The easy part is over with; Jeremy Pruitt is gone. And Phillip Fulmer is on the way out as well.
It should be abundantly clear to everyone why things weren’t going to work out with those two heading up the Tennessee football program. A disastrous 3-7 season punctuated with mass transfers away from the program, staff members running for the hills, and the NCAA investigation should have everyone convinced this is the right move.
There was no hope for the future under this current regime, and it seems the writing was on the wall.
But now comes the scary part. Now, we as fans have to trust that Tennessee won’t screw up this head coach hire.
Please, Don’t Go The NFL Route
Right off the bat, there are rumors that Peyton Manning will have a say in this hire. And that he would prefer someone with NFL experience.
That probably means Doug Marrone, Adam Gase, Jim Caldwell, or Bill O’Brien. All would be disastrous head coaching hires. Not only did none of them have any notable success in the NFL, but they have also all been questionable as head coaches in college if they’ve even tried that route at all.
The only exception may be Bill O’Brien, but even he regressed sharply in his two seasons as head coach at Penn State before jumping to the NFL and setting the Houston Texans back years with his decision making. Why go this route when there are so many better options on the table?
The bottom line is this; NFL experience is fine, but it should not be the sole reason for hiring someone for this role.
Please, Don’t Hire Another Coordinator With No Head Coaching Experience
This should be self-explanatory. Pruitt is as good an example as any that this is not the type of place to learn on the job. Enough said.
Just as a rule of thumb, hiring someone who will need a certain staff to succeed is automatically a red flag. You hired Jeremy Pruitt and gave him a massive budget for assistants, hoping that it would cancel out his inexperience as a head coach. It did not.
Just find someone that, on their own, can clearly, positively affect a football game.
Please, Don’t Be Too Proud
Here is the big one.
Tom Herman and Gus Malzahn would all be retreads from other Power 5 programs. Tennessee would have been too proud to take on retreads from other power 5 teams in the past. Don’t make that mistake this go-round; Malzahn and Herman would be just fine.
And then there’s Hugh Freeze. He’s also a power 5 retread, but the big knock on him is his history of NCAA issues. Well, newsflash, the NCAA is already in your backyard, and you just went 3-7. You quite literally have nothing to lose by making him the guy, and the fan base would obviously love it.
The only thing that would get in hiring any of the above guys is pride from the decision-makers.
Please, Don’t Overthink It
This is quite literally the best market in recent history to make a coaching hire. A handful of coaches are sitting at home (Herman, Malzahn, maybe even Bob Stoops) that have proven that they can consistently do better than 7-5 at a Power 5 program. A handful of coaches are sitting at G5 programs (Freeze, Chadwell, Napier) that are more than willing to jump to a Power 5 program like Tennessee. Make them say “No” to you.
If you’re trying to sell the fan base on someone that nobody else has even considered, it will probably fail.
Don’t make another three-year mistake just because someone in charge thinks they no better. Don’t get cute.
Please, Tennessee, don’t screw this up.