It's been a while since we have been able to post here. We have spent the last week reading every article and finding the smallest hints in in everything from interviews to Monday Night Football broadcast. We have scoured the message boards and called friends who have relatives who do know someone who knows something.
And we are now confident that we can be the first to break the story:We do not know who the next coach of the University of Tennessee will be and neither does anyone else who can report on it.
There is a mountain of "I have a source" stories floating around. Some that say they know Gruden will be next for certain. Some that say they know Gruden has declined for certain. So now that we have that out of the way, let's talk about what we do know for certain:
1. This is an intricate process. As a fan blogger or a message boarder (is that a thing?), we can speculate and dream. We can wonder and wish. But we do not know. None of us are familar enough with the process of hiring a new coach at an NCAA level but former Athletic Directors and I would even dare to say that most of them would be lost without a crack legal team behind them. What does this fact mean? Well for starters, who the next coach will be, when they will be announced, how much they will be paid and everything in that wheel house at this moment is nothing more than speculation. So to act like we have anything deeper than that brings in to question anyone that is saying such things credibility.
2. This is the fork-in-the-road for UT football program. This is a fact: If Tennessee hires a coach that can come in and first and foremost recruit SEC talent and win at an SEC level the glory of Tennessee football will be returned. With a coach that can't, Tennessee will never be able to recover. Knoxville is tough territory for recruiting. The only reason Tennessee has been able to bring in the big fish is because of the programs prestige. If Tennessee gets a coach that can't win within three seasons, the prestige is gone and Tennessee is now in the house of Kentucky and Vanderbilt football. So this is the biggest decision to face Tennessee football since we decided to fire Phil.
3. Derek Dooley is fired. Okay, you know this. Obviously, because you have been scouring the Internet looking for any hint of who the next coach will be. But this is the point: By firing Derek Dooley, Tennessee has shown the world that it will not tolerate being the loser. It will not tolerate losers coaching there. We are winners and we will have winners. And if you can't come to Tennessee and win, don't waste your time. You'll be gone before you know it.
Now, some have said this is a bad sign for coaches. If they don't have the appropriate time to come in and set up a winning program, they won't even take the risk of coaching here. I say bull-[Fulmerized]. If you aren't confident enough in your coaching abilities, then don't come to Tennessee. Winners don't lack confidence.
So, now we have that out of the way, here is my list of the best coaches for Tennessee.
1. Charlie Strong
Why I like him: He's a defense guy and I am one of those Vols fans with the General's biography on my bedside table. I like defense in the SEC. I want to see a Tennessee defense return to prominence. Added plus: He's an SEC coach. He spent his years coaching at Florida and South Carolina.
Why I worry: It's still a risk. He hasn't been a head coach at a high caliber level like the SEC. And I see him as a chip on the shoulder guy for not being hired as a head coach when he first set up his move.
2. Jon Gruden
Why I like him: He can unite the fan-base. He can come in and recruit by flashing around that Super Bowl ring in year one. He is an offensive mastermind who might be able to convince Bray/Hunter/Patterson to stick around for another season.
Why I worry: His lack of college experience may see this hire become a bust. He could provide us with hope at first, but after three seasons of the same losing Vols, we might all be wondering "What the hell were we thinking?!"
3. Mike Gundy
Why I like him: He can coach. You've seen it in his teams in the last few years and the fact that he's recruiting against in-state rival Oklahoma and done well is a positive sign. Plus, he's a man. He's 40. What's not to like.
Why I worry: This season hasn't been the best for Gundy. Ok, it's not Derek Dooley bad, but it isn't last year's Oklahoma State squad. You have to wonder.
4. Jimbo Fisher
Why I like him: Saban wanted this guy. If the man we all compare ourselves to wants you to come in and take over his offense, you're doing something right. He's won at Florida State and if not for a little bad luck against NCSU, we might be talking about a Florida State/Notre Dame National Championship.
Why I worry: You lost to a team this year that Tennessee beat. And it knocked you out of the National Championship running. Ouch.
As for all the other names floating around, I don't think they are the hires Tennessee needs to make. Sure, I might be happy with other guys, but for Tennessee to be TENNESSEE, these are the four that could do it. Maybe you disagree. That's your right. But these four guys are ready for the big show (again for some). And Tennessee is ready for them. Until the next news break...
GO BIG ORANGE!