Having lofty expectations is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, demanding excellence is essential to success, especially in the realm of sports. However, expectations at such a soaring level often leads to disappointment.
This is the current predicament with Tennessee’s head coaching search.
In case you haven’t heard, current Vols head coach Butch Jones is a dead man walking. After Tennessee gets embarrassed by Alabama by at least five touchdowns on national television, it’ll be evident to the masses that change in Knoxville is imminent. Thus far, first-year athletic director John Currie has been silent on Jones’ job status, which has left Vol Nation feeling anxious and worried that Jones might stick around for a sixth year.
While Currie — who is a liked and disliked by many, but isn’t considered unintelligent by anybody — works in the shadows, Tennessee fans are coping with their desperation by generating blind momentum behind every coaching candidate possible.
The list has grown to such an extensive length that it wouldn’t surprise me if Bill Belichick was desired by the fan base, but of all the names thrown out, the three that pop up the most are Jon Gruden, Bob Stoops, and Chip Kelly.
Any one of those hires is a massive upgrade over Jones, but attached to each are legitimate reasons why they won’t take this job.
Gruden — who currently holds the most momentum after his appearance in Knoxville last Saturday and multiple rumors on Reddit — has a Super Bowl ring on his resume and connections to the University of Tennessee. However, he also hasn’t coached in over a decade, is currently involved in one lucrative deal after another, and there’s no guarantee his coaching style — which involves outrageously complicated verbiage on offense — would translate to the college level.
Stoops has stated time and time again that he’s done coaching and wants to spend time with his family. However, Vol fans are convinced that if the program throws enough money his way, he’ll return. To this I say, not every person is persuaded by money. Some people actually hold true to their core principles and find more value in those principles than cash, which Stoops already has plenty of after dealing with the rabid fans of Norman, Oklahoma.
Kelly is the best choice out of the three in terms of coaching ability, as he was one of college football’s elite coaches during his 4-year stint at Oregon. But Kelly can’t be trusted, especially since he’s tasted the life he always wanted — the NFL. Who’s to say Kelly won’t come to Knoxville for a couple of seasons and bolt after an NFL team shows interest? Furthermore, it’s been rumored that Kelly wants no business coaching in the SEC, which is certainly understandable.
Tennessee fans, I’ve said it multiple times and I’ll say it again: Jon Gruden, Bob Stoops, and Chip Kelly aren’t coming to Knoxville next season. Throw that fantasy in the trash, start taking a deeper look into the coaching landscape, and think logically about the chances said candidate has of coming to Tennessee.
Scott Frost? His alma mater is Nebraska, who will have a coaching vacancy soon.
Gary Patteron? He’s an icon in Corpus Cristi. No way he leaves the comfortability of TCU for the intense pressure/scrutiny that comes with coaching at Tennessee.
James Franklin? He’s coaching at an elite program in his home state. Please, wake up.
Dabo Swinney? I’ve seen this name thrown around. Please stop.
Justin Fuente? He reportedly loves Blackburn’s size in square miles and the size of the expectations at Virginia Tech, which are significantly smaller than Tennessee’s.
I could probably list a dozen more names that have been thrown around (Mike Gundy, Bobby Petrino, Jeff Brohm, Mike Norvell, Mike Bobo, Brent Venables, etc.) but here’s exactly what we know about what Currie is thinking: Nothing.
The only people with any insight are the boosters and the VFL’s:
Great news is on the horizon for us VFLs!!! It is just a matter of when! Thank you Mr. Haslam for trying to make Tennessee great again! #VFL
— Albert Haynesworth (@haynesworthiii) October 19, 2017
Whoever the replacement eventually is, we have to remember that Currie has never hired a head football coach before, meaning he’ll likely take his time with this process. That will ultimately frustrate the fan base even more because it means Jones is likely to stick around until the end of the season, but it’s necessary. Tennessee shouldn’t only be searching for Jones’ replacement, but a long-term solution. A coach who’ll stick around for at least a decade and have the Vols competing for SEC championships again.
It doesn’t matter where that person comes from either. Nick Saban started at Toledo. Urban Meyer began at Bowling Green. As long as Currie does his homework, the next head coach in Knoxville will wash away the stench of the Butch Jones era and bring respect back to the Orange and White.