Vanderbilt's Untouchable Coach: Bobby Johnson

Eric AdamsContributor IDecember 1, 2009

I started this blog too late to dive into football, but I still watched the train wreck each and every chance that I could. I guess the low point for me was the debacle at Army.

(Note to the all the brave service men and women that attended that game: Please don't rush the field after beating Vanderbilt. It's embarrassing and makes me question every military decision I hear about. I know Vandy is an SEC school and all, but I expect better from you. One day you will protect our country, so you need to be held to higher standards.)

In all, it was a very disappointing year. Especially coming off of the school's first bowl appearance since 1982. You always hear about how hard it is to win at Vanderbilt. I just wanted to evaluate Coach Bobby Johnson's tenure and see if we should expect more.

The Record

2002: 2-10

2003: 2-10

2004: 2-9

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2005: 5-6

2006: 4-8

2007: 5-7

2008: 7-6

2009: 2-10

In all, Johnson is 29-66 and only 12-52 in the SEC. Even though the winning percentage isn't great, the general thought is that Johnson has been wonderful for Vanderbilt. It seems like he is recruiting better talent and has the 'Dores in close games on a week-to-week basis in the tough SEC. For seemingly all Commodore fans, this is enough. It's easy to see why long-time 'Dore fans wouldn't expect more.

From 1983-2007, Vanderbilt never won more than five games in ANY season. Let's look further back. Since 1956, Vandy has won more than five games only four times. That averages out to about once every 12 years! That my friends is the meaning of mediocrity.

Is a 2-10 record acceptable anywhere? I know there are academic issues that heavily impact recruiting, but isn't that just part of it. I may be naive, but does one bowl win and a victory in Knoxville really cover all those losses.

Al Groh was just fired from Virginia. Do you know what he did in the same time period? He had a 59-53 record and went 3-2 in bowl appearances. He's listed as the school's second-winningest coach ever. Three losing seasons in a row gets him canned.

Again, I know you can blame a lot of Vandy's problems on injuries and youth, but at what point does the body of work just point to a general sense of averageness.

The Sentiment

I did a quick search for any news that Coach Johnson may be on the proverbial hot seat. Just a few things came up.

Mike Organ of the Tennessean said this year's team resembled Johnson's 2002 team that also went 2-10. The article was more of a comparison, not a criticism.

The Birmingham Weekly has a really fun Coaches on the Hot Seat post. The categories range from "Positively Combustible" to "God-like Beings." Johnson is firmly entrenched in the "Should We Expect Anything More?" area. Again, I hate this "Oh well...it's Vanderbilt" thought process.

The Commercial Appeal posted in their SEC Notebook that Les Miles and Mark Richt might be on the chopping block. Vanderbilt's problems were again blamed on injuries.

"If you're looking for a reason Vanderbilt, one year removed from going 7-6 and winning the Music City Bowl, failed to win a league game this year, finishing 2-10 overall, start with injuries. Last year, Vandy had nine players that started every game. This year, that number dwindled to five. "We probably had more than our share of injuries this year," coach Bobby Johnson said."

Joel Barker, writing for the Bleacher Report was a little more blunt earlier this month:

"Vanderbilt has had a very disappointing season compared to last year’s bowl winning squad, but Bobby Johnson is one of the best coaches, at a perennially awful program, in America."

The Remedy

Is Bobby Johnson probably the best fit for the Vandy job? Everybody (including me) loves this guy. He's the perfect person to represent the university and seems to be a great leader and mentor to his players. But after eight seasons, isn't it time to turn the page? If we let him go, somebody would snatch him up in a heartbeat.

Couldn't this be a win-win for both parties? I don't claim to be an expert, just a fan and season ticket holder. I would simply like to to see Vanderbilt at least explore the possibility of a new coach. There is something naturally wrong with being continually satisfied with a losing record. Sure the game are close, but is that all its about?

Maybe the local media knows something that I don't. Why is nobody expecting more out of this team? The Nashville media loves to condemn Titans' coach Jeff Fisher, but maybe some of that attention should be turned toward West End.

To me, there is no difference in 2-10 and 4-8. I grew up near Lexington, loving the University of Kentucky. I watched countless teams get destroyed year after year. Albeit with lighter academic restrictions, they have found a coach who has led the team to four consecutive bowl games. Is a consistent bowl appearance that much to ask?

People say how tough the SEC is and that's why we can't get to a bowl every year. Well, out of the 12 SEC schools, 10 of them found a way to become bowl eligible this year. All 10 schools finished 7-5 or better.

Let's not recklessly fire Coach Johnson, but can't we at least have the conversation?


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