Hear me out.
It’s just too early to be talking about running off Jeremy Pruitt.
Am I going to try and excuse the Kentucky loss? No, Kentucky sucks; they can go to hell, and losing to them will never become acceptable.
But I will try and talk some people off the ledge that are calling for his job. I am not going to try and convince you he is the savior this program has been looking for, don’t get it confused.
Who’s To Blame?
Let’s get this out of the way; Pruitt was not brought here for his great offensive mind. He was brought here to fix the defense. And the defense has been steadily improving since he has been here. Fortunately, I don’t think many people are arguing that the defense hasn’t improved under Pruitt. So that’s a start.
”BUT AJ, HEAD COACHES ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WHOLE TEAM,” you’re probably screaming into your screen. Well, that’s true. And there’s also no point in arguing that Pruitt isn’t at least partially at fault for how bad the offense has looked this season. At fault to the point of firing him is a stretch, though.
There’s also about an 80% chance if you’re saying coaches are responsible for their whole team, not just their side of the ball, you’d probably also suck the farts out of Lane Kiffin’s underwear to get him to come back to Tennessee. All while he’s leading one of the worst defenses in the country. It seems like a double standard, but if you would take Kiffin back after what he’s done to UT, you probably don’t have the wherewithal to admit when you’re duplicitous, either. But I digress.
In the meantime, Chris Weinke has to go. It’s fair to say that this quarterback group is just terrible. And it’s also only fair to immediately point the finger at who is most involved with that group. More on that shortly.
It’s about time for Will Friend to see the chopping block, too. The misuse and under-performance of this offensive line is punishable by terminated employment. And yes, if Pruitt is unwilling to acknowledge that because Friend is his buddy, it is fair to hold it against both of them.
And finally, Jim Chaney should be on the hot seat, too. For all the talk of his ability to use the most of what’s been given to him, the offense hardly improved in his first season here, and it has certainly regressed in his second.
Again, blame Pruitt all you want for how this offense has looked so far. But Weinke, Friend, and Chaney are closer to the steering wheel of the offense than he is.
The QB Situation
Speaking of Weinke…
This QB room is a disaster. Again, Pruitt is partially at fault, by nature of the coaching hierarchy. But when a chicken is under-cooked, you fire the chef that cooked it, not the owner of the restaurant. When a finger is infected, you cut off the hand, not the arm at the shoulder. When the quarterbacks are playing terribly, you fire the quarterback coach, not the head coach.
See what I’m getting at?
It’s reasonable to hold Pruitt accountable for everything that goes on in his program. But Weinke has to go before Pruitt, and that falls on…well Pruitt. And the longer Weinke steals money from the university; the more Pruitt loses credibility and goodwill from people like me.
P.S., if you’re one of those people that saw/heard Pruitt say, “JG gives us the best chance to win” and interpreted that as Pruitt saying, “Guarantano is a really good quarterback,”…I’m not going to be subtle, you’re just not very smart.
Is there a head coach out there that could turn this crap around in the time-frame we all want? And before you say Urban Meyer or Hugh Freeze, really think about the last coaching search and the candidates that came up. Jeff Brohm? Dave Doeren? Greg Schiano? It’s not as if there has been a line of great coaches trying to get in here.
We’re a leper program at this point, whether you can admit it or not. And calling for the coaches head every time, there’s a bad loss during a rebuild is partially the reason for that. Blaming Fulmer for his hire is also pretty stupid if you ask me. But that’s an article for another day.
We are not a desirable program at this point. And we haven’t been for a while, for a lot of reasons.
Yes, the resources are here. Yes, the history is here. And yes, the commitment from the athletic department to getting back to prominence is here. But wanting to get back to 10-wins a year without taking an embarrassing loss or two along the way is putting the cart before the horse. You can’t have the baby without the labor pains. Pick your cliche.
Notice, though, I didn’t say embarrassing loss after embarrassing loss. That was Butch Jones’ problem; he won two or three big games in five years, then was embarrassing in pretty much all the rest.
Pruitt has about used up all of his embarrassing losses between Georgia State last year and Kentucky this year, for what it’s worth. There eventually needs to be some big wins to counteract the nausea that comes with games like those.
Russell Smith has said it best, though, because there really isn’t a better option on the table.
We have to save this guy.
Don’t Move The Goalposts/Let The Season Play Out
All this is to say; the season isn’t over. Most of us going into the year thought this would be a 6-4 or 5-5 type of season. Both of those are still very much in play. After Alabama takes Tennessee behind the woodshed this weekend, we will have played our two hardest games, by far. The back half of the schedule is full of tough but winnable* games.
*Winnable as long as Pruitt proves he can right the ship and correct the big issues his team currently has. If not, then this whole article was a waste of everyone’s time, and he deserves to be on the hot seat.
Listen, if I’m trying to say anything, it’s that the welcome has officially worn out. You don’t have to love the guy anymore, or even like him. But making the argument that he should be fired after losing a Georgia game we all expected to lose, and a Kentucky game we should have never lost is just premature and unreasonable. Save the panic button for another day.
Let’s all agree to shift in to wait and see mode until further notice…okay?