I sat up until 1 AM Saturday night (well, Sunday morning), hoping to see Tennessee pull out the upset. As they chewed up yardage running the ball, showing an offensive line prowess that had been missing in the past, my hopes grew. When they closed to a 3-point deficit, I started thinking “They’re going to pull this off!”
Then the Vols gave up a turnover on a punt, Mississippi State put another touchdown on the board against a Vol defense that suddenly seemed to collapse, and it was over. Again. Just like the previous 13 losses to ranked teams.
There was a time when Tennessee would be the team on the top end of the streaks. There was a time when Tennessee would have won this game by halftime. There was a time, believe it or not, when Tennessee was seemingly a permanent member of the Top 10, and losing to anyone outside Florida or Bama, much less the Mississippi schools, was just not even discussed.
Those times are gone, at least for now, and a new “time” question is on everyone’s lips: Is it time for Dooley to go?
According to more than one FB friend, the answer is Yes. According to many commenters on various Vols sports sites, the answer is Yes. And if the major boosters are also saying Yes, then I’m pretty sure that’s going to be the final answer.
But I disagree. I think Dooley should be given one more year. Let me tell you why.
I saw progress on Saturday night. I saw a defense that more than once made the plays, got the stops, and kept the game from getting out of hand. I saw an offense that could move the ball, could convert third downs, and could score on a very good MSU team.
Most of all, I saw the foundation for next year: a team where Tyler Bray has one more year of maturity, where the freshmen and sophomores of this year are sophomores and juniors of next year, a team with more returning coaches than new ones.
There seems to be no doubt that UT had dropped significantly behind the rest of the SEC in recruiting, and changing coaches three times in three years just made it worse. Dooley inherited a mess, and while it can be argued that he should have done better than he has, I think there is no doubt that the team is getting better.
The bottom line, for me, is that another coaching change at this point would just move us back to where we were a few years ago, AND make it almost impossible to attract any other coaches to come work on The Hill. Who wants to work under that pressure AND be given only two-three years?
AD Hard needs to evaluate, and he needs to have clear expectations about what Year 4 Progress looks like. But at this point, my opinion is this: It’s not the right time to let Dooley go. Give him that fourth year.