This article was originally published on thesoutheasterner.com on September 13, 2015
Enough with checkering Neyland. Enough with the coach-speak and sales pitches. Enough with the public relations and the excuses. Tennessee football needs to win games.
Saturday night marked yet another episode in a long string of soul-crushing losses for the Vols, but this one felt different. We all saw what this squad could really be. UT was the better team and they still didn’t win and this seemed to have exposed Butch Jones and his staff to the fan base in ways they hadn’t been before. You could see cracks in the facade of Jones’ shiny exterior for the first time.
Butch has talked a lot, but so far, Butch hasn’t won a lot.
And that’s fine, he was tasked with dredging up a sunken ship. In some ways he’s done a fine job putting the pieces back together for Vol football. Recruiting hasn’t been this successful at Tennessee since the late 90’s and UT’s marketing efforts and the perception of the team are the best they’ve been in more than a decade. But last night, the coaching was bad and it resulted in a monumental meltdown.
Often the offensive play calling was horrifyingly conservative. No example of this is more telling than on the Vols very first drive against Oklahoma when Jones was faced with a 4th and 1 at OU’s goal line and he elected to kick a field goal. (Coincidentally, a touchdown would have won Tennessee the game in regulation) With Jalen Hurd, one of the best power running backs in America, in the backfield, UT settled for a field goal at the goal line… I don’t even want to hear the rationale there, go for the touchdown.
And when Jones was questioned about the decision at his press conference after the game, he had no remorse. Not even a “maybe we should have tried to go for it but we can’t change it now.” The decision was made so it must have been the right decision.
This is not what the fans want to hear after a heartbreaking loss from a coach who so far has done nothing but talk a big game. In this situation, fans want the coaches to take all the blame and say they’ll change and do better next week. Start winning games and then your decisions won’t be questioned at post game press conferences. At this point, Vol fans don’t want their coach to not second guess his decisions. They want vulnerability and genuine discourse, not manufactured statements. And they just want wins.
All of this grief could go away if Tennessee would simply win football games. This coaching staff has asked a lot of fans. They’ve asked for unwavering support, endless engagement, clothing color coordination, and tons and tons of money, and all UT patrons have gotten in return is a win over Iowa in a bowl game and sorrow.
Enough is enough.
Fans have given their all for Tennessee. They’ve come to the games, yelled at the top of their lungs, paid for the shirts and tickets, and bought into Butch Jones’ sales pitch. Now it’s time for Butch to drop the salesman act and provide the product he’s been promising. And that’s not to say Vol supporters are expecting an SEC Championship this year, they just don’t want a total implosion against an inferior Oklahoma team.
A win at Florida in two weeks is nothing short of an iron-clad must-win game. If Butch Jones cannot beat the Gators, supporters will disengage, walk away, and mutter the all too familiar phrase “maybe next year” because they’ve been sold a product that has not been delivered. The time is now for Butch Jones and Tennessee’s football program to give the people what they really want. Not gray jerseys, not gimmicks or the promise of a new Tennessee at some unspecified time in the future.
Just give the people wins.