Thanks Phil, But...
Saturday afternoon was it for me. I have avoided jumping over to the side of the fence that wants a change in the head coaching position at Tennessee for quite awhile now, but Saturday's performance pushed me over said fence full-bore.
The bottom line is that Tennessee is going to be a middle-of-the-pack SEC program until a change at the head coaching position is made.
I flirted with jumping on the "Fire Fulmer" wagon after the 59-20 loss to Florida last year, but still didn't. That day, the reason was the fact that our team quit and attitude reflects leadership. I even managed to avoid it after the horrible trip to Alabama when the entire staff forgot how to do their jobs. I dismissed UCLA as a fluke.
But Saturday's performance was just an awful display of football in every phase of this great game. Tennessee may not have the talent of the 90s (as Ghost of Neyland over at 3SIB points out here) and Florida may be loaded, but the fact of the matter is that Tennessee is too talented a team to get blown out at home and play as poorly as they did.
My most adamant complaint is kicking to Brandon James - twice. He beat us - both times. What does it take? Essentially three (in the sense one was called back) times we have let him beat us. Three. I threatened all week that if we kicked to him and he returned it, I would leave Neyland Stadium. I about did.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Obviously we should have punted it to Section P, but apparently everybody BUT our coach (or our punter) already new that..."][/caption]
Offensively, the execution is pitiful. Most of that I think is because Jonathan Crompton is, for lack of a better word, incompetent. Is he progressing? Slightly, but he is so mistake-prone that it's to a point where Dave Clawson is now limited as to what he can do. I'm still giving Clawson the benefit of the doubt, but Crompton just doesn't have it between the ears. I miss Erik Ainge...
Arian Foster, our supposed senior leader on offense, gets a stupid personal foul penalty making a third-and-short into a third-and-long, yet he misses no time. Foster disappeared in a big game yet again, yet still is the starter and Tennessee's primary ball carrier when BOTH Montario Hardesty and Lennon Creer have shown more explosiveness. I have liked Arian, but I have been told that he isn't the leader many of us expected he would be.
Defensively, I don't know what to say. Yes, we held the powerfully explosive Gators to 200-something yards, but I credit that more to the fact Florida basically ran draw and read plays the entire second half up 27-0. You would have a tough time telling me that if that game was being played in Gainesville Saturday, that Florida doesn't get 50.
That said, the defensive effort is certainly there. They showed some backbone and never stopped fighting, but what's the point? What more can Eric Berry do? When is his play going to infect everyone else? We still can't stop anybody on third downs...
Don't even get me started on special teams. Lawvol went through that extensively in the new "Marching Orders from the General" feature (we have yet another one on tap for tomorrow as well). Maybe it's just Chad Cunningham...[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="Defenses we still play: Auburn, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and yes, even Kentucky...UH OH"][/caption]
Florida made it look real, real easy Saturday. They didn't even really have to try much and just let Tennessee make mistakes. Yes the Gators made plays when they had to, but they made that win look terrifyingly easy. They got in, got out, and on their way to their tougher games against LSU and Georgia.
Point is that this is just not a good football team from the coaching on down. And it's a shame, too. There's a pretty good level of talent on this team and it's being wasted. The players work too hard for this. Offensively this is mostly due to the poor QB play. Overall, defense included, this team just lacks aggressiveness.
I watch LSU pull out a gutsy win at Auburn Saturday night, and they run an onside kick and their defense (Auburn's, Georgia's, Florida's, Alabama's this season as well) is just flying around making plays. In scoring position with a chance at a game-winning FG, does Les Miles run it up the middle? No, he takes his freshman QB and throws a tough throw/route for the winning TD. Nick Saban is playing freshmen everywhere.
We are too tentative, too conservative, too afraid of making a mistake, and they are inevitable. And they happen. We can't get a freaking handoff. My friends and I could execute a handoff. We have no swagger that I see from these other teams. There's no question about the effort - which could be some reason for hope, maybe - but that's about it.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="325" caption="That pretty much sums up this past Saturday..."][/caption]
That's coaching, people. And for Tennessee to return to the level of being able to compete legitimately in today's SEC, there's going to have to be a change. Coach Fulmer has done more for this University than just about anybody else and deserves that credit. But it's time for him to step down. I just hope when it does happen, that it goes without too much drama and the nonsense that's happened at other schools (Rich Rodriguez comes to mind).
Unlike the ever-optimistic Lawvol, I have bailed on this season. I know I did foolishly last year, but I see no reason for a turnaround. None. At. All. Will I stop watching games? No, I'll be at Auburn Saturday and in Neyland for Northern Illinois next weekend. I'm still a fan, but there's something not right about not even overly caring that we got beat 30-6 on our own field a few hours after watching it happen.
It's a sad, sad time for the Tennessee football program...
But let's all remember to stick with the team through all this. It's time like these that make the better days so much sweeter.
Images Courtesy of: Doug Finger / Gainesville Sun • Streeter Lecka / Getty Images (Orlando Sentinel Picture #18)
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