Rocky Topics: Where does Butch Jones stand?

After its first shutout at home loss since 1905, Seth and Caleb discuss Butch Jones’ future as head coach of the Volunteers.

Photo by Ben Proffitt.

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones yells into his headset during the Vols' game against Missouri in Neyland Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016.

Following a 41-0 throttling from the Georgia Bulldogs, Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Butch Jones is feeling the pressure in Knoxville.

In the third edition of Rocky Topics, Caleb Souders and Seth Raborn discuss where Butch Jones stands after Tennessee’s historic loss to Georgia on Saturday.

Raborn: Butch Jones’ 41-0 loss to Georgia was the worst performance from Tennessee at home in over a century. However, firing Jones now would be an ill-advised move. I know Vols fans don’t want to hear that after the beating of a lifetime on Saturday, but keeping Jones for the time being would be the smart move. In no way am I excusing Jones’ poor coaching decisions on and off the field. On the other hand, rolling into Tuscaloosa in two weeks without a head coach would be an absolute disaster. Alabama smacked Ole Miss, who is arguably better than Tennessee and has an interim coach, 66-3. There is no reason to make matters worse.

Souders: This is where Seth and I disagree. I think the quicker John Currie kicks Butch Jones to the curb the better. Cade Mays has allegedly prepared himself to announce he could be exploring his options. The Vols have already lost two commitments from the coveted 2018 recruiting class, and it could only go downhill from here. Four-star safety Brendon Harris already decommitted from the program on Tuesday, and four-star Jatavious Harris also announced via Twitter he reopened his recruitment, but as of now remains committed to the Vols.

To add to the bad news, Venzell Boulware joined the long list of players to transfer from the program under Jones. The only thing that could salvage the remaining recruits in the 2018 class and make sure no other players transfer would be to fire Jones and bring in a big time head coach the Tennessee fanbase deserves. Sure, the Vols could take a heavy beating in Alabama, but doesn’t everybody? Give Tennessee something to be excited about in 2018 John Currie, get rid of the inevitable and move on.

Raborn: The smartest thing to do would be to wait until after the South Carolina game depending on the result. However, unless Jones and the Vols get beat like they did last Saturday, keeping him as head coach until the back half of the schedule is ideal. Tennessee is likely going to get dibs on what coach they want, a difference of three or four weeks gives them no head start in the coaching search. Jones will do the firing himself if he struggles in the back half on the schedule, especially if he loses to Kentucky in week nine. Patience is the key for the Volunteers’ Athletic Director John Currie and the Tennessee fan base.

Souders: I think as harsh as everybody is on Jones, although a lot of it he brings upon himself, the fanbase owes him a big thank you. This program is in a much better state than when he arrived — and that is a fact. Back to Seth’s point, I completely agree with his thoughts on letting Jones, unlike last year, prove he can beat South Carolina off a bye week.

I believe Jones must follow a script going into the week against South Carolina. First of all, Jones must start Jarrett Guarantano. The Quinten Dormady project lasted five long weeks — and I will be the first to say I believed Dormady won the job and the competition was over. I was wrong, I will admit, and Jones must admit he was wrong too — because that is what leaders do. Guarantano must be the starter heading into South Carolina week, because although Dormady can probably beat South Carolina, he is not the leader Tennessee expected him to be. The Vols must move on from the Quinten Dormady project and let Guarantano take the reigns. This offense cannot function without a running quarterback.

Back to Seth’s point about patience, I disagree that John Currie can afford to be patient. Alabama has been rolling over everybody, and the stretch the Crimson Tide face over the next five games affects Tennessee more and more every week. Alabama will face Texas A&M, Arkansas, Tennessee, LSU and Mississippi State over the next five weeks.

Why does this affect Tennessee? Because four out of those five programs’ coaches are on the hot seat. If Alabama rolls over A&M and Kevin Sumlin doesn’t show he can compete with the Tide, he could very well be out after that week. Arkansas’ Bret Bielema is facing the very same problem, but at this point Tennessee shouldn’t be too concerned about losing a prominent coaching name to the Razorbacks. 

The two most critical games out of the five are LSU and Mississippi State. LSU faces a huge payroll disaster in Ed Orgeron’s 12.5 million dollar buyout, but this has proved to be a terrible hire at head coach for the Tigers. As LSU’s biggest rival, if Alabama comes into Death Valley and routs the Tigers, LSU could be on the search for a head coach — and they will not make the same mistake twice. The Tigers will make a huge splash in hiring a head coach this time. This only takes a coach’s name out of the hat for the Volunteers as LSU has been arguably a more prominent job for the past decade than Tennessee.

Nov. 11 could be a huge game for Tennessee. Alabama travels to Mississippi State, and if Dan Mullen takes a beating to Alabama and shows the program isn’t able to compete with the Tide, Mullen could be looking for a bigger program with more resources to work with.

As one of the names Tennessee could be looking to hire, Nov. 11 is a critical week for the Vols as well. Tennessee will have faced Kentucky and Southern Mississippi and will play Missouri the same week. If Butch Jones can’t manage to win all three of those games, he, along with Dan Mullen, could both be looking for new jobs — Mullen in slightly different fashion.