Butch Jones' Tennessee teams bear similarities to Derek Dooley's
A 28-27 loss to Florida on Saturday dropped Tennessee to 2-2 on the season. But let’s look a bit deeper than just the .500 record.
Tennessee has owned double-digit fourth-quarter leads twice this season only to see those dissipate into losses. The latest was a result of a missed 55-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of the game, which signaled the 11th consecutive victory for the Gators in their series with the Volunteers.
But perhaps it signaled something much, much more.
Butch Jones is now 14-15 as head coach of Tennessee and 5-12 against SEC opponents. Yet again, there is discontent among Rocky Top fans about their head coach.
Under Jones, Tennessee has never finished better than fourth in the conference. A loss to the Gators on Saturday puts the Vols in the unfortunate position of heading into a five-game stretch against SEC teams, which includes contests against No. 7 Georgia and No. 12 Alabama in back-to-back weeks.
In three seasons as Tennessee’s head coach, Jones is still on the hunt for a marquee victory. Last year, Jones’ team dropped all five games against ranked opponents. Overall, Jones is 1-11 against ranked opponents, and that includes a 5-14 against conference foes over the past three years.
Jones has brought to Tennessee much of the same promise that Derek Dooley did.
Dooley, who replaces Lane Kiffin as the Vols head coach back in 2010, went 5-7 in his inaugural season in 2010, with all seven losses coming against SEC results. That marked the first of three consecutive seasons in which Tennessee earned a losing mark, which put Dooley in the unfortunate position of taking claim to arguably the worst Tennessee teams in school history.
Dooley’s Volunteers teams will forever go down as some of the worst to ever compete in the SEC. Three consecutive losing seasons were marred by a 5-21 record in conference play.
Unlike those Tennessee teams led by Dooley, Jones does not have the excuse of coaching “bad” teams. This year’s squad is a talented team, highlighted by the promise of quarterback Joshua Dobbs.
But dropping to 2-2 before September comes an end and extending a losing streak to Florida has many in Rocky Top feeling deja vu.
Jones entered Saturday with a 14-14 overall mark as head coach of Tennessee, which was merely a one-game improvement over Dooley’s when he was the head coach through 29 games (13-15). A loss dropped Jones to under .500 as the Vols head coach, but the same feeling that he could be on the same track as Dooley in the big picture.
Jones is in a position to change the trajectory of his team, though. With such a rigid schedule coming up, Tennessee has a chance to make waves in the SEC, though that outlooks feels a bit optimistic considering Saturday’s disheartening loss to Florida.
Nonetheless, Tennessee will host Arkansas and the seventh-ranked Bulldogs in back-to-back weeks before heading to Tuscaloosa, Ala. all before Halloween. By then, Jones’ team’s identity will be revealed as either a legitimate contender or an absolute flop.
We know how Dooley’s teams fared, and though three seasons Jones is on the seemingly similar path of following the script. Jones, however, has the chance the right the ship, but obviously faces an uphill battle in doing so.