Reel Talk: Next Tennessee Coach a New Hope

Clayton Martin@@ClaytonAMartinCorrespondent INovember 24, 2008

“So this is the world, and there are almost six billion people on it. When I was a kid, there were three. It's hard to keep up.”

These are the opening lines of one of my favorite movies, Jerry Maguire. To put that in context, when I was a kid Phillip Fulmer was my coach. Now, no one knows.

Take a look at these lines from the recent film We Are Marshall. In that film the coach makes the claim that, “When you take that field today, you've got to lay that heart on the line, men. From the souls of your feet, with every ounce of blood you've got in your body, lay it on the line until the final whistle blows. And if you do that, if you do that, we cannot lose.”

These are ideals: things we like to teach and preach but not necessarily always live by.

Or maybe I took that a little too far. We may like to live by them in our minds, but we recognize that we would be crazy to conduct our business in such a way. From a business perspective, we believe that sport does have winners and losers.

Today we have a new creed (pun soon to follow).

Remember in Rocky II, what Adrian said to our hero?

Adrian: There’s one thing I want you to do for me.
Rocky: What’s that?
Adrian: Win. Win!

Just win. Plain and simple. Everyone just wants Tennessee to win.

If you surveyed Vols fans on the number one thing they want and expect out of the new coach, I promise you 100 percent would say “win” above all else. They would likely add a line about how winning solves all problems.

Well, you know who else wanted Tennessee to win?

Coach Phillip Fulmer. Watch the press conference where he said he wouldn’t let Tennessee be divided. You know, the one where a grown man cried. That man wanted to win just as much as you and I did.

And how does the saying go?

Where there’s a will, there’s a...err, maybe don’t want to preach that one anymore.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe the way is a new coach, as so many people point to the fact that this “had to be done.”

People say he just wasn’t getting the job done anymore. I understand that argument. There are 50 statistics people throw out saying that he was backsliding. I’ve read them all and agree that no one wants to be 4-7.

But let’s briefly look at the new potential coaches from a business perspective, since that is all that matters these days. We’ve got to find a coach that can win, right?

Tom Hanks' character in Cast Away said, “I know what I have to do now. I’ve got to keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?”

I don’t know what the tide could bring in, but the Tide brought in Nick Saban, and then our coach became an idiot who couldn’t win a ballgame.

“We as coaches didn’t become stupid over night,” argued Fulmer.

Maybe Mike Hamilton wouldn't use the term "stupid", but his actions went far to say that he thought a different coach was the right move.

So who is the right choice to replace our insufficient coach? Everyone seems to have an opinion.

Let’s ask a doctor—they’re smart, right?

Umm, you in the back eating someone’s brain—Dr. Hannibal Lecter, I believe it is. What are your thoughts on all this?

“As your mother tells you, and my mother certainly told me, it is important, she always used to say, ‘Always to try new things.’”

Right on, and a little creepy.

So Mike Hamilton decides that we need someone new. He uproots Coach Fulmer and looks at his options.

The apparent abbreviated list goes something like this:

1. Brian Kelly
2. Lane Kiffin
3. Mike Leach

Let’s go a little more old school for a sane person’s perspective.

We’ll go back to 1950 and classic Jimmy Stewart in Harvey. Stewart’s character, Elwood P. Dowd, stated that, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, 'In this world, you must be oh-so-smart or oh-so-pleasant.' Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.”

I know a coach that would agree with your mother, Jimmy.

The new craze is Brian Kelly. He is a smooth son of a politician that is quite a pleasant guy. Let the record show that the man can clearly flat-out coach as well. In fact, he’s got a career record of 148-54-2. Not a lot of coaches out there with such a great record and experience level, right (current Tennessee head coaches excluded)?

He also comes equipped with a nice $2 million buyout. Tack that on to the $6-7 million we are handing out to Fulmer and crew to leave, and you’re the proud owner of a new head coach with a lesser record at lesser schools.

I mean, was Fulmer really doing so poor of a job that he is worth handing out $8-9 million just to have access to Brian Kelly? Apparently.

Or choose door number two, and you can get Lane Kiffin.

Kiffin is a young buck with a little NFL experience and a proven record of recruiting well. However, the guy recruited for USC during a period where they were the team to beat. He wasn’t trying to sell oceanfront condos in Kansas—he was selling USC to high school kids.

The third amigo—or matey, as he prefers to be called—is Mike Leach. He is one of four current collegiate coaches who have never played college football. In fact, Leach holds a law degree from Pepperdine. He loves pirates and got into coaching because he thought it would be interesting.

But anyone who thinks his “basketball on grass” offense can work in the SEC needs to contact me about some nice condos in Kansas I’ve heard about. He also comes with a hefty buyout of his own to tack onto the $6 million-plus we are already handing out.

In my opinion, it would have been much more justifiable to fire Fulmer had we done so with a reasonable idea of a quality replacement prepared. We are losing a legend who loves Tennessee with all his heart, and we are now trying to select from a list of best-available candidates to replace him.

As Dicky Fox from Jerry Maguire points out in the film’s closing, “If this (points to heart) is empty, this (points to head) doesn't matter.”

I hope Mike Hamilton knows what the heck he’s doing.


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