Tennessee took center stage at SEC Media Days on Monday, meaning Butch Jones, a coach who most think enters the season on the hot seat, would face the media.
Jones is known for being a program seller and his cliches that drive fans and media somewhat nuts, but we’re all used to it by now. Still, Jones never really says what he should say at the right time.
One thing that frustrated me about Jones’ time with the media was him explaining how last year’s 9-4 team wasn’t a disappointment. Let’s face it, in a year when Tennessee beats both Florida and Georgia but loses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt, it’s a disappointment. But Coach Cliche tried explaining why it wasn’t.
“I don’t view it as a disappointment,” Jones said Monday. “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.”
SEC Network analyst Paul Finebaum wasn’t amused with Jones’ time with the media Monday either. He hopped on the SDS Podcast to explain why. Finebaum thinks that Jones is trying to lower the expectation at Tennessee for fans ahead of this season; Finebaum also thinks that Jones will survive this season short of a disaster.
“[Fans have] very mixed reaction [to Butch Jones],” Finebaum said. “I know one thing, Butch Jones is very likely to survive this season, short of a disaster. But how does this season play out? He’s done a really good job lowering expectations, which I think is what he wants to do.
“What frustrated me on Monday is this: ‘We inherited a very difficult situation. We inherited a program that was 2-14 against Power 5.’ That’s ridiculous. In your fifth year, you shouldn’t be talking about your first year. You shouldn’t be going through a transition. Alabama isn’t the example everyone wants to hear, but Nick Saban, after five years, had won a national championship and was about to win another one.”
It’s clear that Finebaum isn’t sold on Jones as a head football coach and seems to wonder if the Vols have hit their ceiling under Jones. Regardless, Tennessee shouldn’t be happy with 8-4.
“When I hear a school like the University of Tennessee say we’re happy with 8-4 and we don’t want to play Alabama — not specifically the university saying it but the apparatus of fans and media. I just shake my head,” Finebaum said. “Tennessee football is a major entity. If you say ‘8-4 is okay. We couldn’t find anyone better,’ then you’re losing it.
“Tennessee shouldn’t be happy heading to a bowl game. Tennessee ought to be contending for the SEC East every year.”
Regardless of how you feel about Finebaum, he’s right.
You can listen to the full podcast featuring Finebaum here.