Let me begin by saying this: If you have been a past reader, you know my feelings on Jon Gruden. I'm not saying I was at all on the anti-Gruden band-wagon, but he was most certainly not my first choice.
But I'm not going to harp on Gruden. It's behind us now, so we must focus our sights on the future of the University of Tennessee football and our coaching search. Here is how my top four list is looking now:
1. Charlie Strong
2. Jon Gruden: Agent announced not interested in job
3. Jimbo Fisher Told the press he's happy where he's at. (more on this later)
4. Mike Gundy
First, let's talk about the Jimbo possibility. Ok, I know, I know, Saban denied the Alabama job opening with great fervor until he accepted the job. Maybe Jimbo is going to be the same. But why would a coach, who knows he can dominate his conference and with arguably one of the easiest paths to an undefeated seasons and therefore a shot at a National Championship, leave that job for the hardest conference in college football and a fan-base that is deliriously crazy about being the best? Answer: There really is no good reason.
On to our remaining two. First the factors that affect both coaches. There are still two other high profile jobs in the SEC. Tennessee is competing with Arkansas and Auburn for the best head coach. Strong is an Arkansas native. Gundy coaches close (geographically) by. Auburn is the most recent program removed from National Championship glory.
I have harped on how good I think Charlie Strong would be in a HC position in the SEC. It's truly in his blood. But he has been quoted talking about how he told his recruits he wouldn't be going anywhere. And now that Louisville will be joining the ACC, Strong could be in the same camp as Jimbo. Easy path, ya know?
With everyday that goes by, I don't see Tennessee getting Strong. I would say odds right now are at 10%. Arkansas has the upper-hand, but I would say there odds may only be 30%. Still a possibility for both programs, I just don't see it happening.
As for Mike Gundy, the more I think it over, the less I see him going to Tennessee. I think he is truly a Big 12 guy. I think he honestly feels the rivalry between his in-state counter part. Oddly enough, if he took the job at Tennessee, he would still be facing a Coach Stoops in his rivalry game. But, like I said, I don't see it happening. This one is purely based off of feeling. But you got to trust your gut.
So let's take a look at our remaining options and assess our chances and hopes.
Guys I would hate to see get the job: James Franklin, Al Golden, Art Briles, Dan Mullen
As a Tennessee fan, every bone in my body hates James Franklin. I don't care if you can recruit. I don't care if you can succeed at a school with Vanderbilt's reputation. I don't care because you coached at Vanderbilt. If the Tennessee program has fallen so low as to steal from our in-state rival, who is always the butt of our jokes, I will be a very sad fan. Very sad.
Al Golden. One word: Record.
Art Briles. You had one good season. When your quarterback was RGIII.
Dan Mullen is an SEC coach, so I've got to watch him coach a lot more then other guys. Ok, it's impressive what you've done with a school like Miss. St. I just don't care for the way you coach. And it's not impressive if it was any other team in the SEC.
Guys I would be ok with: Jim Chaney, Jim Mora Jr
Yup, Jim Chaney was on the staff with Dooley. But he's done great things with the offense. That's not where we really need help, sure, but imagine how much money Tennessee could dish out to his staff if we promote from with-in. Good-bye Sal. Hello Defense. Remember that? That thing on the other side of the ball.
The games I have caught of UCLA, I have been very impressed with the coaching. Sure, the talent wasn't always there, but the coaching was always solid.
Guys I would be happy with: Kirby Smart, Sonny Dykes.
The Anti-Doolites have now closed there browsers and walked away. But please allow me one second to explain these two.
If we let Derek Dooley affect the way we choose our next coach, by taking away an opportunity for a hire that can lead us to victory, then Dooley can keep Tennessee losing far after he's fired.
The Saban tree has not been kind to Tennessee. But compare Dooley to Smart. Really. On paper, you may say they are virtually the same. But listen to the way they talk about football. Derek Dooley played politics. Kirby Smart owns his role. He is all about accountability. And he has coached up a defense that lost a ton of talent to, once again, be one of the, if not THE, best in the nation. If Tennessee passes up Smart because of the Dooley connection, I will not be happy. If it's because of the lack of HC experience, it's forgivable, but not forgettable if Auburn or Arkansas scoops him up and he ends up taking them to a National Championship.
Sonny Dykes is the anti-Dooley. Everything he touches turns to gold. You want results, put Dykes in charge of it. As a position coach, every year his players improved. As a coach, he has cleaned up the Derek Dooley mess at Louisiana Tech and made them into a conference winning team. He always ranks high as a recruiter. This guy is the real deal.
Don't let Dooley win. We need a coach based on results. These are my two remaining "I really like these guys" possibilities. But I don't think Tennessee will snatch either up. Someone will. And I will be saying "Told You So," when it happens.
Until Next Time
GO BIG ORANGE (Power T-Minus 279 days)