CBS Sports college football writer and analyst Barrett Sallee (Two r’s, two t’s, two l’s, two e’s) joined 3&OUT on Thursday morning to talk about his shift off the Butch Jones train, thoughts on the program and much more. Click here for the whole interview, but keep reading for some highlights.
Things began simply enough when Sallee was asked when he switched from a believer in Butch to a believer in Botch. Sallee picked Tennessee to win the SEC East in 2016 (like many of us), so his answer was simple: “Last year.”
“There are plenty of teams that fight through adversity and don’t use it as an excuse,” Sallee said of how last season unfolded. “You can’t ask for a worse hand than what Florida has been dealt for the last couple of years, and yet they’ve found a way.”
He’s referencing, among other things, Florida’s nightmares on offense — one starting quarterback suspended for taking PEDs, his replacement unable to throw, plenty of injuries to the rest of the Gators’ starting quarterbacks and struggles by their replacements. Here’s a gentle reminder that Florida maintained an SEC East lead with Treon Harris at quarterback.
“Instead of finding a way above it and coaching players up, Butch Jones used it as an excuse.” – Barrett Sallee
He added that one of Jones’ biggest flaws was he uses his cliches and slogans from media appearances in the locker room, saying it sounds like much of Jones’ common phrases sound like those that would come from a “Motivational Book for Dummies.”
“If you’re a senior on that team, at some point you take offense to your head coach saying ‘Brick by brick’ and ‘Champions of life,'” Sallee said. “‘No, we’re supposed to be champions of the conference, supposed to be real champions.'”
He makes an interesting point, especially going on, when he says Jones fails to treat players differently based on what they’ve earned, contrasting to authoritative roles like parenting or corporate management. He does use the black stripes for freshman in practice, forcing them to earn the removal of the stripes to join the rest of the team.
Outside of that, though, it’s hard to tell what rewards or punishments are being given after evaluation of his players.
Sallee later called Jones’ idea of handling the media “basically socialism” (woo boy) if reporters were Vol fans or only reported the positive things surrounding Tennessee.
“Everything that’s being used to criticize Tennessee at this point is completely fair,” Sallee said. “If it sounds like people are going after Butch Jones, well yeah — he’s given everybody every reason to do it.”
While Sallee said that national opinions of Tennessee’s football program mostly revolved around the world “regression,” he said Tennessee would be “one of the top jobs” available depending on the college football open coaching job landscape.
“Does that mean Tennessee fans are going to get who they want? No,” Sallee said. “Tennessee fans think Jon Gruden is coming, and he’s not. It’s still going to be a top job, they’re going to throw around a ton of money — as they should, and as they can — but the biggest thing for Tennessee is don’t be gun-shy and don’t connect dots that don’t need to be connected.”
Sallee said Colorado State coach and former Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo would be a “phenomenal” hire for Tennessee. Bobo’s track record isn’t great out west considering the situation he came into, but we can debate Bobo another time.
“Tennessee will probably have the ability to dictate the market unless Auburn comes open,” Sallee added.
When asked about the possiblity of Jones keeping things respectable against Alabama, winning out and sticking with the program, Sallee said the impacts of that “would be horrible.”
He mentioned the scenario of approaching the early signing period with maybe three realistic head-coaching options, and no back-up plans should Tennessee’s best option or two fall through. The whole Joe Alleva and Les Miles fiasco from a few years ago brings back weird memories of “Well, LSU is getting Jimbo Fisher” turning into “Well, we’ll stick with Les… for four games.”
“Tennessee actually has the luxury of a gift right now and they’re letting it go by the wayside,” Sallee said. “Tennessee could have fired Butch Jones three weeks ago and laid out 30 different contingency plans.”
“The idea of letting Butch Jones linger because you don’t want to fire him or you don’t want to lose a recruiting class is absolutely insane.”
Sallee wrapped up with his top three coaching candidates that John Currie could realistically swing for the fences for: Chip Kelly, Dan Mullen and Jeff Brohm.
While Sallee doesn’t think Kelly would say yes to the Vols, he also thinks that would be best for the program, adding that Kelly doesn’t recruit and wouldn’t be a great fit in the SEC.
For Mullen, though, Sallee is sold.
“He took Mississippi State to No. 1 in the country,” Sallee said. “And with that roster, that’s saying a lot. Just look what he did at Florida … imagine what he could do with a roster of four and five-star (recruits) at Tennessee. He’d be a monster.”
On Brohm, Sallee knows he won’t be the splash hire fans like, but he says Brohm has Power 5 experience and SEC teams will come calling for the first-year Purdue coach in just a few short years.