During Tennessee’s postgame press conference after the Vols struggled to defeat the “mighty” UMass Minutemen, a reporter mistakenly stated that Tennessee was “coming off of two losses.”
This, of course, is technically incorrect, but although the scoreboard read “Tennessee 17, UMass 13” as the clock struck triple zero, nobody in Neyland Stadium (there weren’t 95,000 people at the game, for the record) saw Saturday as a win.
Luckily for the reporter, she slipped up when asking a question to wide receiver Brandon Johnson. He didn’t correct her, but if that were head coach Butch Jones, he would’ve responded with an immediate correction, and for the hell of it, would’ve said the Vols are 18-5 in their last 23 games.
If you defended Butch before Saturday, and if you willingly choose to defend him moving forward, then nothing can save you from the truth, and the truth is simple in this situation — Butch doesn’t have the coaching acumen to break a program through the walls of disappointment.
Not after what transpired on Saturday against UMass, who he later in the postgame press conference tried to sell off as a team that was “better than their record.” The Minutemen’s record, by the way, is now 0-5.
Butch also admitted that the preparation leading up to Saturday’s game was average. Defensive lineman Kendal Vickers later refuted that, saying the preparation was good. Wide receiver Brandon Johnson sort of refuted Vickers by saying that preparation wasn’t “horrible, but not our best.”
The players are sending mixed signals because Butch’s coaching style is just as mixed. During the game, he played Quinten Dormady at quarterback for two-plus quarters. Once UMass scored a touchdown to bring the game within four points, he inserted Jarrett Guarantano in order to to “spark” the offense.
Obviously, that never happened, as Guarantano was placed in an impossible situation, which later resulted in Dormady re-entering the game.
So in a matter of a 30 minutes, it was quickly learned that A) Butch thought UMass was worthy of competing with Tennessee, B) There’s no sense that the entire team understands what constitutes good and bad preparation, and C) He doesn’t have a firm grasp of situational football.
These traits blended together create what Tennessee has today, which is a permanent trip into 8-4 purgatory under a mediocre head coach.
Yet, there will be fans who still choose to defend Butch Jones because “a win is a win.” Sure, a win is a win, but patterns of behavior are just as significant.
Just look at last season. The Vols started out 5-0, but when closely analyzing how those wins came to be, it was evident that Tennessee wasn’t on the verge of steamrolling the remainder of its schedule. Legitimate problems were blanketed by victory, and once those problems boiled to the surface, the Vols lost to a pair of 6-6 teams in South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
In fact, under a head coach who didn’t routinely shoot himself in the foot, Tennessee could’ve legitimately posted an 11-1 record in 2015. But thanks to Butch’s mishaps, the Vols dropped games to Oklahoma, Florida, and Arkansas they had no business relinquishing.
This pattern of behavior is acceptable at Central Michigan and Cincinnati, but once the decision is made to accept a job of Tennessee’s magnitude, that pattern is no longer acceptable. Not at a place where there’s no shortage of money, access to elite recruits, and tradition.
Butch was already on the hot seat before Saturday’s game, but there was still time for him to prove that he’s able to change from a stubborn, scheme-paralyzed coach into a logical, personnel-driven coach.
Now, that hot seat must feel like the surface of the sun, and unfortunately for Butch, it’s probably too late to extinguish the flames. Because at this point, there’s no point of defending him any longer. There are too many fans who invest an exuberant amount of time and money in the program for this regime to move forward.
But hey, at least the Vols are 18-5 in their last 23 games.