John Adams: If not a big name, how about a familiar one in David Cutcliffe?

John Adams
In this Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 photo, Duke coach David Cutcliffe watches during an NCAA college football practice  in Durham, N.C. The streak has haunted Duke for years. No bowls, no winning seasons, not much of anything to celebrate in nearly two decades.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

In this Monday, Aug. 6, 2012 photo, Duke coach David Cutcliffe watches during an NCAA college football practice in Durham, N.C. The streak has haunted Duke for years. No bowls, no winning seasons, not much of anything to celebrate in nearly two decades.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

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The coach has won 21 games in five seasons at a school that won 19 games the previous 12 seasons.

He also had five winning seasons in six years at a school that hadn't done as well in 33 years.

If you haven't already guessed the name, this should make it easy: Three of his quarterbacks have been high first-round NFL draft picks and two have won Super Bowls.

Even if David Cutcliffe didn't have a long, successful track record as a Tennessee assistant coach, his overall resume would merit consideration when the Vols begin looking for a successor to current UT coach Derek Dooley.

Cutcliffe has won more games (six) at Duke than Dooley has at UT (four) this season. While his record at Duke might get him fired at the majority of BCS schools, it's worthy of a raise at a school far better known for basketball and academics.

Does it also make him worthy of the UT job?

Answer: It depends on whom else Tennessee might consider.

UT's first priority should be hiring a big-name coach with a proven track record at the pro or college level. Sure, that will be costly — but not nearly as costly at allowing the program's struggles to continue.

The Vols have had one winning season in the last five years. Fan apathy has grown accordingly.

The best way to win games and win over the fan base would be to hire a famous coach. So it's no wonder the Jon Gruden rumor won't go away.

But suppose UT can't pull off a big-name hire. What's next?

What's next would be uncertainty. And given the current state of the program, uncertainty would be a problem.

So don't try selling me on a high-profile offensive or defensive coordinator, no matter where he is coordinating. I'm also skeptical of anyone who has had only a few seasons as a head coach. With so much at stake, wouldn't you prefer to see a larger body of work?

That applies in the case of former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who has become a hot coaching prospect in his third season at Louisville. His current team just lost its first game of the season Saturday, but each of his first two teams lost six games while playing in a weak conference.

That's not a good enough resume for the next UT hire. Neither is that of Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, who could finish 8-4 in his second season with the team with a victory over Tennessee on Saturday, followed by a victory over Wake Forest.

You can make a strong case for Franklin as SEC Coach of the Year. He has elevated Vanderbilt's play as well as its recruiting. But his head-coaching resume is still only two seasons long.

Few coaches have made a better first impression than Dana Holgorsen did at West Virginia last season. The Mountaineers went 10-3 and scored 70 points on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But after a 5-0 start this season, one of the nation's hottest coaches has cooled off with four consecutive losses.

Holgorson might prove to be a great coach. So might Franklin and Strong. Cutcliffe would be a safer pick, though.

He won 10 games at Ole Miss in 2003. Before that, Ole Miss hadn't won as many as 10 games since 1971. UT's record with him as offensive coordinator is even more appealing to Tennessee fans.

UT hall of fame coach Phillip Fulmer won 81 percent of his games with Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator. He won 67 percent of his games without him.

Hiring Cutcliffe wouldn't excite the fan base the way a bigger name would. And perhaps he couldn't lift the program to a championship level.

But he would improve it. His track record is long enough to prove that.

John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com. Follow him at http://twitter.com/johnadamskns

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Comments » 244

volman69 writes:

Couldn't agree with you more. Hire Cutcliff and Chavis. It's no secret that these are the top offensive and defensive minds of our prior success.

The current task is to minimize the damage; mitigate the risk by going with proven, and known coaches.

TucsonVol writes:

Quit living in the past!!!

BlueHarley writes:

I do think the only way Chavis would ever return to UT would be if Cutcliff was in charge. But I don't think Coach Cut is the answer....

volgrog#210164 writes:

in response to TucsonVol:

Quit living in the past!!!

I'm tired of living in the recent past- 4 losing seasons in 5 years. Most of the people who say that were for hiring Kiffin and then hiring Dooley. I'll take a more distant past any day.

