Tennessee's football coaches have a track record for success. And they have the rings to prove it.
Head coach Lane Kiffin was an assistant coach on national championship teams at Southern California. So was assistant head coach Ed Orgeron.
Linebackers coach Lance Thompson was an assistant coach on LSU's 2003 national championship team. Running backs coach Eddie Gran was an assistant coach on Auburn's unbeaten team in 2004.
But don't ignore the failures, either. That's part of their motivation.
For all their success, many of them - including the head coach - have something to prove. Their first UT team can relate to that.
The Vols are coming off a 5-7 season. The fifth-year seniors played on a 5-6 team in 2005. They know all about failure.
Monte Kiffin, UT's defensive coordinator, is an NFL icon. He's hailed as one of best defensive coaches in NFL history, won a Super Bowl with Tampa Bay, and was on the ground floor of Nebraska's college football dynasty. But he knows something about failure, too.
Flash back to last year when the Bucs were 9-3 and bearing down on the NFL playoffs. What happened next shouldn't happen to an NFL icon.
Carolina gouged the Bucs for 299 yards rushing while scoring 38 points. San Diego scored 41. Oakland beat them 31-24 as Michael Bush rushed for 177 yards.
The Bucs lost their last four games. They missed the playoffs. Their head coach, Jon Gruden, got fired.
And Monte Kiffin left the NFL on a four-game losing streak. Think he isn't ready to win a game?
He has something else to prove as well. Never mind that his success as a defensive tactician was first evident in college football. He has been in the NFL long enough that at the first defensive misstep against a spread offense, some critic will wonder if he can adjust to the college game.
Orgeron, Lane Kiffin's next most high-profile hire, is returning to college after coaching the New Orleans Saints defensive line for a year.
The Saints didn't make the playoffs. But at least, they didn't get anyone fired.
Orgeron was fired the year before by Ole Miss after three consecutive losing seasons in his first head-coaching job. But the program that was built on his recruiting won nine games last season and is a popular top-10 pick this season.
Think he wouldn't like to upset Ole Miss in November?
Gran played a prominent role in coach Tommy Tuberville's success at Auburn, which averaged better than nine wins per season for eight years. One losing season later, they were all looking for jobs.
Think Gran wouldn't like to stick it to Auburn in October?
UT offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was part of a St. Louis Rams staff that won only five games the last two years. UT wide receivers coach Frank Wilson was on Orgeron's staff at Ole Miss. Offensive line coach James Cregg worked under Lane Kiffin at Oakland, which fired Kiffin four games into the 2008 season.
Lane Kiffin's ill-fated descent into the black hole that has become Raiders football has left him with a 5-15 career record as a head coach. You can blame owner Al Davis, whose franchise has become an NFL punch line. But the record is still on Kiffin's resume.
Kiffin lost his last two games at Oakland. His dad lost his last four at Tampa Bay. His brother-in-law and quarterbacks coach, David Reaves, was on Steve Spurrier's staff last season, which ended with three consecutive losses.
It's as though everyone in the family is on a losing streak. You could say the same for the majority of the staff, including Thompson, who was one game away from coaching in the national championship game at Alabama last season. But he left Alabama like Gran left Auburn - on a two-game losing streak.
Think this staff isn't ready to beat anybody?
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.