By Alex Norman
Butch Jones needs to be fired immediately.
Spend a few minutes on twitter and that’s what you will read from Tennessee fans. The Vols head coach should be dispatched posthaste and Jon Gruden should be hired. Or Brian Kelly. Or
Bobby Petrino. Or they have nobody in mind as a replacement.
They just want Jones gone.
No matter that Tennessee has won three straight bowl games, or that they’ve won 9 games in each of the past two seasons, or that they finally beat Florida in 2016 after an 11 year winless streak… Jones is not the guy for the job.
That said, search long enough on twitter and you’ll also find Tennessee fans that spout those stats. They think that Jones is the man that will lead Tennessee back to the top of the SEC.
Jones has done a good job, but not good enough.
I’ll spend some time shielding myself from the arrows and hand grenades…
Ok, are we ok now? Good. Let’s discuss…
The detractors forget, or choose to not to remember what a mess the Tennessee football program was when Jones took over in late 2012.
The firing of Phillip Fulmer, the 14 months of Lane Kiffin and the 3 years of Derek Dooley had the Tennessee football program in as rough a spot as it had ever been in the more than a century of existence.
They lost to Kentucky in November 2011. Kentucky. A team they hadn’t lost to in more than 26 years. Hindsight says that new athletic director Dave Hart should have fired Dooley before he even got on the plane back to Knoxville.
Recruits were avoiding Knoxville like the Zika Virus was found at Neyland Stadium.
Charlie Strong turned the Vols down. Mike Gundy used the offer to get more cash from Oklahoma State.
Butch Jones took the job at a time when others would not.
Since then Jones has been Tennessee’s top promoter, part of the job Dooley refused to do. Kiffin tried to turn Tennessee into the Southern Cal of the south instead of embracing the traditions.
Jones recruited at a high level from the start, including getting Josh Dobbs to flip from Arizona State right before National Signing Day 2013. That move paid dividends for years, especially in 2015 and 2016, when Dobbs started every game for the Vols, and was the Vols ultimate ambassador.
Jones’s recruiting prowess showed up this spring when 6 Vols were picked in the 2017 NFL draft. Dobbs, Derek Barnett, Alvin Kamara, Josh Malone, Cam Sutton and Jalen Reeves-Maybin all committed to play for Butch Jones and there is no way in hades they would have committed to play for the dumpster fire of the Dooley administration.
Recruiting is also going well for the Class of 2018, as the uptick in the Tennessee population has helped make the state a go to source for high school talent.
The doom and gloomers need to realize that things could be much, much worse…
Jones is tone deaf when it comes to the expectations of Tennessee fans. Following the late season collapse in 2016, he never fully grasped how frustrated Vols supporters were. A loss at Vanderbilt kept Tennessee out of the Sugar Bowl, a game they haven’t played in a generation. Still, Jones would say his players were “Champions of Life.” The clichés are awful but he just can’t help himself.
His game management leaves a lot to be desired. Decisions made in the 2015 Oklahoma and Florida games cost the Vols chances to win. Especially the Florida game. Decisions to kick an extra point instead of going for two while up 12 will always haunt the record books, as will the conservative play calling.
Look, Jones has his faults. He also has his positive qualities. Could he be a better coach? Definitely. Could he be worse? Absolutely.
Let’s let the 2017 season play out before we dig his coaching grave or promote him to Saban status.
Is that ok?