October 30, 2016
The night the lights went out in Columbia on Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers was a rough pill to swallow. They type of pill that gets lodged in your throat, tastes horrible, and requires a full beverage to get down. Even then the taste lingers just like this season is lingering with the Vol fan base. The team picked as the favorite to win the SEC East has now found itself simply looking for a good bowl bid.
My opinion, you can sum it all up in one word….. HYPE! and we all bought in!
Now my question is this. Was the hype Tennessee received at the beginning of the year valid or not?
Hindsight is one thing but put yourself back at the beginning of the season.
Butch Jones had taken over a 5-7 team and, in a 3 year time span, had the team 9-4 last year with 2 bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015 both of which were dominate games by Tennessee. So what would of been a reasonable prediction for 2016? All sports outlets said “this was Tennessee’s year”, winning the SEC East and some even said going further. Really?
If you have a program that you are building “brick by brick”, is 4 bricks enough? Or does it take more to build a solid program foundation that competes at a high level in the toughest conference in college football? Being ranked pre-season #9 and expected to go 10-2 and to the SEC Championship seemed like a stretch to me. There’s nothing that could convince me is wasn’t possible but unlikely given the SEC and our schedule. Most fans had embraced the 10-2 scenario and tagged Texas A&M and Alabama as the two losses.
But South Carolina at 3-4 taking a Tennessee team off a bye week and making them look like a team who hadn’t played in a year exposed a whole lot of issues in Butch Jones’ masonry skills. This was a team that should of never taken the field, a team that was not prepared to play football, a team that look defeated 5 minutes into the game. Granted this shouldn’t of been a surprise based on how Tennessee has played all year. Every game was a struggle, every game required a last minute resurgence, and every game put more and more stress on the team and fans. A team this unprepared for a season falls squarely on the shoulders of Butch Jones and his entire staff. While execution is also a large problem, even that has to be owned by the coaching staff whose job is to have this team ready.
Should Butch Jones be on the “hot seat”?
I don’t think so but I’m sure it’s getting a little warm down there. Making a comparison to another potential hire in Charlie Strong, taking on another big program in Texas, who now sits at 4-4 and 2-3 in the Big 12 and was probably going to be shown the door at the end of the season but may have prolonged his longhorn execution with this weekend’s win over #8 Baylor. Butch Jones has done a better job in a much tougher conference with signature wins over Virginia Tech in the largest college football venue ever, and wins against Florida and Georgia. A 9-3 finish with a bowl game is still an improvement, while not meeting fan expectations due to media hype, Butch has the program going in the right direction whether we agree with the timeline to be contenders or not. Obviously a 9-3 finish is not what Vol fans expected and even that is not a guarantee based on how this team is playing with the rest of the schedule, fans should temper their anger just a bit and let the season play out.
As I eluded to at the first part of this article is something that really is at the heart of the problem and the emotional roller coaster ride Tennessee fans, the team, and the coaches have been fighting against. THE HYPE!
The hype that the media puts on any team sets both the team and its fanbase up for disappointment. While I understand sports media outlets HAVE to talk about something doesn’t mean that our team, our players, and us as fans should listen when it’s about the Vols. Our inability to tune this out is what leads to bad decisions that can and has devastated a program as we especially witnessed over the past 10 years. A lot of things need to be fixed and it is Butch’s job to fix them. If the Vols finish 10-3 or even 10-4, we still have’t digressed. We just hadn’t improved any. If Butch fails to make off season changes to better the program, then we’ll know it is time to move on but it is not fair, in my opinion, to pull the trigger on a coach until you know without a shadow of doubt that he can’t bring the program back to prominence, then its time to make the hard decision to let me go and the even harder decision of who to hire and if that will again set back our program.
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