Sunday, January 17, 2010

Coaching Changes

Okay, let's just go ahead and get this out of the way. All of the folks who are upset about Lane Kiffin bolting the University Of Tennessee for USC -- huh? Are you nuts!? Here are my varied and sundry thoughts on the matter.

When Mike Hamilton tossed Phillip Fulmer aside like a dirty dishrag, I was of two minds about the whole thing. John Majors, not my favorite head coach ever, had achieved, at UT, a record of 116-62-8, then had been thrown out in a like manner in 1992. And while I was not a big fan, this was a dirty way to treat a guy who had attended, played for, and coached the Vols. The funny thing is, this had to have been done with Fulmer's knowledge and endorsement, as he was the replacement-in-waiting.

That having been said, the same scenario sixteen years later doesn't correct the mistake, although Coach Majors probably saw it as a rather spooky comeuppance. Let's face it, I refuse to root for the Dallas Cowboys ever since Jerry Jones showed Tom Landry the door in a very similar fashion.

Thus, Doug Dickey was wrong to treat Majors as he did, and Mike Hamilton -- who should have learned from a poor example -- was also wrong. In the first place, Fulmer was and is (merely opinion, folks) a much better representative of the university, and extends a better public image. Also, at 152-52, he was a better coach, because he won more and lost fewer games. And he won a national championship at UT.

So, I did not endorse the firing of Coach Fulmer. But that did not cause me to be against Coach Kiffin when he was hired. Kiffin had been hired and fired by the ancient and demented Al Davis, the worst owner in the history of the NFL. The Oakland Raiders' bad-boy image is a direct extension of their owner thinking he's king of all he sees. Davis is a bully who hides behind his money, and that's the mentality he wants in his players. Of them all, Howie Long has escaped that image more quickly and efficiently than any. Most Raiders and ex-Raiders are of the same ilk as Lyle Alzedo, who broke rules regularly, depended on steroids to make him stronger and faster, then wanted sympathy when he came up with cancer due to his stupidity. I never root for the Raiders. I root for Dallas when the two teams are playing, because Jerry Jones is merely the 2nd worst owner in NFL history.

Therefore, the firing of Lane Kiffin by Davis was -- in my opinion -- a ringing endorsement. One of the contentious issues between Davis and Kiffin was Lane's attempt to fire Randy Hanson, an assistant who is, apparently, one of Al's lap dogs. This was brought to the fore when Hanson got his jaw broken because he couldn't shut his yap in the presence of Tom Cable, Kiffin's replacement. Cable handled Hanson less delicately than Kiffin, and I'm okay with that. If Davis gets rid of Cable, maybe UT should give him a look (that's a joke, folks).

So, I was not against the hiring of Kiffin, I was against the firing of Phillip Fulmer. I waited to see what Lane would do, though my young bride was against him from the start, just 'cuz she loves Fulmer and his public image, and he coached her sweetheart, Peyton Manning.

Lane-boy arrived in Knoxville, and the first thing he did was shoot off his half-cocked, adolescent mouth, trash-talking Urban Meyer and UF. All right, here's another thing we need to get out in front. I am a Florida fan. I root against them one game per year, and that's when they're playing UT. I root for them against UGA, and Alabama, and I was happy when they squashed Cincinnati and taught them a lesson about playing with the big boys.

But I wasn't upset about the WHOM, I was upset about the WHAT. Honestly, could he not do his talking on the field? Did Fulmer ever respond to Spurrier's jabs other than by coaching and playing the game? No! So, I wasn't happy with Kiffy, though I wouldn't go so far as to root against the team, as The Boss did. I even got tickets (through my brother-in-law, Paul Turner -- thanks again) to the South Carolina game last year, which was played on my birthday. Paul and I sat/stood in the rain for most of the game as UT thrashed a team that had been ranked in the top 25 only a couple of weeks before. It was glorious.

Here's what I predicted would happen after the first time Kiffy ran his stupid mouth. Over a few years, he would be exposed as the trash-talking, 13-year-old that he is, and UT trustees would call for his head. At that time, Hamilton would be let go, 'cuz he's a moron, and Fulmer -- who still hasn't taken another coaching position -- would be installed as AD, and he would hire David Cutcliffe to be head coach, who would re-hire John Chavis as defensive coordinator.

That was my prediction, and I was willing to wait it out. Then Pete Carroll left USC, and Los Angeles came calling on Coach Kiffy, and the dumb young people on campus gave the local news something to yak about for days on end. I contend that the frat boys were protesting simply because they didn't want Coach's hot wife to leave with him.

Hamilton (I still believe his hiring of Bruce Pearl to be an extremely happy accident), scrambled quickly, doing a very good impression of Johnathon Crompton exiting the pocket. Trustees were already beginning to situate themselves on Fulmer's doorstep, the AD job in their little paws, and Hamilton needed to find a receiver, fast. He looked to Texas for Will Muschamp, covered. He looked to Cutcliffe at Duke University, but ol' Davey is one of Phil's boys, and he waved Hamilton off. He even looked at Jon Gruden -- another former Raider coach, who had taken Tony Dungy's team in Tampa and won a Super Bowl, then began making them one of the worst franchises in the league. None of them bit.

So Derek Dooley wound up with the football. The Boss is all upset because she -- like everyone in Tuscaloosa before Saban showed up -- thinks we should hire someone with a history at UT. She was a history major, and I understand her position.

But, as I was willing to give Kiffy an opportunity, I am willing to give Coach Dooley an opportunity also. Coach could have attended the University of Georgia, where his father is a legend, and been assured of a place on the team. But he went to the University Of Virginia, where he walked on, and earned a scholarship with his play. I admire that mentality.

One of ESPN's Pat Forde's comments about Kiffy was that he "was born on third base, and acts like he hit a triple all the time." Mixed metaphors aside, Derek Dooley doesn't seem that way. From appearances, he hasn't tried to trade on his famous father's name to make it in coaching. The best thing we can do -- again, opinion -- is to sit back and see what he's made of, on and off the field.

He could begin by hiring John Chavis, who crafted the #3 defense in the NCAA in 2008, away from LSU. It would be a start.

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