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9 thoughts on the 2012 Vols plus 1 on Jon Gruden
- Updated: November 21, 2012
Before we get to my nine thoughts on the Vols and one (long) thought on Jon Gruden, allow me the following, won’t you?
It’s the day before Thanksgiving and this year, I’m thankful for so many things. Like my beautiful wife and five incredible children. My friends. My community. My hometown. And, yes, my team, regardless of its current state. Because just like you, I love the Vols.
That love, however, doesn’t mean I don’t have thoughts and opinions about the Vols. If anything, it probably means I have more. So it’s in that vein that I share the following 9 thoughts about the 2012 Vols. And, too, the 1 thought about Jon Gruden.
9 thoughts on the 2012 Vols
1. Seriously. If I’d wanted to watch something that was historically tragic, I would have just gone to see Lincoln or something.
2. How dumb does all the pre-Florida goal-post talk seem now?
3. All is not lost. A win against Kentucky would get us back to 500 in season II. Plus, we’d finish undefeated in Season II, part IV.
4. After the fulfilling victory in Atlanta to start the year, would you have believed it if a wizard had landed on your shoulder and said: “Hope you enjoyed that. Because what you just saw was your team’s finest moment of the entire season.” I wouldn’t have.
5. We got beat by a team that thought their win against Kentucky was such a big deal that they made a T-shirt commemorating it.
6. Willie Bohannon, Dallas Thomas, Carson Anderson, Ben Bartholomew, Herman Lathers, Rod Wilks, Steven Fowlkes and Prentiss Waggner are the collective answer to the most improbable (if not unfortunate) trivia question in Volunteer history:
Name the only UT football players to play under FOUR different head coaches during their time in Knoxville.
This counts Jim Chaney as a head coach, which he is, if even only on an interim basis. But think about that for a second. These guys have gone through more than they could have ever possibly imagined when they signed on the dotted line in 2008. One program in turmoil, two (combined) losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, two offensive coordinators, three coach firings, four losing seasons, four defensive coordinators and four head coaches.
Yet each of these guys stayed with the process. Each of these young men put the program before themselves. Which means in many ways, these guys are the most tried and true Volunteers of all time. It’s for that reason that I have uncommon respect for them. Why, also, I tip my cap to each and every one of them.
I’m extremely thankful for this year’s Vols. Especially the seniors. But there aren’t any Volunteers I’m more proud of or thankful for than the eight guys named above. I hope they feel that love on Saturday.
7. Dooley got fired despite having not one, but two signature wins. One for Joker Phillips and one for James Franklin.
8. Tyler Bray is exactly who he’s always been. Unlike many, I’m not going to beat him up for his performance in Nashville. Yeah, it looked like he laid down out there. But in my opinion, it’s hard not to give the guy the benefit of the doubt given how well he’d played the three weeks prior.
But that business about staring down Vandy after his only bright moment of the entire night? I’ll beat him up all day long for that. Because it was unacceptable. As well as proof that he’s experienced very little (if any) maturation since he made a similar gesture on that exact same field some 25 months prior as a freshman in the Music City Bowl.
So, again, Tyler Bray is exactly who he’s always been. The person I described him to be in one of the first ever AVY posts — the one written after the NC State game.
Tyler Bray delivered an early-season reminder of his greatness, perhaps to counter the pre-season reminder of his not-so-greatness. You get the sense that the only person who can stop Tyler Bray is Tyler Bray…but the fumble at the end of the first half (and it was a fumble, y’all) served effective notice that the gifted signal caller does, indeed, have two sides to him.
One is future NFL baller while the other seems closer to devoted Nickelback enthusiast.
9. Given how much was at stake this season, it’s amazing that anyone ever thought it was a good idea to blow up our defensive foundation and implement the 3-4.
You don’t have to look back very far to see evidence of this. I bet you dollars to donuts that Phillip Fulmer wishes he could take the Dave Clawson hire back. Because the whole flip-flopping of the offensive line thing clearly didn’t work. Fulmer would have been far better served to find someone who could have more or less pick up where David Cutcliffe left off. Because in 2008, it was the offense which proved to be the Vols’, and therefore Fulmer’s, downfall.
But here’s the key difference between ’08 and this year which makes the change on defense even more curious.
In 2008, UT was coming off an SEC championship game. And a 10-win season. And an Outback Bowl victory over a game Wisconsin team. And a #12 ranking in the final AP poll. Based on all that, no one could have ever predicted what was on the horizon. It seemed as if Fulmer had turned things around and was once again on stable ground at Tennessee.
But coming into this season, nothing could have beeen further from the truth with regard to Dooley. Coming off of back-to-back losing seasons, his job status was far from secure. Hell, one of the biggest topics in the off season was how many wins he’d need to keep his job. Most believed it was eight.
