So what if his only coaching experience has been at his summer camp. Or that he's much better versed in the pro game after 13 years with the Indianapolis Colts. And one other minor detail: UT already has a football coach.
Nonetheless, with each morsel of negative news regarding Manning's recovery from neck surgery, hope soared among the less logical faction of UT's fan base, which is weary of the program's recent struggle to achieve mediocrity.
As implausible as "UT coach Peyton Manning" might be, such creative thinking shouldn't be discouraged. At worst, it's harmless; at best, therapeutic.
If the Manning fantasy serves you well in the aftermath of a 5-7 football season, why stop there? Why not assemble an entire staff?
Peyton Manning — head coach/offensive coordinator.
Do you really think someone as bright, competitive and as knowledgeable about the game couldn't outwit the average dim bulb coaching college football? He already can run an NFL offense at a hall-of-fame level. He could call plays on a college sideline and film a television commercial at the same time.
David Cutcliffe — associate head coach/quarterbacks/kickers.
Since he would have to leave a head-coaching job at Duke, it's only fair that he get a big title. It might bother some fans that he didn't graduate from UT, but he coached UT football long enough to overcome that.
You know his track record. When he leaves, the Vols get worse. When he comes back, they get better. When he leaves again, they get worse again.
He coached Peyton and Eli Manning, so that gets the Vols in the coaching door with every quarterback recruit in the country. As for the kicking responsibilities, remember: We're thinking outside the box here. Cutcliffe's great strength as a coach is his attention to details. And kicking, which the Vols have been doing at a remedial level, is all about details.
Tee Martin — recruiting coordinator/receivers.
He has been a fan favorite ever since he led the Vols to the national title 1998. Fans would take him back as a coach if his post-playing experience had been limited to selling sneakers.
But Martin already has distinguished himself as an up-and-coming coach and has established another UT connection along the way. He just took a job at Southern California on the staff of former UT head coach Lane Kiffin.
Jay Graham — running backs/tight ends.
He's an exception to the fantasy staff in that he's on the real staff, which proves that it's still possible to be hired by UT even if you once played or coached at the school. The only difference: I would expand the former running back's role to include tight ends, which he also coached at South Carolina last season.
Phillip Fulmer — offensive line coach.
The former UT player and head coach might have been out of the game awhile, but that's insignificant when weighed against his expertise as an offensive line coach. Before he became UT's offensive coordinator, he was regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in college football.
John Chavis — associate head coach/defensive coordinator/defensive line.
A UT player, longtime coach, and defensive coordinator of the national championship team, Chavis has become even more attractive following his success as LSU's defensive coordinator.
LSU players now talk about Chavis the way UT players once did. They don't just respect him. They love the guy.
Dale Jones — linebackers.
Like the other coaches on this team, he brings back memories of better days for UT fans. Jones was a linebacker on UT's 1985 SEC champions, who further endeared themselves to fans by embarrassing a powerhouse Miami team in the Sugar Bowl.
Jones is the defensive coordinator at Appalachian State, where he has been coaching for 16 years.
Al Wilson — linebackers/off-the-field coach.
One of the most popular Vols of all-time, he saved UT's unbeaten 1998 season by almost personally wrecking Florida's offense at Neyland Stadium. His leadership was as noteworthy as his talent with the Vols and the Denver Broncos.
You think he couldn't help get a defense ready to play?
Also, Wilson should play a prominent role in off-the-field issues. For example, if a player threw someone through a plate-glass window during his weekend socializing or repeatedly failed to attend class, he would have to meet with Wilson in the coach's auxiliary office (the mixed martial arts cage in the new football practice facility).
Wilson could scare players into following the straight and narrow.
Bill Bates — special teams.
A Knoxville native, he started four years in UT's secondary and later became a legendary special-teams player with the Dallas Cowboys. He's now an accomplished motivational speaker, which — given UT's recent second-half struggles — means he could earn his annual salary in halftime speeches alone.
Lovie Smith — secondary.
Never mind how brief his history is with the Vols (he didn't play here and was the secondary coach for only two seasons, 1993-94). He has accomplished more in the NFL than Nick Saban.
Smith would give the Vols a former Super Bowl coach with vast NFL experience. Imagine the value of that in recruiting.
How do you get him away from the Chicago Bears?
Answer: You make him an $8 million-a-year secondary coach.