Hot seat for Tennessee coach Butch Jones: 5 reasons to fire, 5 reasons to retain
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Butch Jones is sitting on one of the hottest football coaching seats in the nation in the wake of Tennessee’s 41-0 shutout loss to Georgia last Saturday.
Vols fans have taken to social media channels and message boards to make their displeasure known. Odds have been posted on the favorites to succeed Jones since the lopsided defeat to the rival Bulldogs.
On Monday, Tennessee backup offensive guard Venzell Boulware announced he was quitting the team and 3-star WR commitment Jatavious Harris from Milledgeville, Ga., said he would take more visits.
Jones, who addressed his job security in Memphis on Monday night, is expected to meet with the local media following practice on Tuesday.
The Vols (3-2) have a bye this Saturday before playing host to South Carolina (12 p.m. ET, SEC Network) on Oct. 14.
Jones has four years remaining on his contract, which calls for him to make $4.11 annually, and his buyout, should Tennessee decide to fire him this season, is an estimated $9.2 million.
Here are five reasons Jones could be fired, five reasons he could be retained and five unknowns that could play a role in the decision:
5 reasons to fire Butch Jones
- The team is trending in the wrong direction. The Vols are 6-6 in their last 12 games, including 2-6 versus SEC competition during that stretch.
- Tennessee’s offense has regressed, unable to score a touchdown the past six quarters of play and shut out at Neyland Stadium for the first time since Peyton Manning’s freshman season, 1994.
- The Vols appear out of the running for the SEC East Division title, the program’s primary goal each season. It’s Jones’ fifth season and he has yet to achieve that goal.
- Tennessee’s quarterback play has been subpar, even though junior Quinten Dormady is in his third year in the program. Redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano was the top dual-threat QB in 2016 class but has not progressed enough to take over.
- The job would be attractive and draw elite candidates because the program is on solid footing in the classroom, from a compliance standpoint and has no off-field issues.
5 reasons to keep Butch Jones
- Jones has resurrected the program from last place in the SEC East and 2-14 in league play before he took over. The Vols enjoyed their first back-to-back Top 25 seasons since 2006-2007 entering this season.
- Stability: A coaching change would mean Tennessee football would be hiring its fifth head coach in 10 years.
- Recruiting: Tennessee currently has the No. 1-ranked 2018 recruiting class and firing the coaching staff would cost the Vols some elite players and trigger another rebuilding cycle.
- Almost half the staff is still settling in, as this past offseason Jones brought in four new assistants and promoted two to new duties, including first-year offensive coordinator Larry Scott. Former NFL strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson arrived in January.
- Finances. Not only would it be expensive to buy out Jones, but Tennessee would face the prospect of buying out a new incoming coach’s contract. Costs could approach $25 million once all is said and done with buyouts and a new staff.
5 unknowns that could determine Butch Jones’ future
- How will the team respond for Jones against South Carolina?
- Will the fans turn out for the game against the Gamecocks on Oct. 14?
- Is there a suitable coach on staff who would agree to be the interim coach should the team go south quickly and suffer humiliating defeats to South Carolina and Alabama?
- Will Jones want to leave the program if it appears his firing is imminent or his family begins to feel uncomfortable in the community?
- Is there another candidate any of the deep-pocketed boosters feel strongly enough about to put up the money to buy out Jones’ contract should the team not get back on track?