“Once more unto the breach my friends, once more.” Shakespeare’s King Henry V made famous this quote in the third act of the play bearing his name. King Henry implored his men to abandon the safety of their fort, and charge headlong once more into the breach of the wall to combat. Interestingly, King Henry emphatically repeats the phrase “once more” or, in today’s English, “one more time guys I promise this time.”
As a Tennessee fan, reading the now fully justified “fire Butch” posts, this particular scene comes to my mind. The Tennessee fan is so fed up with his current state of affairs, so dissatisfied with Butch that he is fervently preparing to once again charge through the breach and enter the coaching meat market for the fourth time in a decade. I’m by no means insinuating that Jones will not be fired eventually, nor do I believe that he will ever win the SEC East at Tennessee. However, the horrors of three recent coaching searches remain present in my mind.
Lane Kiffin is a good coach. He could have made a solid successor to Phillip Fulmer. In year one he was a blocked field goal away from upsetting eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Vol fans don’t like to admit it, but he will likely someday return to major college football as a head coach. He can recruit, and is an Xs and Os genius, but was never a fit for Knoxville. He was a lot of flash and even a little substance. But sadly, one fateful night loudmouth Lane loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly, Hills that is.
Derek Dooley was just an all around terrible hire. It is too painful at this point to rehash anything that happened on the field during his tenure at UT, so I’m not going to. Dooley is folksy and conservative, in personality a perfect fit for Knoxville. That’s the extent of his success here.
Butch Jones has been radically average at Tennessee. He over achieves as a recruiter, and under achieves as a coach. He is simply average. In five years he’s returned enthusiasm to the program, but not delivered in a meaningful way. He wins most of the games he should win, and none of the games he shouldn’t. He’s a Michigan man, straight laced and serious.
You may be asking yourself, aside from the obvious, what do these three have in common? None of them were at or in some cases near the top of the coaching wish lists when the searches that resulted in their hirings began. How quickly we have forgotten the Grumors, the talk of Lovie Smith, Charlie Strong, and many others. Continually during coaching searches Tennessee fans feel like the pimple faced freshman after someone tells him, “she’s just not into you like that dude.” I cannot understand why, but the reasons are irrelevant; TN simply isn’t as much of a destination job as we think it is.
Last year LSU settled on Ed Ogeron. Oregon hired Willie Taggart. Oklahoma promoted from within. There are only four active head coaches today who have ever won a national championship. It’s Saban’s world, the rest of us just live in it. The sad reality is, there simply aren’t a ton of hot up and coming coaches right now. Last season a lot of big programs settled.
Butch Jones’ performance unto this point has been unsatisfactory. It is time to begin considering a way forward. But before you start tweeting about how Chip Kelly is going to come here, before you abandon the comfort of average, and charge once more unto the breach, remember history. Think about the fact that we are more likely to end up with Jeff Brohm from Purdue than Bob Stoops. Realize that if this coaching search is going to be a success, it must be conducted in a much different fashion than the three that preceded it.