West10VolNHouston writes:

Done and done. Road this raggedy band wagon till the wheels fell off. Time for an upgrade. I tried. But I just can't back Coach Dooley anymore. The body of work is absolutely atrocious. A Vanderbilt stretch of futility. Of his 15 wins only 12 are against D-1 teams. UT- Martin, Montana, and Georgia State are I-AA(fcs to be technically correct). He has only beaten 5 BCS schools(Kentucky, Vandy twice, Ole Miss, Cinncinnati and NC State the latter two being his signature wins). Not really gonna worry about who the next choice is because I have no control over the decision. I just know who I hope it isn't anymore!

born2ride writes:

Cutcliffe got fired at Ole Miss. No thanks.

JA is throwing names out there even though Dooley can still win 7 games. Replacing Sal may be the option.

Govols1995 writes:

No Cutcliffe is far to old we need a younger coach. Please NO Kirby Smart talk the only reason Bama is good is because of Saban. We found that out through the Sunseri hire. WE NEED GRUDEN

GoVols_16 writes:

Honestly, if we can't hit a home run w/ a PROVEN WINNER (that is not Petrino), we could do a lot worse than Cutcliffe. The guy can coach offense. He would bring some stability to the program. I don't know if he & Chief could work well again, but if "Mama called" I wonder if Chavis would come back home...

pcorange writes:

Enough, already!!! He hasn't been fired, and it isn't looking real promising that he will be. Just shut up until something official is announced.

Tenn_Traveler writes:

in response to volman69:

Couldn't agree with you more. Hire Cutcliff and Chavis. It's no secret that these are the top offensive and defensive minds of our prior success.

The current task is to minimize the damage; mitigate the risk by going with proven, and known coaches.

Absolutely!! Could not agree more as well. Cutcliffe and Chavis!!!! The Manning brothers and outstanding defensive teams speak for themselves. Gruden is on MNF making millions without the pressure

VolunteerLifer writes:

What about Dan Mullen at Miss St? He's done a good job at an SEC school for a number of years now.

CoverOrange writes:

The only thing that works on this team is the offense, so lets bring in a HC that will totally revamp the offense. Brilliant.

And no, I don't think Chavis would come back unless it was to the HC position. He will show LSU more loyalty than Hamilton showed him.

SummittsCourt writes:

Wow! JA with another dumb idea. who'da thunk it.

PUL4VOLS writes:

How about David Cutcliffe might not want to come back a third time to UT? I do not see it. I would not speculate on how I think he might do if he did return. Adams just loves to keep "it" going. He's been a big "itter" for a long long time in Knoxville.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to TucsonVol:

Quit living in the past!!!

Quit trying to be like Bama. They wanted to go dig up bear everytime they needed another coach. Always wanting a connection to the past until they finally went outside the family and hired Saban. I appreciate everything coach cut did but he is now in his 60's and we do not need to go backwards. We need a younger more energetic coach to take us into the future. Hiring coach cut means in probably 5 years or less UT is back in the coach finding business once again. Look to the future and not live in the past.

baldingalum writes:

John,

What's up with the stool softner set? Seriously. I recognize the Rolling Stones are the featured band on Monday Night football, but c'mon man! Are you looking for someone to play shuffleboard with?

VolPower360 (Inactive) writes:

I wouldn't mind this. I would like to see Cutcliffe, Tee Martin, and John Chavis. Retain Jay Graham and Sam Pittman. Everyone else hope they are good.

CCLC writes:

Gosh Vol nation. Act like you got a pair and quit groveling for a quick fix and get back to the basics. Cutcliffe, Gruden, Chief... ain't coming. LET IT GO! You are embarrassing yourselves and it is embarrassing the SEC watching all this.
just sayin'

cloudodust writes:

I like Cut. Really do. Cut liked Tennessee. Really did. Didn't Cut take Tennessee off his repertorie back when Hammy was sitting on the throne and Hammy was known to be looking around..? There's a reason for that. It was called loyality then, it will be loyality now. We soured the Chavis', the Cutcliffe's that came to know and love us. In the words of Fats Domino, 'Ain't That A Shame'...All the rest will see a Do or Die scenerio Atop Rocky, but in honesty for all intent purposes, that's life in the Game. They just won't know what the time-table for success is outside of the local sports-writing media creating it...

chattabluetick writes:

in response to VolPower360:

I wouldn't mind this. I would like to see Cutcliffe, Tee Martin, and John Chavis. Retain Jay Graham and Sam Pittman. Everyone else hope they are good.

