The Tennessee Volunteers have had, to say the least, an exciting fall, and it appears as though December won't be any different. The infatuation with former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden is at a fever pitch, and it's starting to get ridiculous.
A championship coach with decades of experience under his belt is understandably an exciting notion for Vols fans, but that doesn't mean he's the be-all, end-all for Tennessee.
It's okay, though, Vols fans. Gruden has a 100-85 record as a head coach, and his popularity has only recently returned as a commentator for Monday Night Football. He also hasn't coached football in five years.
I present these facts not to rag on Gruden but to appeal to my fellow Tennessee fans' higher sense of reason: Why can't we tone down the intense passion for Chucky?
While the recent explosion of Gruden love is entertaining, I have to wonder if that kind of obsession really attracts people? What happened with a similar outpouring when Peyton Manning was serenaded by dozens of Vols-Titans fans after meeting with the team in Nashville?
Sure, there are differences between the Gruden situation and Manning situation, but the underlying principle remains the same: Tennessee fans let these sorts of things become a circus. (Remember the mattress burning when the Vols lost that doll Lane Kiffin? Yet another example.)
The circus entered Round 2 last night when a Memphis-based television station reported that Gruden had received an offer to coach the Vols that included an ownership piece of the Cleveland Browns, now owned by Tennessee booster Jimmy Haslam. (The report has been edited since, but trust me, the original version was fantastic.)
Read that again, and appreciate the lunacy of it. Put yourself in Gruden's or any other candidate's shoes. They may find it funny for a second, but then it's a bit disturbing.
The fact of the matter is that if Tennessee doesn't get Gruden, it's hardly the end of Volunteer football. Schools often miss on their top priority and end up in amazing shape. Notre Dame didn't land Urban Meyer three years ago. UCLA didn't get Chris Petersen last year.
But this is different, right? Gruden won a Super Bowl!
Well, one thing that Robert Neyland, Johnny Majors and Phillip Fulmer all had in common was that they didn't win Super Bowls. Indeed, you can win in Knoxville without a Super Bowl ring.
In fact, I submit that if Gruden were hired and won big at Tennessee over the next three to four years, he'd leave for another job in college or the NFL.
Some may say, "Who cares, Daniel? We finally got back to winning!"
Those people should logically promote hiring Bobby Petrino. They should also ask Auburn fans if the glimmer of the 2010 BCS National Championship trophy is still shining.
Thus, the goal of athletic director Dave Hart should be twofold: 1) Find a great football coach, and 2) find a coach that, if successful, won't be looking for new jobs. We want both a great coach and a committed coach.
He's out there. His name very well may be Jon Gruden, and if so, I'll be the first to welcome Chucky to our ranks. But if not, the Vols will still be in great, if not better, hands. I have full faith in Hart and his non-circus-like approach to the hiring process.
He's the only one I'll listen to when I hear the words, "It's a done deal."
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