Well, I suppose the only good thing about Tennessee losing 41-0 to Georgia today was that it made it plainly obvious to everyone, even the most ardent Butch supporters, those who go to sleep clutching their “2013 Vols Football: Brick by Brick” shirts, that a coaching change is not only necessary, but imminent. Hell, the only thing Butch could’ve done to hurt his stock more this afternoon was if he had run through the T holding hands with Osama Bin Laden and then caught a copy of General Neyland’s game maxims on fire at midfield.
There weren’t any high points, obviously. For one, I think we’ve got pretty good evidence through five games that new offensive coordinator Larry Scott, a guy who had never called plays before until this season, was about the worst hire imaginable. Tennessee hasn’t scored a touchdown in 4 of their 5 first quarters this season, and the play calling has been stale, unimaginative, mind-numbing, confusing, and disastrous on pretty much every series. Quinten Dormady, who was erratic and inaccurate all day, played the worst game of his short career, completing just 5 of 16 passes for 64 yards and two interceptions. John Kelly had only 44 rushing yards on 16 carries, and fumbled away Tennessee’s best offensive play of the day after he had the ball ripped away from him at the end of 44 yard catch and run. Of course, it’s hard for Kelly to do anything when the offensive line got destroyed for three and half hours and literally couldn’t open up any holes. The defense, which held strong early, eventually started getting pushed around and blown off the line of scrimmage, which led to them giving up 294 rushing yards.
I don’t think this was Butch’s worst coached game, but in typical, conservative Coach Jones fashion, the Vols had back-to-back possessions in the first half where they had the ball on Georgia’s side of the field facing a fourth and short. You have to know that Georgia’s defense is really tough to move the ball on, and that when they're on offense, they'd prefer to keep it on the ground and control the clock. Possessions are going to be limited, and points are going to be hard to come by. Why not take some chances? You can’t get two yards? You’re coaching for your life here, why not pull out all the stops and go down shooting?
Of course, what’s even most infuriating is listening to Butch's press conference afterwards. After not making an opening statement, Jones took some questions and basically just deflected everything and blamed everyone else. Hey brah, you’re the head coach, and even though a 41-0 beatdown isn’t all your fault, and at the end of the day, everything comes back to you. You’re the one that sets the tone for the program, the one who makes all the important decisions, the one who picks the players, and the one who hires the coaches. Just once it’d be nice to hear him blame himself for a poor Vol performance. Something like, “Yeah, we lost in all facets of the game today, but everything comes back to us as coaches, which in turn comes back on me. I didn’t do an adequate job of preparing us to play this week, and I have to be better”. Instead, it’s just a bunch of platitudes, Butchisms, blame deflecting, and coach speak.
It’s not going to get any easier; after the bye week, Tennessee still has games against South Carolina, (who looks competent), Alabama (gulp), LSU (a physical team like Georgia), Vanderbilt (frisky and competitive), and Kentucky (ditto). At this point, a 6-6 finish feels probable. Assuming that’s the case, and with the Vols heading into a bye week, is there any chance Butch gets fired tomorrow or Monday? Seems unlikely, if only because Butch and his staff somehow inexplicably have a buyout over $9 million. Which means athletic director John Currie would have to gather every power broker and influencer around the football program together and have a sit down before anything could be done. There may need to be some budging and pushing on those who aren’t willing to spend the money just quite yet. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not the best strategy. Why not cut your losses, punt on this year, fire Butch, promote some assistant, get a head start on the other programs that are about to make changes, and spend the entire month of October trying to woo either Chip Kelly or Bob Stoops? And if those guys aren’t going to budge or aren’t interested, then you’ll know that when you continue your search in November. It’s not even October yet and this team already can’t accomplish any of their preseason goals. What’s the point of keeping him around?
So if Butch does get axed in the next few days, the first move should be to load up that dump truck with all the cash you can find, drive it to Chip Kelly’s house, and unveil it in his front yard. Bring Chip to Knoxville. It’s time to start winning big.