Chavis is the reason A&M was first to beat Bama. He went into his patented prevent defense for the last 90 seconds and it prevented LSU from beating Bama in a game where they totally out played Bama until he gave it away. Better to get beat by 40 than outplay a team for 58.5 minutes and have your d. coordinator give the game away. Tee Martin, Jay Graham, and Sam Pittman yes. Quit going back to Cutcliffe and Chavis.

Razor784 writes:

I'd love to see Cut back on the UT sidelines, the guy's been a success at every stop. There are some other guys we need to check with first, but if it comes down to it, Cut would get us back to where we want to be.

BigOrangeSports writes:

"Hiring Cutcliffe wouldn't excite the fan base the way a bigger name would. And perhaps he couldn't lift the program to a championship level.
But he would improve it. His track record is long enough to prove that."

Sure, let's sign him to a contract to "improve" the team for 5-7 years, then buy him out in 3, when he hasn't produced a Championship. There couldn't be anything wrong with that, could there? There has been enough time and money spent to improve things. If you are going to replace Dooley, then you need an exciting, young, up-and-coming coach for the long term, as others have said. Sure wish we had gotten Sumlin when Dooley was hired. I heard he was interested in the job at that time, but you couldn't get him out of College Station now with a truckload of dynamite.

IdahoVol writes:

Hire Fulmer again. He proved he can recruit with the best. He proved he can coach via a NC. And no one can question his loyalty to UT.
He had a couple of bad years at the end but his body of work is solid and he seems rejuvenated in interviews. We could do much worse. I admit I thought it was time for him to go at the time because he didn't seem to have the fire anymore. After some time off, I don't think that's the case anymore.

Stooley_Dinks writes:

John is dead on the money here. Yes, a name like Gruden would galvanize fans and create a frenzy of excitement. But, before gambling on someone, Cut would be a very safe choice. Whine about Bray and Hunter leaving if you want, but the cupboard isn't bare. Worley or Peterman would be very good options. We still have some young receivers that are workable. Imagine a world with NO illegal participation penalties and no more than 1 false start per game. Discipline Discipline Discipline.

He would get everything possible out of our players. I don't want Chief back, but I would gladly take back Cut for a few years.

tovolny writes:

John Adams reminds me of a little nerdy boy who throws firecrackers in the campfire, over and over, and giggles each time one explodes. Here he is hitting our button about Cutcliffe. Ole coach Cut abandoned us in 1998 for the most important came since 1956. Cut is for Cut...and definitely not a real Tennessee person. Cut is, I believe, more Alabama than Tennessee...and why not, he went to school at Alabama. If not for Peyton and Eli, Cut would be selling used cars in lower Alabama. However, Peyton still does hold him in high regard. So, he does have that going for him.

So far John hasn't mentioned Joker Phillips as a replacement, but knowing John, that wouldn't surprise me. We expect things like that from John. My biggest problem is dealing with Wiedner and Climer. These guys are creative journalists and just fabricate things from their lower body orifice. Climer has got to be the biggest idiot to ever type a word on a QWERTY keyboard.

ONE OF THESE, ALICE, ONE OF THESE DAYS.

chattabluetick writes:

If we had just ponied up the dough we could have had Coach Kevin Sumlin instead of him being at Texas A&M. We decided to go the cheap way. Boy did it cost us.

VolzsFan writes:

"UT hall of fame coach Phillip Fulmer won 81 percent of his games with Cutcliffe as his offensive coordinator. He won 67 percent of his games without him".

(you may also want to see who the QB was at the time. Makes a big difference)

"Neither is that of Vanderbilt coach James Franklin, who could finish 8-4 in his second season with the team with a victory over Tennessee on Saturday, followed by a victory over Wake Forest".

(Face it, Franklin will win huge when he gets to a place with resources. He is a fast rising star and a minority. Both things UT needs).

"Even if David Cutcliffe didn't have a long, successful track record as a Tennessee assistant coach, his overall resume would merit consideration when the Vols begin looking for a successor to current UT coach Derek Dooley."

(David is a fine coach. Why would you take someone not known for recruiting when you can get his mentor. The Hall of Famer should be begged to come back and finish the job. No need in getting the pupil when the teacher is here).

