Randy Smith: I'm No Longer Able To Defend Butch Jones

Monday, September 18, 2017 - by Randy Smith
Randy Smith
Randy Smith
I'm sorry but I can no longer defend Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones. Saturday's 26-20 loss in the Swamp to the Florida Gators was the "perfect storm" of what's wrong with the Vols' program. Florida was like a wounded animal. A football team with still more than a half-dozen players suspended for credit card fraud, a weak misguided offense that had yet to score an offensive touchdown this season, I believe the win was there for the taking, there for the Big Orange to grab and make it two in a row over the Gators.

Three interceptions, three missed field goals, a handful of costly penalties and several beleaguered attempts to score points from the Florida red zone that came up empty time and time again, led to the Vols' downfall. When women I don't even know were saying on Facebook, "Just give the ball to John Kelly and quit trying to throw it from the one yard line" it speaks volumes about Tennessee's coaching staff.  Oh and I didn't mention the 63-yard TD pass thrown by Gator quarterback Feleipe Franks at the final horn that sealed the win; a "Hail Mary" toss to Tyrie Cleveland with no time remaining. It was like a golden dagger cast into the hearts of Tennessee fans everywhere. The Vol faithful were anxiously thinking about the game headed into overtime like the opening win over Georgia Tech, won by the Vols 42-41. Franks and Cleveland ended those thoughts with Cleveland's diving catch in the end zone.

I have defended Coach Jones many times when the "Legions of the Miserable" got on him, demanding he be fired. My stance was always this; who are you going to get? The same stance I took when Phillip Fulmer was under the gun in 2008. Unless you can recreate "Bear Bryant" don't make the change. Just changing coaches doesn't mean your program will suddenly climb back to the top of the college football world. You have to hire that special coach, like Alabama's hiring of Nick Saban or Clemson's hiring of Dabo Swinney.  

Don't get me wrong......I'm not calling for Butch Jones' head. I don't think you need to fire a coach until the end of the year when the entire season's work is finished. But I am also through defending him in public or private. I've lost confidence in his ability to guide the Volunteer's program. Now, he can restore my confidence with a few wins that he shouldn't get like Georgia, Alabama or LSU but until those things happen you won't hear me say or read anything at all that defends him against widespread criticism. 

Tennessee's fan base is fickle. They think they deserve the game's greatest coach just because they feel the Vols are on equal footing with the rest of college football. The plain truth of the matter is Tennessee is no longer on that equal footing. They haven't been in at least fifteen years. UT hasn't won an SEC title since 1998, and they haven't won an SEC East championship since 2007. The program that is second only to Alabama in SEC wins looks nothing like the program it once was. The right coaching hire could fix that situation. There was a time when I thought Butch Jones was that coach. Now, I'm not so sure anymore. 

* * *

Randy Smith has been covering sports on radio, television and print for the past 45 years. After leaving WRCB-TV in 2009, he has written two books, and has continued to free-lance as a play-by-play announcer.  His career has included a 17-year stretch as host of the Kickoff Call In Show on the University of Tennessee’s prestigious Vol Network. He has been a member of the Vol Network staff for 30 years. He has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, and Fox SportSouth, totaling more than 500 games, and served as a well-known sports anchor on Chattanooga television for more than a quarter-century. In 2003, he became the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Greater Chattanooga Area Sports Hall of Fame. Randy and his wife Shelia reside in Hixson. They have two married children, Christi and Chris Perry; Davey and Alison Smith. They have five grandchildren, Coleman, Boone, Mattingly, DellaMae, and CoraLee.

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