It’s easy to kick a man while he’s down. But should that be happening?
While John Jancek was never going to be confused with Tom Landry, Tennessee’s former defensive coordinator performed admirably in his three seasons with the team. He should be proud of his time at Tennessee.
Remember the 2014 season, when the Vols had to replace the entire defensive front? Jancek managed and survived. Remember all those games that linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggitt missed because of injury? Jancek managed and survived.
Then when Maggitt came back, Jancek helped turned him into a hybrid monster that few offenses could handle. Maggitt’s loss this past season was a gut punch. The Vols had an eventual College Football Playoff team on the ropes when Maggitt went down against Oklahoma. That was an absence that was practically impossible to overcome, not just in terms of production, but from a leadership standpoint. Yet Jancek eventually helped the Vols return to form.
In 2015, the Vols ranked No. 16 nationally and fifth in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 20 points per game. And the Vols were No. 36 in the nation and seventh in the SEC in total defense, allowing 362 yards per game.
Blame Jancek for the blown leads if you’d like. However, that was more of a team effort. The Vols’ offense simply can’t milk the clock and it probably never will be able to do so. It’s predicated on high-tempo that will win coach Butch Jones a lot of games. It will also cost him a few as it did last season.
Moreover, Tennessee’s entire roster at one point had the least talent perhaps in its history. When Jancek arrived, the Vols were losing top in-state prospects to Vanderbilt.
So if you want to blame Jancek for the Vols’ struggles, go ahead, but that’s just clearly not the case. Jancek’s time at Tennessee was a success.
However, Jones thought it time to make a change and no matter what you think about the change, it was the right one. Why? Because Jones acted decisively, fired Jancek and hired the top up-and-coming defensive coach in the nation.
No one knows just how newly-hired Bob Shoop will fare at Tennessee. However, the chances are he’ll succeed.
Look at Shoop’s background. Shoop began his coaching career at Yale, his alma mater, so you know he’s pretty smart. Shoop has also coached at Vanderbilt, William and Mary and Columbia. Try looking a group of kids in the eye at those schools. If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’ll be a laughing stock.
However, Shoop has been most impressive at Penn State when the Nittany Lions were trying to overcome serious NCAA penalties. He navigated that just fine. Penn State ranked 14th in the country in total defense in 2015, allowing only 324.3 yards per game and eighth against the pass by allowing only 173.5 yards per game through the air. The Nittany Lions allowed 20 or fewer points in five games.
In his first season overseeing the Nittany Lions defense in 2014, the unit ranked second in NCAA total defense (278.7 avg. per game) and seventh in scoring defense. The 278.7 yards per game was the Nittany Lions’ second-lowest average since 1990.
So why exactly was Janek jettisoned? There are plenty of rumors and innuendo around that departure. However, here’s what Tennessee fans should take solace in. The Vols hired a coach they targeted, that had turned down other schools and that has an impeccable resume.
Clearly, any coaching change is a gamble. This one was well worth taking.
Jones has been deemed conservative to a fault. That certainly wasn’t the case last week.