VolzsFan writes:

BTW, even with your Adams numbers spin job, 67% is still much better than Majors.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to BigOrangeSports:

"Hiring Cutcliffe wouldn't excite the fan base the way a bigger name would. And perhaps he couldn't lift the program to a championship level.
But he would improve it. His track record is long enough to prove that."

Sure, let's sign him to a contract to "improve" the team for 5-7 years, then buy him out in 3, when he hasn't produced a Championship. There couldn't be anything wrong with that, could there? There has been enough time and money spent to improve things. If you are going to replace Dooley, then you need an exciting, young, up-and-coming coach for the long term, as others have said. Sure wish we had gotten Sumlin when Dooley was hired. I heard he was interested in the job at that time, but you couldn't get him out of College Station now with a truckload of dynamite.

Amen I'll second that

bfowler1161#262198 writes:

Cut would be a good choice, but really not the first choice. Holgorson, Chip Kelley,Stong,Gundy, and Petersen (yes he has turned us down before) would be first big dollar choices. Mark Hudspeth the bargin basement choice. He has only won where he has been, including LA-Lafayette would all be higher on the list than Cutcliffe. Would love to see Graham and Pittman retained.

bfowler1161#262198 writes:

Its also rumored Jimbo Fisher would leave FSU for a better opportunity.

OLROCKYTOP writes:

No one even exists from the football program when Fulmer was there. I dont see Cutcliffe having an inside track on the job, although like it or not I believe Kirby Smart is Hart's man. Hart is gonna hire who he wants to throw around his power, no matter what the rest of us want.

UTKin1992 writes:

No absolutely not. No reruns. No, no, no.

Realistically...Chris Petersen is the best choice; Young. Proven. Goes outside his home state to recruit. Level headed. Affordable.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to IdahoVol:

Hire Fulmer again. He proved he can recruit with the best. He proved he can coach via a NC. And no one can question his loyalty to UT.
He had a couple of bad years at the end but his body of work is solid and he seems rejuvenated in interviews. We could do much worse. I admit I thought it was time for him to go at the time because he didn't seem to have the fire anymore. After some time off, I don't think that's the case anymore.

He was outstanding in every way until better than average coaches moved into jobs surrounding Tennessee. In the 90's a lot of players were found in Georgia before Richt sealed the borders. Also a ton of them came from S.Car. pre Spurrier. To the south Saban gets anything he wants in Alabama, Miles is running Louisiana, and Mullen is keeping most in Ole Miss territory. Recruiting has gotten much tougher than When Fulmer and UT were dominating, and since there are never enough players to go around instate I don't believe CPF would be as effective. Improved coaching all the way around the league is what led to his downfall.

voodoo101 writes:

Adams have you noticed that Cutcliffe's experience was on the offensive side? Have you noticed that Duke's game scores are similar to UT's? Have you noticed that Duke is 96 on total defense and TN is 111 - that's not exactly worlds apart; then consider who each has played (ACC vs SEC - and the number of top 20 teams). OK, Duke does have higher academic standards, so it's reasonable to give some credit there. Apparently Cutcliffe was fired at MS for a leaky defense and poor recruiting - Eli Manning was his big achievement, but then Archie played at Ole Miss. In the end it looks like it might be an even trade if he replaced Dooley - good offense and no defense, so what's the point? Fix the defense.

vol_in_nc writes:

I am an East Tennessee native, a Duke grad, and current Triangle resident. Coach Cut is not leaving Durham. He will retire here. Its great for him. At least a six win season, beating Carolina, and a bowl game.....the Raleigh media doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to him other than positive stories. They are much more interested in State and Carolina. Just my humble opinion.

TeamXer writes:

in response to OLROCKYTOP:

No one even exists from the football program when Fulmer was there. I dont see Cutcliffe having an inside track on the job, although like it or not I believe Kirby Smart is Hart's man. Hart is gonna hire who he wants to throw around his power, no matter what the rest of us want.

Holy Cow, that's a bad idea.

MikeNPS writes:

Living in the past will not necessarily provide a successful future for the Vols. Bad choice.

DavidB writes:

We don't need a coach for a few years. We need a coach that will spend the next 20 years here. We need a proven coach. Without knowing how much Dooley actually does with offense I think that side of the game is fine.