So why would we run and change our defensive scheme in a year that had so much on the line? Especially when a similar change on on the other side of the ball cost the most successful coach in UT history his job? I don’t get it. And I never will.
There’s much debate about who, exactly, made the Sal Sunseri call. But one thing’s for sure. Whoever it was made a colossal mistake. Both in hiring Sunseri and in blowing off the obvious lesson that should have been learned during the ’08 season.
1 (long) thought on Jon Gruden
The most conservative sports journalists in town (Jimmy Hyams, John Pennington, etc…) have confirmed that (a) UT and Jon Gruden have discussed the Tennessee job (b) that Jon Gruden is interested in the Tennessee job and (c) that they’ve even bandied about a few numbers.
Given that these journalists aren’t exactly ones to run with “just whatever,” I accept those three things as truth.
And given that, I’m surprised that none of these talking heads believe that UT has a very realistic shot of landing Jon Gruden.
I mean, on the one hand, I suppose I understand. It’s always prudent to be in the I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it camp. Especially when it comes to a Moby Dick type like Gruden. And I get the fact that coaching in college is a way different gig than coaching in the NFL.
But what better NFL coach to jump to the college ranks than Jon Gruden? The NFL game is about salary caps and spreadsheets. The college game is about passion and pageantry. Which one sounds more like Jon Gruden to you?
Yes. I can definitely see the allure a big-time college job might hold for someone like Jon Gruden. Even when compared to an NFL job. Especially when you consider the list of men who have reached an iconic status with their universities. Men like Nick Saban, Steve Spurrier, Urban Meyer (in Florida and now in Ohio State), Bob Stoops, Frank Beamer, Chris Petersen, Gary Patterson, Chip Kelly, and Les Miles.
Sure, we could debate whether or not a couple of the men I just listed have reached “iconic status,” but those were just the names that came to mind off the top of my head. With a little research, I bet I could come up with a list twice that long of men who’ve truly transcended their school’s program and become iconic figures in the process.
So, quick, give me a correlating list of current NFL coaches who have attained a similar status.
Bill Belichick? Tom Coughlin? Jim Harbaugh, maybe?
My point is this: if you win in the NFL, that’s awesome. Way to go, man. But if you win in college, they name streets after you.
And I guess I think things like that would hold a certain appeal to a guy like Jon Gruden — a man who already knows what it feels like to be an iconic NFL personality. So if I’m Jon Gruden, I’m thinking why not see what it really feels like to reach such status? Why not see what it feels like to be a living legend to a legion of rabid, passionate college football fans? And Tennessee is most definitely the kind of place where he could become just that.
Simply put, if Jon Gruden restores glory to UT football, the shine of his star would make Elvis Presley look like David Keith. No offense, Coach Keith. (Shoutout to the basement braintrust on the Coach Keith call.)
But forget about all that for a second and instead consider this: given that UT and Jon Gruden are in negotiations, and given that UT is at the cross section of Desolate and Desperate, you know that the boosters / big money men are gonna throw the kitchen sink at the guy. You know they’re gonna make him say no. Like five times.
Sure, the $5 million per year for 10 years (G)rumor that was going around would be a bit much. But what about 6 years at $6 million per? What’s six years? Especially when you’re coming off our previous six? We’ve sucked for longer than that. And we’ll such another half dozen years or so if we don’t get this hire right. And the money men know this. Which is exactly why they’ll be more aggressive than you can possibly imagine to make sure they land the right guy. And I gotta believe they believe that the right guy is Jon Gruden.
Which gives me great faith that if a deal can be made, it WILL be made. Which is why I’m way more optimistic than the talking heads that Gruden could, indeed, become UT’s next football coach.
And for those of you who aren’t convinced that Jon Gruden would be a good college coach, you need to get off that train right now. I mean, seriously, the guy won a Super Bowl, y’all. And built another team (Oakland) that went to the Super Bowl the year after he left. Do you really think he can’t coach?
Besides, if Jon Gruden so much as even burped in the neighboring county of a top recruit, it’d be the lead story on SportsCenter. He’s a superstar, y’all — a figure who’s already transcends his sport. AND he’s a damn good coach to boot.
You wanna talk about a guy who’ll speak to the “business of football” and put asses in seats? You wanna talk about a guy who can effortlessly bring us the right kind of attention (unlike Kiffin)? A guy who can instantaneously make us relevant again? And not the “pretend” relevance that our manic fan base was wearing like a cheap cologne before the Florida game, but a genuine, season-long relevance. You wanna talk about a guy who’ll coach our boys up? Who’ll make the right adjustments at the half?
Then you wanna talk about Jon Gruden, I promise you that. Because he’s that guy.
At least that’s the way I see it.
Bonus thought number 11:
If you’re in town, get out there and support those players on Saturday. Show them how much we appreciate them.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!