Michigan used the weirdest stats to justify hiring Jim McElwain

Because you can’t just say, “This was bad.”

Michigan hired former Florida head coach Jim McElwain to be the Wolverines’ wide receivers coach. It’s a perfectly defensible hire, but I laughed at how Michigan explains it.

This is a passage from McElwain’s new bio on Michigan’s website:

McElwain’s units were explosive on offense during his time at Florida, especially through the passing game. His 2015 aerial attack became Florida’s first since 2009 to throw for more than 20 touchdowns with fewer than 11 interceptions (on 405 attempts), and the team’s 410 attempts in 2016 were the most by any Gator team since 2002. Six receivers recorded multiple receiving touchdowns in both of those seasons, a feat not previously accomplished since 2008.

If McElwain’s units were “explosive” at Florida, that’s only insofar as they resembled a raging ball of fire exploding out of a dumpster.

One of the stats Michigan’s bio doesn’t mention is “points,” which is because McElwain’s offenses didn’t score a lot of them. The Gators’ best finish in points per game under McElwain was 100th out of 128 FBS teams in 2015, his first of three years. They never did better than 88th in IsoPPP, an advanced explosiveness stat.

So instead, Michigan points out that:

  • Florida’s passing attack in 2015 — when McElwain was playing with a team almost entirely made up of Will Muschamp recruits, including quarterback Will Grier, until he got suspended after a failed PED test — reached the magic threshold of 20 touchdowns and fewer than 11 interceptions. The 20-10 Club! Everyone wants in there! How prestigious.
  • Florida’s raw passing attempts in 2016, when the Gators aired it out 410 times. They were 60th in total attempts and, um, 86th in passer rating and 87th in yards per attempt. You could argue that the ball coming out of any quarterback’s hand is “explosive” from a force-acting-on-mass perspective, but I’m not sure I see the relevance.
  • Florida having six different multi-TD pass-catchers in 2016. Spoiler: Three of those receivers had exactly two TD catches. The other three had three.

In 2017, Florida finished 111th in points per game (22.1). The Gators’ defense scored the team’s first three touchdowns of the season.

Once upon a time, McElwain was a legitimately good offensive coordinator at Fresno State and then Alabama. He was a good head coach at Colorado State. He has a long history coaching receivers, starting in the late 1980s at Eastern Washington.

This will probably go just fine for everyone involved. The biggest winners might be all of us in the viewing public who will no longer have to watch McElwain’s Florida offenses.

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