By Shaee Flatt
The Tennessee coaching search is in full swing. It’s been a week since Derek Dooley was officially let go, and several names have surfaced. Jon Gruden, Bob Stoops, and Jimbo Fisher are the names that have been thrown around the most, and would all be solid hires. Ninety-nine percent of the fan base is dying for Jon Gruden and for obvious reasons’, he has the highest potential of any candidate out there, without question.
However, I’m not going to talk about the pros and cons of each coach, just which ones are likely and which ones probably aren’t. Sunday night Tennessee beat writer Wes Rucker said "We hesitate to even mention this because of the questions that could follow it — questions we can’t answer at this point, unfortunately — but we’ve heard now from multiple sources that UT athletic director Dave Hart has told several high-level boosters that they “won’t have to wait long” after Saturday’s win over Kentucky to have a replacement named.”
The quote, as Rucker suspected, as brought lots of questions. Is Gruden really the done deal that some think he is? Has someone else slipped through the cracks and accepted the job?
Here is my take on it; If an announcement comes this week, which seems possible based on the quote, it’s either going to be Gruden, or someone disappointing. The other prominent names have all been coaching the past couple weeks and it is unlikely that any talks would have progressed far enough for Hart to make a statement like that regarding any of them. However, a lesser coach would be willing to talk no matter when Tennessee wanted to talk.
The Knoxville media has been pretty adamant that the next coach will NOT be Jon Gruden. However, they were the same way with Lane Kiffin in 2009. It is possible that this is just a smokescreen to stop leaking of information.
It is also possible that they are 100 percent serious and 100 percent correct. Fact is, we have no idea. I do know this though, Bob Stoops or Jimbo Fisher will not be named as Tennessee’s next football coach in the next week. It is possible that talks with Charlie Strong have gotten serious, but I don’t think Tennessee fans’ would be happy with Strong unless he was pretty far down the line, and behind at least a few others who turned the job down. Again, possible.
Talks between Tennessee and Gruden could have died, Hart could have called Stoops and Fisher, and both could have had no interest. That could have left Hart with Strong, who could be close to signing. It’s all pure speculation, but if an announcement is made this week, it’s either going to be Gruden or someone disappointing. Tennessee NEEDS a SPLASH. They need someone that if hired, will be talked about on ESPN and national radio shows around the country all day. Charlie Strong is a good football coach, but he’s not a splash hire. He wouldn’t provide the spark that this fan base needs and he isn’t guaranteed success.
Personally, my gut says it is in fact Jon Gruden. Everything outsisde of the Knoxville media is pointing that way, and in a way, the Knoxville media is as well. One day, they were all talking about him being possible and the next they say “no chance” without being able to provide any details as to why. It’s a fishy situation. Whereas media outside of Knoxville are reporting that Gruden has talked to coaches, as late as Sunday Nov. 25, (tonight) about joining him to coach at Tennessee.
If an announcement is made this week, then I honestly think Jon Gruden will be the next Head football coach at Tennessee, and if he is, Tennessee football will be back on the map right away. He might be hard as hell on his players, he might want total control and think he runs the entire University, but two things are for certain, he will recruit as good as or better than anyone in the country, and he will win. “He’s too hard on his players, he expects too much out of them” or “He wants too much control, he wants to own the whole school” are quotes I’ve seen regarding Gruden, and they are quotes that remind me of one man. Nick Saban. Or in other words, the best coach in college football. To be the best, you have to be obsessed like no one else is, Nick Saban and Jon Gruden are obsessed with football and they’re obsessed with winning. That is exactly what Tennessee needs, someone who will not accept failure, but that will do anything necessary in order to win. Tennessee needs Jon Gruden.