Why are Vol Fans chasing the Great Orange Whale?
After watching another loss Saturday evening and chatting with many folks online about the Vols struggles and how frustrating it is to not know who the next coach will be, it got me wondering. Why is the Great Orange Whale (Gruden) so important to others? Twitter is blazing with so much garbage it is hard to see something real or not. Anyone can say whatever they want whether true or not on Twitter. Why so many people take what someone says on Social Media like Twitter an d Facebook is beyond me. The one thing I cannot dispute though is the loyalty, hope, faith and even fanaticism the Tennessee Vol fan-base has. The fan-base is unique and very committed. So committed, that they see Gruden in restaurants and Gruden in airports and some even see Gruden spelled in their kids Alphabits Cereal. I am just waiting for the person who spills a drink on the floor and sees Jesus along with Gruden in the spillage.
Seriously though, many have made fun of the desperation of fans to want Gruden. I am not saying he is coming. I am not saying though he was never in play or of interest. He was and still in play until we hear otherwise. I am not stating either way on what will happen. I am trying to get the people ridiculing others within the fanbase to stop. There is a reason for this desperation. All you have to do is go back for the past 10+ years. You could even go back to 1992.
Let's take a trip down memory lane shall we? In 1992, Tennessee was starting to build something. Johnny Majors had successful years in 1989,1990 and 1991. The offense had become up to date and even you could say electric with players like Chuck Webb, Carl Pickens, Andy Kelly and many more. The offensive coordinator after the horrific 1988 (5-6) season was non other than Phillip Fulmer. It is funny how so many forget that Fulmer was OC before head coach. You could see the momentum and when Fulmer took over in 1992 there was promise that the Vols would be become even more relevant across the college football landscape. That happened with great years from Heath Shuler and then into the great Manning years and culminating with a perfect 13-0 record in 1998 under Tee Martin. Tennessee stayed within the college football relevant conversations with a big season in 2001 with wins over Florida and a big bowl over Michigan and finished 11-2. One had half away from playing for the National Title. There was some bad years up and coming like 2005 but there was also a few 9 and 10 win season in there like 2003 and 2007. Both those year Tennessee played in the SEC Title game. The problem is Tennessee fans including myself had become spoiled and a few struggling seasons and Tennessee wanted a new direction without Fulmer. You can now we see what we have. We have had 10 years of garbage with a few sprinkles of brightness to keep people filling Neyland. IN the past 10 years, Tennessee has missed a bowl game 5 times. That is a sad and mind boggling stat for a University with so much tradition and one of the top 10 winning programs in College Football history.
Tennessee fans appreciate people with ties or have supported Tennessee in the past. When Mike Hamilton hired Lane Kiffin as a replacement for Fulmer that cause a bad rift in the fan-base and when Kiffin up an left it proved the naysayers correct. Kiffin had no connection with Tennessee. The way he left and the obnoxious attitude was something the old guard of Tennessee didn't appreciate. The UT Administration then goes and hires Derek Dooley? Really? What had this guy accomplished? Nothing other than being a nobody on Saban's staff and then coached decently a La. Tech. La Tech? Really? We know Dooley failed the guy poisoned relationships. Relationships with high school coaches. Apparently he could not also hire good staff at all. Remember we have said a good coach places good assistants around him. Remember Sal Sunseri? Need I say more? There is a trend here. The guy could not win big game and then talked stupid crap like Normandy and Bamboo garbage, but loses game like the Kentucky playing a third string quarterback who was a WR actually. Who actually backed Dooley as a hire? Anyone of Tennessee relevance? I cannot think of one. Then finally the UT administration fires Dooley. Gruden talks are all over. Multiple rumors come out. The frenzy was unparalleled until 2017. We thought there was a chance. Many in the fan-base even then wanted someone with some credibility. The last two left Tennessee in a very bad place. Somehow this entire fiasco gets blown and we find out after there was a power struggle and Gruden wanted nothing to do with it so it became a spin of "I was never interested" Many within the UT administration know that to be false. The UT administration then moved on and as many know coaches like Charlie Strong were on the plate and then for some reason backed out and what did the Vol fan-base get? Butch Jones. Many said like myself "Butch Who?, Oh that guy Dooley beat by over 20+ points from Cincinnati?". Many Vol fans were upset and disappointed, but like always the great Vol Nation got behind the hire, not so much because they liked the hire but because they had no choice and it either support this suspect hire or what? You as a fan were kind of stuck. The Vol Nation did support the guy even though the first couple of years. There was rumors about internal issues and many players departed the program but when the Vol went 9-4 and was looking for better things to come, you as fan let winning a few twist your perception and you miss a lot of things. Things like bad play calling, players leaving in droves, bad media attention and internal strife within the staff. Winning cures all? No, it doesn't but it makes you change your perception and many of us did that. I think we as a fan-base knew Butch Jones was a mid tier hire. I think Vol fans just had and wanted to believe in the guy. Still, the symptoms were real and Butch Jones was exposed after some good talent left and showed he couldn't ensure consistent winning within the program.
The point of all of this is there has been a trend for over 10 years and many in the Vol fan base are tired of it. I think back the what Michael J. Fox said in the the movie "The American President"
and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
That is where the Vol fan-base is right now. The Vol Nation will drink the sand if that sand looks like ANYTHING related to a good coach who will bring the Vols back to being relevant. I am not saying Gruden is the only thing out there. There's other good coaches and the fan-base will have to wait to see who that is. The fans are so desperate for a true good head coach, to get back to those days they will believe anything. Don't make fun of them because they're drinking the Gruden sand. Be mad that the UT administration has let our fan base get to where it is that desperate. Gruden might be that "Great Orange Whale" and then again he might be attainable, but the issue isn't fans hoping. That is actually a good thing and people being critical of fans hoping is like telling a kid there's no Santa Clause. Really? You need to be that downer guy? I say we all should take a break and understand why so many are hoping for a Gruden type coach. It isn't about whether he's the right coach or not. That is arguable. The issue is getting Tennessee back out in the perception of College Football as real player. That kind of hire makes that happen. Whoever the Vols land, I hope it is a quality coach this time.
BOTTOM LINE of all of this is:
THE VOL FANS DESERVE BETTER