? The media?
Sentimentality crept through Florida’s locker room after the team’s win over UAB on Saturday…
But as much as I think giving Shannon the job would be misguided, there is one other group of people that needs to be considered in this equation. One other group that — in the middle of coaching searches full of fabricated rumors and silly speculation and hyperventilating fan bases — usually gets forgotten.
I have heard from too many of them over the last three weeks about their praise — and yes, even love — for Shannon. I have heard impassioned defenses of his coaching ability and his leadership. I have heard opinions too shockingly and unnecessarily strong to be anything but completely honest. I have heard genuine extolling of a man that they care for.
But enough about what I’ve heard. Read for yourself.
“Coach Shannon alone changed a lot of things,” receiver Brandon Powell said.
“Without (him), this thing was the Titanic,” defensive lineman Taven Bryan said.
“We play our best for (him),” linebacker David Reese said.
“I really wish they would just stop looking and just give him the head coaching job,” running back Mark Thompson said.
But wait. Pause. To assume that all of Florida’s players want Shannon as their next coach would be irresponsible, not to mention flat-out wrong. Many of them would undoubtedly be excited by the arrival of Chip Kelly or one of several other candidates.
But there is no denying that a significant group of Florida players want Shannon to continue as their coach, and there are many more who deeply care for the man and how he has affected their lives.
And some of the players are irritated. Irritated that Shannon isn’t seriously being considered for the vacancy, that fans and media are hearing their kind endorsements but laughing them off as foolish and uninformed and, frankly, stupid.
So here is the defense for Shannon. Here is what some UF players think.
As the majority of the media mobilizes to hype up manufactured coaching rumors, pouncing on any mediocre morsel of Chip Kelly Twitter gossip that can serve as potential clickbait for a rumor-roundup article, here is one story that hopefully represents what some of the players think.
Not the fans or the boosters or the media, but the people whose lives will be affected the most by all of this. The players.
So, do I think their prayers will be answered, and Shannon will be named as the next Florida Gators coach?
But everyone deserves a voice.
Ian Cohen is a sports writer. Contact him at [email protected].