Kevin Steele is not an option to be the head coach of the University of Tennessee football program. He just isn’t. Or shouldn’t be at least. Not if winning is the goal.
Who am I kidding. Let’s just start with trying to avoid being right back in this same situation three years from now.
He’s Already Losing Key Players…
…and he’s been on the job for three days.
Just to be fair, the notion of Steele being a bad option is not entirely based on the mass exodus of key players yesterday. The money dried up, and that’s not all on Steele. The players can say they felt blindsided by the firing of Jeremy Pruitt all they want. But it’s probably not a coincidence that one of the biggest offenders in this investigation recruited half the guys that are transferring.
— Davey Hudson (@Davey_Hudson) January 20, 2021
But Steele’s first goal should no doubt have been to retain the key players on this team. And he failed. If it wasn’t his first goal, then he’s also failed. When you’re the head guy, everything that happens, good or bad, falls on your head. Which means Steele, with just the interim tag, is already off to a horrendous start.
If we’re really starting all the way over as a program: new athletic director, new head coach, no recruits, no key players, everything, do you really want this program to be rebuilt in Steele’s image? The guy with a 9-37 record as a head coach?
It would be like giving someone a blank canvas and asking them to paint a masterpiece, when all they have is a box of crayons. And not the 96-pack of crayons with the full color spectrum. I’m talking about the 3-pack with red, blue, and yellow they give you at restaurants
We’ve pleaded with Tennessee, already, to not screw this hire up. Steele would violate the majority of the no-no’s we covered.
Hiring someone just because they have some semblance of NFL experience would be a mistake. Apparently, some of the people with a say in this decision are looking for NFL experience. Never mind that Steele hasn’t been in the NFL since the start of Bill Clinton’s second term. And never mind that he was only a position coach that was attacked by his best player for a call he missed. Being in the NFL, especially in a minor capacity, does not equate to being a high-level college football head coach.
To make matters worse, rating the Steele hire would require waiting to see who his assistants are. That’s another no-no. We just had a guy with a great background as a defensive coordinator who hired a highly-qualified staff. It did not work. At all.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool that he’s a graduate of the University of Tennessee. But caring about the university isn’t enough to get this program back on track.
More to the point, there are so many more qualified options available. Approximately six better options spring to mind, immediately, and I’m not even getting paid to look for them. Settling for Steele would be lazy, uninformed, and telling of the leadership in charge of making this decision.
This Option Has Already Been Covered
To make matters worse, Steele has already been considered for this position. Three years ago, when Phillip Fulmer was making this same hire, it came down to Steele, Pruitt, and Mel Tucker.
And of those three, the guy that was just fired for being terrible and cheating was deemed the best option. It’s also pretty inauspicious that Tucker is 7-12 as a head coach since then.
Sure, it’s likely that Fulmer was just terrible at evaluating coaches. But Steele has already been considered for this position with some pretty mediocre company. Why consider him again when he was deemed inadequate the first time?
Even before he came here, he got ran off from Auburn. In all five seasons he was there as a DC, Steele had Auburn in the top-6 of SEC defenses. And Auburn fans still couldn’t stand the idea of having him as head coach. #StopTheSteele.
Just to be clear, that’s not Alabama, not Clemson, not Ohio State, it’s AUBURN. And if we can’t even keep pace with Auburn with our expectations and leadership, the upcoming Neyland renovations might as well include chopping off the upper deck. At least that way, we’ll look more like the C-USA schools we’re more comfortable comparing ourselves to.
Don’t Bother Giving Him An Interim Season, Either
Can it get much worse? Hard to say. We keep thinking it can’t get much worse, but it always somehow does.
The problem is, if Steele becomes the guy for an extended period of time, it won’t get better. For all the reasons above. And that’s an issue for a program that needs to get better. Not stagnate in the depths of mediocrity. Giving him a season just for the sake of continuity is just delaying the inevitable. It would be one thing if there just weren’t any other options available. But there are other options available, right now.
Why give a guy a tryout when he’s almost assuredly going to fail?
Why further alienate the bevy of of better options that would already consider this job, if offered?
Nothing about Steele being in charge for an extended period of time makes sense. So knowing how Tennessee handles these hires, he’ll probably have the interim tag removed by August, and he’ll get a 5-year contract with a fatty buyout clause attached.