The wiggle room is gone. And forget about patience.

A quarterback is the only thing that changes the suddenly sagging narrative for Billy Napier at Florida.

A real, legitimate, stress the defense quarterback who can make every throw from the moment he steps on campus.

That quarterback isn’t Graham Mertz. It better be Jaden Rashada.

Because if Rashada — Napier’s best quarterback recruit — doesn’t start from Day 1, Year 2 in Gainesville will look a whole lot like what played out this season: a dysfunctional, discombobulated mess.

A season so disappointing, it ended with Napier desperately saving face in the Las Vegas Bowl by kicking a field goal to avoid a shutout and preserve the Gators’ NCAA record 436-game scoring streak.

A season that ended with a second straight losing record for the first time since the 1970s.

“Fuel for the fire,” Napier said after Florida’s nightmare bowl performance mercifully ended a brutal Year 1.

Those cliches are meaningless now. Throw them in the dumpster, get impact players from the portal and — most important — change the way you coach quarterbacks.

Because I can promise you, everyone. This isn’t Billy Napier.

The lasting memory from this lost Gators season: Napier standing on the sidelines in a November game, rubbing the back and protecting the psyche of enigmatic quarterback Anthony Richardson — who 2 months into the season still couldn’t consistently process progressions and find open receivers and throw accurately.

This isn’t Billy Napier. This isn’t the coach who was raised on Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, and when he got his first job, turned the Louisiana program upside down, shook the hell out of it, and had it humming by the end of Year 1.

This is a coach who walked into a bad situation at Florida, and it immediately got worse before the season began when it was clear the only option at quarterback was Richardson. From the first game of the season, a risk/reward decision had to be made: run Richardson (his greatest and most consistent talent) and risk injury, or save him and hope he eventually gets it as a thrower.

The talent was undeniable, the execution was unreliable.

Let me introduce you to a near carbon copy of Richardson (without the 4.4 speed): Graham Mertz. Both mega recruits who never figured it out, whose coaches painfully protected them and changed the way they coached.

It got Paul Chryst fired at Wisconsin. It’s now Round 2 for Napier at Florida with another quarterback with all the tools — and uneven play.

The biggest quarterback recruit ever at Wisconsin, Mertz threw 7 TDs and 0 INTs in the first 2 starts of his career and expectations soared. He then threw nearly as many interceptions (26) as touchdowns (31) the remainder of his career.

More troubling: he has 5 TDs and 12 INTs in 9 career games vs. ranked teams. Florida just finished a season where it played 6 games against ranked teams.

Translation: Rashada better be ready from Day 1 when Florida rolls into Salt Lake City to play 2-time defending Pac-12 champion Utah.

There will be plenty of smiles and hopeful glances at the future today when Napier and his staff land an elite recruiting class. But 1 class of 25 freshmen isn’t pulling this program lose from the 2-year quicksand.

One quarterback can.

A plug and play thrower who knows where to go with the ball no matter the defense, the play call or the circumstance. A gamer with moxie and fire, an undeniable leader with charisma that others glom onto and follow him to their ceilings.

A quarterback who knows where to go with the ball, and can get it there on time and with anticipation — and accurately — is everything. It changes the dynamics of a football team and a season.

That quarterback better be Rashada. Napier can’t afford to use kid gloves on another enigmatic talent.

One play late this season encapsulated the long slog of a first year for Napier. He handled Richardson with kid gloves for months, patiently working through physical and emotional hurdles to try and coax an 8- or 9-win season from him.

Years from now if it works at Florida for Napier, we’ll understand just how dysfunctional the coach/quarterback relationship had become this season. On the last drive of Florida’s rivalry game against Florida State, with the Gators staring at 3rd and 12 from the FSU 26, tight end Jonathan Odom ran a 14-yard hitch and had the safety turned.

The ball, in theory, is thrown on timing and with anticipation so that when Odom turns — after he has gained separation from the defender — the ball is already on him. He catches it, steps out of bounds and the drive continues.

It’s a basic throw that a majority of college quarterbacks can make 100 percent of the time.

Only there’s one problem: the pass from Richardson sailed 15 feet over Odom’s head. Odom didn’t move, looking up like a centerfielder watching an inevitable home run ball go over his head and out of the park.

This can’t happen at Florida in 2023. Napier can’t be consumed about coaching too hard, or hurting feelings.

He needs to win now. The only way to win now, to show significant improvement in Year 2 and leave hope for the future, is getting Rashada ready to play.

The wiggle room is gone. Napier doesn’t need more fuel for the fire.

It’s already raging.