Taking the Long, Dumb Route to a Head Coach

You’d think we’ve gotten to the point where a Tennessee head coach search wouldn’t be a disaster zone. Over the last decade, maybe people would’ve learned something from the litany of past mistakes.

It’s been a decade, hasn’t it?

From the Clawfense to shirtless chain pictures to Coach O recruiting for USC in the back of the press room to Opportunity is Nowhere to finding Rommel (we never found him, did we?) to Five-Star Heart to Title IX payouts, it’s been a decade. I don’t blame anyone at this point for being done, and I don’t blame anyone for deciding to walk away.

We hoped this would pass once Butch Jones put a stamp on the 2017 season and proceeded to mail it in until he secured his buyout. We ended up with interim coach Brady Hoke, who has now been on a fired staff three years running. Jauan Jennings got kicked off the team instead of the more-normal suspension and re-evaluation under a new head coach.

The last year in football has been falling out of a tree and hitting every branch on the way down, no mean feat for a season that started with a literal trash can.

Well, great. Now what?

Anyway, after all that we’re stuck hoping that John Currie, former Kansas State AD turned Tennessee AD, would be able to guide us out of the muck. Currie, it should be noted, never hired a football coach at Kansas State. The main revenue-sport hire he did there was turfing Frank Martin for Bruce Weber. (Frank Martin, in case you forgot or checked out of college basketball, led South Carolina—South Carolina!—to a Final Four last year. This would be classified as “known defect” among the more engineering-inclined of the sports punditry.)

We’ve seen nothing in the last month that makes me think either Currie or the people working with him on this there has any idea what they’re doing. I’m left to believe we’re in the middle of a farce.

Given a month or so to plan following Butch Jones being shown the door and a pretty decent slate of potential head coaching candidates, we’ve seen:
– Nothing until the end of football season. That’s firmly in the annoying-but-explainable camp, but we’re being completist here. This is probably fine.
– Greg Schiano get offered the head coaching job, accept the position, and then back out after a revolt for most of last Sunday.

Wait, hold up.

If you’d like to write off Schiano being involved with Penn State during the Sandusky era, sure. That still leaves the relatively lackluster record at Rutgers, who rolled up wins back when the Big East was sending 8-4 UConn to the Fiesta Bowl, the player revolt in Tampa Bay, the MRSA outbreak in Tampa Bay, and the, well, zero jobs he was in the running for before being plucked off the scrap heap to give up 55 points to Iowa. Really, take your pick on why this was a bad idea, you’ve got options.

Oh yeah, and the memorandum of understanding. Apparently, Schiano signed a memorandum of understanding prior to the scuttled announcement on Sunday. This is a little baffling, and the only thing I can figure out happened here is someone in the athletic department was directed to run a find-replace on Rick Barnes’s old MOU and forwarded it to Schiano’s agents/lawyers. This was saved because Beverly Davenport didn’t sign the MOU, I guess? Somehow, ending up on the hook for Schiano’s buyout after possibly employing him for four hours is about the most appropriate way for that story to end.

Stop me if any of the above sequence makes you feel good about the people still looking to make a hire. On the other hand, if you’re into dark humor last week was great.

Anyway:

We backed up the truck for Mike Gundy and made him say no. This was good! This was a good idea! The process they used to get here is:

  • Florida hired Dan Mullen, who I’d say was now off the board but I’m honestly not sure he was on there in the first place.
  • Had ….something weird happen with Jeff Brohm. I’m not sure what happened here, so I’m just going to make a note and come back to it.
  • Arizona State hired Herm Edwards. That has nothing to do with Tennessee, but you probably missed this yesterday and it did pretty much lock in Tennessee to the second-worst hire of the offseason at worst. Yay?
  • Made an offer to Dave Doeren, whose coaching profile looks like “hey, what if we hired Butch Jones but only with 75% of the success?”
  • Had the band play over videos and every single stoppage during the Tennessee-Mercer game to drown out “Fire Currie’ chants coming from the student section. If you missed the game last night, 1) you should watch the Basketvols, they’re good!, 2) you could hear some chants over the TV in the first half.
  • Jimbo Fisher left FSU, presumably to take Texas A&M’s open head coaching gig.
  • Doeren, head coach at NC State, decided he wanted no part of this.

I don’t blame Doeren, for the record. This job was going to be brutal—and, since he’s turned it down, too tough for him. We can say that now. Tennessee is a hard, but rewarding job, and the difficulty is directly related to the reward. Coming in for a fanbase that lacks hope after the demolition job of 2017 would’ve meant he was updating his resume by 2020 at the latest.

You’d be forgiven at this point for ignoring the actual issue at hand–oh yeah, by the way there’s an early signing period this year!–and just descending into the kind of macabre comedy that ….well, isn’t really America’s bag quite frankly. If you’re the kind of person who watches Black Mirror for the comedy, this week has been great.

Eeeeeeeesh.

The nice part about Currie and crew screwing up this badly is that they’ve left all the good candidates still on the board. Somehow, Kevin Sumlin might actually take our phone call. Les Miles is still on the board. Tee Martin? Around, confused that he hasn’t been called, but he’s around! I’m contractually obligated to mention Lane Kiffin is around, and I guess I’ll even go above and beyond the contract to mention that going after him will end in him also publicly turning Tennessee down. Everyone and their brother, sister, cousin, aunt, and uncle has their favorite candidate. (For me? Go talk to Brohm, bury your pride, bring your best I’m-sorry, and bring your wallet.)

At this point, regardless of end result the process that was taken to get there has been abhorrent, the worst combination of administrative slapstick and ideas perpetuated by the same thought process that got Chan Gailey job after job after job. If we end up with a head coach that isn’t a disaster zone, consider it a bonus.

In the meantime, congrats to future Tennessee head coach Dave Clawson, because ….hey, do you trust Currie to not do that?

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13 Comments on "Taking the Long, Dumb Route to a Head Coach"

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Joel Hollingsworth

Hey, look everybody! It’s @chris-pendley, and he even brought The Door with him!

Will Shelton

I’m here for the door. I am not here for Dave Clawson. We already almost went three-for-three on:

2010: Will says, “Who is Derek Dooley?” on a podcast. Hired Dooley.
2012: Butch Jones receives the least votes in an RTT post-Charlie Strong poll. Hired Butch.
2017: Will writes Doeren is the toughest (and only) difficult name to sell on any hot board post-Schiano. Offered Doeren.

Brenna Williams
Member

This whole search has gotten completely out of hand. If I performed like this at work, I’d be fired…and I work for the .government. It takes a lot to be fired by the government.

Joel Hollingsworth

This made me laugh.

Mark Dotson
Member

Good writing Chris. I did not realize how much I missed seeing THE DOOR until now. Hopefully we do get a good HC soon, along with a great staff, and someone who can remove the injury curse that seems to be attached to our facilities. GBO.

Andrew Cooper
Member

We… and by we I mean Currie and the Brain Trust… are taking stupid to a whole new level. I would really like an honest answer about the thought process that went into this search someday.

Harley
Member

I think I am going to need therapy to get through the rest of this coaching hire… depression is setting in 🙁

cscott95
Member

That was an excellent summary of where we are at this point in time, so seriously thanks for that Chris. Very well written.

Chance Hunt
Member

This one begs to be read aloud. Thanks for the chuckle and one of the most informative summaries (so far). Time to put the lid on this trash can of a season/search/decade.

Isaac Bishop
Member

Mike Leach is getting serious consideration and possibly a deal in the works! Please, please don’t message this up Currie and Co.!!

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