Tennessee should have won the SEC East in 2016, but things didn’t play out that way.
After beating Florida and Georgia early in the season, the Vols lost to both South Carolina and Vanderbilt, crushing the hopes of making it to Atlanta and winning the division. And Butch Jones was asked about it last week at SEC Media Days, and somewhat surprising for even the always-positive Jones, he said it wasn’t a disappointment.
“I don’t view it as a disappointment,” Jones said last week in Hoover. “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.”
Needless to say, many were critical of Jones’ comments (here and here). To contrast with Jones, Nick Saban said that although Alabama had a great season in the eyes of many — winning the SEC Championship, he called last season a “failure,” even after falling short on a national championship. That’s a far cry from Jones’ position on Tennessee.
However, on Monday as part of the SEC’s ESPN Car Wash in Bristol, Connecticut, Jones finally said what he should have said last week.
“Any time you don’t win a championship, it is a disappointment, and that’s our expectations at the University of Tennessee, is to compete for championships year in and year out with sustained success,” Jones said on SportsCenter. “So, we expect to win championships at Tennessee. That’s the number-one goal in our football program, so we were disappointed that we did not win a championship.”
Jones and Tennessee are about to embark on an interesting season on Rocky Top. Win and he’s fine; lose and the mounting criticism will only increase. And after losing so much talent from 2016, this could turn into a make-or-break season for Jones and the Vols.