clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Butch Jones has done a good job at Tennessee, despite how easy he is to joke about

He’s turned the Vols around on the field but has not connected with fans.

NCAA Football: SEC Media Days Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones made it through his time at SEC Media Days without making any memes. That is an achievement. The man behind Champions of Life, Five-Star Hearts, and other oddities stuck to the script.

He did answer with this when asked whether Tennessee's 2016 — when the talented, experienced SEC East favorites lost to Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina, and Vanderbilt — counted as a disappointment:

I don't view it as a disappointment. The way I view it is we didn't accomplish everything we set ourselves out to. And, again, our goal every year is to win a championship and compete to win a championship.

So was it a disappointment? No. Did we not accomplish some of the things we set out to do? Absolutely. We have to learn from the things that went wrong that we could have done better.

Tennessee fans (and many others) disagree with that. Andy Staples advises him to drop the cliches and make it clear to fans that he feels what they feel.

Setting aside the literality of it (not accomplishing a goal is a disappointment, no matter what), I do wonder how much Jones' achievements at UT are colored by both what preceded him and by the personality he projects.

It's been a decade since the Vols had a season truly worth remembering, and that's not Jones' fault. He took over a program that'd kind of gone years without recruiting (many of Lane Kiffin's signees left, and Derek Dooley wasn't exactly vigorous on the trail), charged into battle with a roster that the NFL wanted nothing of for two years, and has improved the team either on paper or for the eyeballs in four straight years.

And now we're all in agreement that a coach coming off two straight nine-win seasons is on the hot seat. So it was a great idea for Nebraska to fire Bo Pelini, then?

Would we think better of the job he's doing if he was ... this feels dumb to say, but if he was cooler? If he wasn't the coach-speakiest coach-speaker who ever coach-spoke, and if he wasn't so easy to joke about? If his teams lost in mundane ways, rather than in spectacular debacles? OK, that last one I can see.

Looking at just the numbers, he's turned around a major program despite having to play Alabama every year out-of-division and always playing at least one tough non-conference opponent as well. Just pretend he's a swaggering subtweet like Bret Bielema or a run-through-a-wall type like Ed Orgeron and then look at the record. His program has done a better job on the field than you'd think, if you only go by perception.

That said, jokes about the Champions of Life belt will continue in this space at full throttle. I don't make the rules.

More college football