Keep in mind whoever they hire has the choice to keep coaches or let coaches go.

ashvol7 writes:

We need to move on from Cutcliffe, the Chief, and anyone else involved with Fulmer. New blood will serve us well, a new AD would't hurt either.

chattabluetick writes:

in response to OLROCKYTOP:

No one even exists from the football program when Fulmer was there. I dont see Cutcliffe having an inside track on the job, although like it or not I believe Kirby Smart is Hart's man. Hart is gonna hire who he wants to throw around his power, no matter what the rest of us want.

If you want a replay of Lane Kiffin go after Kirby Smart. We keep hearing each year about Mark Richt hanging it up to go to the mission field. Since Muschamp is entrenched at Fla. the pick for UGA a new coach would be Kirby Smart. Wouldn't that be fun to hire him for one year and Richt leaves UGA and Smart leaves UT to go to UGA after one year in Knoxville. Dream Job get it. Kiffin--Dream Job--S.Cal If UT has good sense they will stay away from Smart but then again they haven't been very smart lately!

AZ_Vol writes:

I think Adams has been rationing his Midol again and is getting the yips.

RoyaltyVol writes:

I think Cutcliff would be a great hire if and only if he could get Chavis as DC and we keep Jay Graham as RB coach then I could get excited about that hire. But if all we will get with Cutcliff is all Duke assistants then no thanks!

snowvol writes:

It's a moot point now, but the guy UT should have looked at but never gave any serious consideration to: Brian Kelly, when he was at Cincy. He won everywhere he coached and had taken the Bearcats to about as high as they'd ever get. He wanted a major job, and those around him knew it.

I don't care what the reports were - allegedly that he was waiting to see if Notre Dame would come calling. Had UT made a move, he would have done the same thing in Knoxville that he's now doing in South Bend.

My point - The Vols blew it. Big time. Kiffin, and then Dooley... Is there anyone within UT's walls that isn't a part of the Good Ole Boy's Network of Hiring Coaches? Cutcliffe - you're kidding, right? I'm not surprised John wrote this - he's stirring the pot. And so many of you are buying in. David Cutcliffe will not be coming to Tennessee unless he's visiting Fulmer. Dave Hart couldn't care less about who was here before.

I haven't a clue who he'll contact. But it's reasonable to assume he understands it needs to be a winner, a proven name, and someone who can come in and reinvigorate the fan base much less the entire program.

Jon Gruden? Amazing that so many fans think he'll just drop everything he's doing to come to Knoxville. Pete Carroll was a largely failed pro coach. When SC came calling, he leaped at it because he wasn't going anywhere fast. Gruden has a cushy, high-paying job on national television and has given no indication - zero - that he's interested in coaching again.

Want to make a splash? Go after Chip Kelly at Oregon? The guy is a fantastic coach but will never get the recognition he deserves - or the money - in Eugene, OR. He'd run an offense like Spurrier did at Florida but without the endless antoginizing of opponents.

Sure, it's unlikely he'd come... but Hart needs to shoot higher than LA Tech or UT relics.

easttnvol21 writes:

Why not just go after Johnny Majors? I'd like for the bright idea of bringing back names from the past to just stop. Not many good decisions are made in an act of desperation. Just stop already! Geez

volspaws writes:

in response to born2ride:

Cutcliffe got fired at Ole Miss. No thanks.

JA is throwing names out there even though Dooley can still win 7 games. Replacing Sal may be the option.

Being as stupid as you are is a crime in 47 states

RoyaltyVol writes:

My top pick is Bob Stoops, however I don't think he would come, but hey offer 5.5 to 6 m a year and see if he bites.

crutch1966 writes:

cutcliff has the perfect job. no pressure at a basketball school. upset a team every now and then.we need a major homerun coach.

Pullingguard writes:

How goofy it has become..Cut is where he belongs..In the ACC where competition is weaker and at Duke where he wins 6/7 games and they are happy...He would not be so lucky at UT, so forget him being coach of Vols...

voodoo101 writes:

in response to easttnvol21:

Why not just go after Johnny Majors? I'd like for the bright idea of bringing back names from the past to just stop. Not many good decisions are made in an act of desperation. Just stop already! Geez

Kinda makes your head hurt doesn't it? Can't you just imagine the role reversal next year at this time with the anti Dooley faction making excuses for a new coach being 0-6 in the SEC?

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