The Monday After: Struggling to figure out what kind of job Tennessee is now
A look at the open job in Knoxville and at what you may have missed this weekend
Tennessee finally did what everybody had been waiting for it to do on Sunday. It fired Butch Jones. The decision was one that had been coming for a long time. So long, in fact, that in late September. And I was hardly the first person to mention it was coming.
But it's done now, and the question becomes: Where does Tennessee go from here? In my mind, that's always been a much more interesting question. I say that because Tennessee is an interesting job. I just don't know how attractive a job it is right now.
Tennessee fans won't like to hear it, but the program is in a weird position. Clearly, as an SEC team, Tennessee holds more appeal than a lot of other jobs out there. I mean, even if it's been nearly 20 years, Tennessee is still one of the few schools that can claim it has won a national title in the modern era (since the creation of the BCS). It's just, even with these truths, when I compare the gig to other jobs that could potentially come open, I'm not entirely sure where it stands.
Clearly, Florida is the most attractive position available right now, and it's likely to be the best job open this entire cycle. I can't help but wonder if one of the biggest reasons Tennessee athletic director John Currie was spinning his tires on the decision to fire Jones was because he wasn't sure he wanted to conduct a coaching search at the same time as Florida. Not only are you competing with a school within your own division in this instance, but one that's more attractive to most of your top candidates. But let's look past Florida to other potential jobs.
If Texas A&M comes open, is Tennessee the better job? Both schools have rabid fan bases and expectations neither program can ever seem to meet. While A&M is in the West and must deal with Alabama every season, Tennessee has to play Alabama, too. Texas A&M gets to recruit in Texas, though, while Tennessee does not. There are plenty of good recruits in Tennessee, but the state doesn't have the same volume as other states in the SEC.
I think on the surface, you'd have to say the Vols have an edge, but if you dig deeper, the picture gets a bit muddier. If I'm Scott Frost, and Florida passes on me, I might be more attracted to the Nebraska job than Tennessee regardless of where I went to school. The programs are both in similar positions right now, but the path to success and the College Football Playoff might be easier in the Big Ten West than the SEC East, where I have to deal with Florida and Georgia. Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern seem more palatable.
These are reasons why I have a hard time believing some of the coaching candidate lists I've seen. While the goal should always be to aim high, the expectations seem unreasonable. And I'm not even talking about Jon Gruden. That's just not going to happen, and honestly, I don't know why anybody involved with Tennessee would want it.
Frost will be a hot name, but as we've mentioned, Florida and Nebraska hold far more appeal to him. Tennessee would be third on his wish list -- at best. I can see a scenario where Mullen ends up at Tennessee if he doesn't go to Florida, and I think that's the absolute best Tennessee can do right now. I've seen TCU's Gary Patterson, and Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy mentioned as possibilities, but even if I can't rule them out, I don't see either happening. I believe both coaches could one day leave their schools if they think they have a better chance of winning a national title elsewhere, but I just don't know that Tennessee offers that to either of them.
That's why I think when the smoke clears, and the dust settles, Tennessee will end up with an "up-and-coming" coach rather than the big name. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. There's no reason to believe that somebody like Mike Norvell (Memphis) or Chad Morris (SMU) or Mike Bobo (Colorado State) or whoever ends up in Knoxville can't win there. I mean, Tennessee doesn't even have to look past rival Alabama to find an example of a program that can bounce back from a rough decade in a big way.
It's just that, at this moment in time, I don't quite know how to judge the Tennessee job. Hopefully, it finds the right coach who can figure out what Tennessee can be.
Coaching Gimmick of the Week
I just want to take a moment to talk about how Miami's Turnover Chain is one of the most brilliant coaching gimmicks I can recall. Yes, plenty of teams have their own turnover award. Tennessee, which I just spent so much time on, has a turnover trash can. It's the same premise as the chain but a lot stupider. If you're a 20-year-old kid, what's going to motivate you more: the chance to wear a bad-ass chain around your neck knowing the cameras will find you or dunking a football into a Rubbermaid bin?
And that's the brilliance of the Turnover Chain. When you're a defensive coach trying to instill a mindset of being aggressive and forcing turnovers, that chain provides extra motivation. All of a sudden, everybody on your defense isn't just competing against the opposing offense, but their teammates as well. They want to be the next person to wear the chain, so they're going to make sure they create the next turnover. It's brilliant in its simplicity, and more teams are going to start doing similar things.
Quote of the Week
Speaking of Miami, The U is back following its 41-8 beat down of Notre Dame, and quarterback Malik Rosier delivered my favorite quote of the week following the win. The "willingly at least" was delivered with the comedic timing of somebody who has done this before, and it worked to perfection.
Random Ranking of the Week
Last week, I ranked "South Park" characters, and I was asked on Twitter by @extralargeboi when I was going to rank characters from Showtime's "Shameless." How about now?
All rankings are final!
Play of the Week
If you hadn't watched a down of Florida football this season but wanted to see one play that could capture everything you needed to know about Gators football in 2017, this would be the play.
Devastated Fans of the Week
There were a lot of big wins over the weekend, and you can't have big wins without somebody on the other end of them. These were the people on the other end.
We have Sad Washington Fan.
And then there's Sad Georgia Fan.
And who could forget Sad Notre Dame Fan?
All three should meet up somewhere and just have a good cry. Really let it out.
Celebration of the Week
AP Voters of the Week
I typically use this spot to call out individual Associated Press voters for their ballots, but I'm mixing things up a little this week. Instead of individual voters, I'm sending a shout out to the collective hive-mind of the AP. You see, the new poll came out on Sunday, and there were two things that stood out to me -- not in the top five or even in the top 10 but further down the poll.
That's where you'll find Mississippi State at No. 17. Now, that alone is nothing out of the ordinary. The Bulldogs are 7-3, and No. 17 seems like a perfectly reasonable spot for them, even after losing to Alabama on Saturday night. What's funny is that Mississippi State was ranked No. 18 last week. So it moved up a spot after losing to Alabama. Earlier this year, I used this same spot to call out voters who had Mississippi State behind LSU on their ballots (if they had it on there at all) after the Bulldogs beat LSU by 30 points. Now, weeks later, it seems that playing a close game against Alabama earns you more respect than beating LSU (which is No. 21, by the way) by 30 points does.
Oh, and elsewhere, West Virginia drops from No. 23 to No. 24 after going on the road and beating Kansas State. So, for some teams, losing is good and winning is bad. It's the little things that make me smile.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Keep in mind this is what I think the committee will do, not what I would do, or what I think is right.
Until the next Monday After!
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