The worst of the worst. Let's open up the cut to see what could happen if the bottom falls out.
Tennessee is all too familiar with worse case scenarios. You have your worst season in 15 years as 17 players end up the injured roster. Your head coach is fired, and in a tearful response, he bids fans farewell on national TV. Your current coach leaves in the middle of the night and takes the entire staff with him. Or your star player gets blindsided and sits out the entire season.
Yes, it is nothing new for the Vols.
This scenario worries me a lot. Because it could happen.
It wouldn't be the first time a rising star got tired of standing in the shadow of the starting QB. What makes this even more possible is that Coach Dooley is hot on the heels of a number of hotshot QB's including Gunner Kiel, Anthony Alford, Wil Gross and Chad Voytik.
Landing either of these young men is a necessity just because of depth. However, bringing too many chefs makes a crowded kitchen.
I don't care how much money Mike Hamilton raised for the university. What the fans care about is winning, regardless of the dollars.
Tennessee would be steering down a dark path if they bring in another Mike Hamilton. The dynamics were simple for Hamilton: raise money then micro-manage on steroids. The program would suffer yet again with kind of leadership. The Vols have suffered enough with this kind of management, the athletic program would fall from grace and before long, the Vols would be mentioned in the same breath as Vanderbilt.
Tennessee needs to find another Doug Dickey.
There were glimpses of un-polished anger last season when Coach Dooley lost his cool.
Now, I'm not saying the coach doesn't have the right blow his top, but there were times when the cool demeanor-ed coach lost sight of the fact that he was still playing a ball game. This became more and more frequent as the season rolled on.
There is precious little time to keep your head in the game. This is one of many reasons that Mike Shula wasn't successful at Alabama.
This can easily unfold as the Gatorade National Player of the Year stands in the background waiting for an opportunity to seize the day.
Tyler Bray was intercepted 10 times out of 224 attempts last season for an interception average of one turnover for every 22.4 attempts.
Let me say this, it's very easy to be judgemental. Bray does have the weight of the Vol nation set squarely on his shoulders. It's easy to get rattled in a backyard game, but when you blow a play in front of 107,000 screaming fans and nearly nine million TV viewers, it can be mentally crippling.
As much as I dislike cockiness, it is a required component when you're running an offense. If he blows either Montana or Cincinnati, you could see Justin Worley sooner than you than you think. Hmmm....
Last season against LSU was a complete fiasco.
This season, the Vols host the Bayou Bengals at the newly renovated Neyland Stadium. What all Vol fans are expecting is to win against the ranked Tigers to avenge the team for last year's highway robbery loss.
What would be devastating is to suffer another loss in similar fashion. Having that victory snatched away from the Vols after the Kiffin mess was hard to bear and broke the hearts of many fans. Doing that in Neyland Stadium this season could lead to other unfortunate things.
Oh my. We are a bunch of fans that easily get distressed, aren't we? But who could blame, us right?
The faith is back, it's there, but it's hanging by a thread.
Last season, the faith was tested and re-tested time and time again as consecutive losses pushed even the most ardent fans to their breaking point. After everything that the Vols have went through last season, it became easier to worry than breath.
Personal Note: The players need their fans. Stay to the end guys, for better or worse.
Nobody wants it to happen, but you can't sit there and read this without saying it hasn't crossed your mind.
The possibility is very real. All that needs for this to take place is for the program to suffer a really bad season. A 5-7 season could probably land him one more try for glory, but a 4-8 would send Derek Dooley to drafting a letter of resignation. It could happen this way too, that the new AD could come in and grab the reins like a George Steinbrenner, and as much as a good idea that it might seem given those circumstances, the program needs stability, and right now, that is Derek Dooley.
Two more seasons for better or worse.
And finally this, because it's more than likely to happen.
USC has already suffered the NCAA gavel, the Trojans have no love loss for the Vols...so for Kiffin, it would be the easiest thing to cast blame in Tennessee's direction.
I mean look at his alternative. If he takes the blame, then the NCAA will be left with no alternative but to suspend or fine him or both. So the Trojans have already had to vacate a title, return a Heisman trophy, lose a few scholarships etc. etc. Why wouldn't Kiffin choose self preservation?
NCAA sanctions could be, and would be, costly at this point.