I will admit that in the two-plus years of Derek Dooley's tenure with the Tennessee Volunteers, I have been sporadic, allowing myself to feel the euphoria of the highs and the despair of the lows. Over the past several months, I have done my best to separate myself from the roller coaster ride that is Big Orange fanhood and look at the Vols coach in an objective light.
The conclusion is simple. Derek Dooley is not the guy for Tennessee—and no, this reaction isn't from just one game. It's from 30 games.
I understand the argument that the Volunteers' cupboard was left void of any reliable talent when Lane Kiffin bolted for USC. That's a fair argument.
But is it still valid nearly three years later? And if so, doesn't the weight of that argument diminish with time? I have to think that if the President of the United States is graded on a four-year basis, surely we can get a good gauge of a college football coach in two and a half years.
If that's the case, the verdict on Dooley is that he's a nice guy with great hair, an adorable accent and zero noticeable wins for a formerly great football school.
But he just needs more time, you say?
The fact of the matter is that we don't have five years to dedicate to a rebuilding process. Changes in college football (and any major sport, for that matter) must occur within two or three years. Otherwise, you're wasting your time and money as a program.
Thus far, Dooley has been disappointing. Don't believe me? Let's take a look at the stats:
1. In terms of win percentage over the first three seasons of their current tenure, Dooley ranks 11th out of 14 in the SEC. The only coaches behind him are James Franklin of Vanderbilt, Joker Phillips of Kentucky and John Smith of Arkansas. Now that's some fine company.
2. When it comes to win percentage adjusted for the previous three years before arrival—to account for how good the team was before the current coach took over—Dooley once again ranks near the bottom. He is 11th out of 14 teams with only Will Muschamp of Florida (the Urban Meyer Effect), Joker Phillips and John Smith behind him.
3. Dooley is 0-12 against ranked teams with Tennessee and 4-14 in the SEC, with his only wins coming against Vanderbilt, Kentucky (plus a 26-year winning streak ender) and Ole Miss.
(Remember, these are just facts. No opinions have been inserted.)
The wholesome, character-centric recruiting classes are admirable, and I commend Dooley's program-building ability, but his players are now sophomores and juniors and continue to be on the cusp, instead of over the edge.
No, I don't claim that they shouldn't be contending for SEC Championships, but they also shouldn't be losing to both Florida and Georgia for the third straight year, either.
Vols fans, the fact of the matter is that Tennessee hasn't been relevant on a national stage in at least a decade. This recent trend isn't just a hiccup. The Volunteers have officially fallen into a serious slump, which dates back to Phillip Fulmer's last days.
Sure, Dooley's a nice guy with strong moral values. You know who else had similar qualities? Ron Zook, Mike Shula, Gerry DiNardo and Lou Holtz. They were also nice guys, but Florida, Alabama, LSU and South Carolina are much happier with their new coaches in place.
Let's face it. Ten years from now, are we going to be happy that we gave Dooley another year or two, or are we going to be happy that we made the big switch to Coach X?
I'll take Coach X.
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