247Sports’ Patrick Brown broke the news last night that Tennessee has hired Jim Chaney as its new offensive coordinator. The school just made the news official.
After a long, drawn-out process that rivaled last year’s search for a new head coach in time if not in drama, it appears that Tennessee has once again ended up better off for having taken its time. Here are a few reasons why this hire is an absolute
This is the one you’ll read about the most today, so I won’t spend much time on it. But Chaney knows what to do with great players, and he’s able to develop good players into great ones. Sure, the Georgia Bulldogs are stocked with elite talent, but as Tennessee fans can attest, just having highly-recruited players running around out there doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to produce up to their potential.
That shouldn’t be a problem with Chaney.
Chaney’s not only done well with a roster full of blue-chippers at Georgia
A lateral move to
We’ve described rebuilding in the SEC as rebuilding during the hurricane before, and, well, it’s apt. SEC coaches don’t have the luxury of waiting for sunny skies to get to work.
They’re building with the left hand and battling with the right.
It’s an especially difficult task for anyone at the helm of the Tennessee program during Alabama’s reign of terror due to the Vols’ annual rivalry with the Tide, and Georgia getting nearly as good is terrible news for a program trying to re-make something nearly from scratch.
So anything that both makes Tennessee better and weakens an annual rival is a good thing. Regardless of Georgia fans complaining about Chaney when they happen to lose to other good teams, Chaney was the guy the coaching staff wanted, and now he’s not only gone, he’s defected to Rocky Top. He’s switched sides in the middle of the battle.
It’s not just the re-balancing of power, either. It’s also the regional and national perception. The Bulldogs have had a tough month. They lost a lead over Alabama in the SEC Championship and eventually lost the game. They were left out of the playoff, and then they lost their heart and their bowl game. It’s a different sport, but because things tend to run together in college sports, I’ll also throw in that the Tennessee hoops team just absolutely thumped Georgia. Now Chaney throws in with the Vols
Fun. I like it. I also like the whispers that some NFL teams might be considering Kirby Smart as a head coach. Nick Saban may have been-there-done-that, but Smart hasn’t. He should try it. Really. Totally unbiased opinion here.
Maybe Georgia will be fine. But it sure looked like Alabama missed Jeremy Pruitt against Clemson Monday night, didn’t it?
Jeremy Pruitt is old school. You can tell by looking at him, watching him work, and by analyzing the teams that he’s coached. So it was a bit strange to hear some of the names bandied about during the offensive coordinator search, names like Kendal Briles and Mike Yurcich. Fair or not, guys like that, whose resumes are built on spread concepts and tempo, feel like shiny new objects.
Jim Chaney is not that. Like Pruitt, he’s old school. He is flexible enough to be able to incorporate new wrinkles that work, but at heart, he’s exactly what Pruitt expects in an offensive mind.
Upgrade in experience
I refrained from writing this all last preseason and throughout the entire fall, but when Pruitt’s staff was announced, one of my biggest fears stemmed from the fact that so many of them were getting promotions into positions for which they were unproven. Pruitt himself was stepping up from coordinator to head coach, and his coordinators were primarily former position coaches. Whether Tyson Helton had any real experience as offensive coordinator calling plays was always cloudy, but if he had any, it wasn’t much. It seemed that nearly everybody had a learning curve to climb.
Not so with Chaney, whose first job as a Power 5 offensive coordinator was all the way back in 1997 for Purdue. Except for a brief period as a position coach in the NFL, he’s been one ever since.
It’s not that Pruitt’s staff doesn’t have experience, but many of the key guys last season had been learning something new. Chaney brings some much-needed experience to the staff, and the fact that he’s on the offensive side of the ball should allow Pruitt to focus even more on the defense, which, let’s be honest, also needs some work.
No apparent head-coaching aspirations
One of the oddest things about Jim Chaney is his incredibly long-tenure as a coordinator without ever having served as a head coach (the one-game as Vols interim notwithstanding.) As I said above, Chaney’s been an offensive coordinator since 1997, except for a three-year period as offensive line and tight ends coach in the NFL. He was part of Lane Kiffin’s Coaching Chimera in 2009, and when the Tennessee Rumspringa was over, the entire Chimera disappeared into the dark night with the exception of Jim Chaney. Derek Dooley was many things, but not-smart wasn’t one of them, and he persuaded Chaney to stay. Chaney didn’t leave Rocky Top until Dooley was fired and Butch Jones brought in his own guys. That didn’t work.
I can’t seem to find it, but I have a vague recollection of Chaney once telling Tennessee media while serving as Vols coordinator that he was content as a life-long coordinator and simply didn’t want to be a head coach. Maybe I made that up. Maybe that’s graciously responding to an insulting question. I don’t know. But he’s been a really good coordinator for a really long time, and in a world of ladder-climbing and self-ambition, he appears to have that rare talent of being content. The chief problem with coordinators is that they either don’t succeed or they leave when they do. If I’m reading him right, Chaney seems to be the perfect combination of excellence and stability.
I don’t know if Jim Chaney is a prolific recruiter. Heck, maybe he hates it or is terrible at it or something, and maybe that’s the main reason he has no ambition to become a head coach.
But I do know that he’s served as the offensive coordinator for the Georgia Bulldogs that past few seasons and that the Bulldogs are currently neck-and-neck with Alabama for recruiting the most talent to their respective campuses. For what it’s worth, 247Sports credits Chaney with landing some of Georgia’s most impressive guys. There are a lot of stars on that list.
If the hiring of Chaney can help Tennessee to lure more and better talent to Knoxville than Athens, that will be a very good thing. At the very least, you’d have to think that losing a coordinator would introduce some uncertainty into the mix for guys on the fence.
Tennessee’s search for an offensive coordinator to replace Tyson Helton may have taken forever, but it seems clear that the Vols have once again stuck the landing and somehow ended up with an upgrade at an incredibly important staff position.