John Adams: Derek Dooley inherited a 'short stick' and did little with it

John Adams
University of Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart during a press conference at Neyland Stadium on Sunday, November 18, 2012 regarding the future of Tennessee football. 
  
 (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Photo by Saul Young, 2012 Knoxville News Sentinel

University of Tennessee Athletic Director Dave Hart during a press conference at Neyland Stadium on Sunday, November 18, 2012 regarding the future of Tennessee football. (Saul Young/News Sentinel)

Raw video: Dave Hart press conference on Dooley's firing

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Tennessee athletic director Dave Hart said more than once Sunday what a tough day it was.

He had to fire football coach Derek Dooley. He had to meet with the coach's team. And he had to do it all on a short night's sleep.

It was a tough day. But it was an easy decision.

You had to know that before Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt 41-18 on Saturday night in Nashville. You probably knew it when Troy gained more than 700 yards at Neyland Stadium or when an overtime loss to Missouri assured the Vols of no better than a six-win regular season.

Dooley's Vols are 15-21 after three years, with one game remaining in a season he won't finish. Never mind all the obstacles. Tennessee has had too much success to continue with the same coach when the won-lost record clashes so flagrantly with the school's overall record for success.

Dooleyisms: Memorable sayings from former UT head coach Derek Dooley

But in fairness to Dooley, you shouldn't ignore what he was up against. This would have been a daunting assignment for any coach.

Hart alluded to that in Sunday afternoon's media conference: "(Dooley) inherited a very difficult environment. And quite honestly, he was given a pretty short stick to take into battle."

In fact, Dooley took over the program at the worst possible time. The Vols rarely have been so low. The SEC has never been better.

His roster was depleted by the back-to-back coaching changes that preceded him. His schedule was armed with enough formidable opponents to derail a national championship contender.

He didn't have much luck, either.

Wide receiver Justin Hunter, UT's best offensive player at the time, suffered a season-ending injury in Game 3 of 2011. Tyler Bray, UT's starting quarterback, missed almost half of the same season with a hand injury.

This season's injuries weren't to high-profile players, but the loss of safety Brian Randolph at the end of September became more paramount as the season unfolded.

By the time of his injury, he had become the best player in a secondary whose play worsened as the season went along, eventually sinking to such an inept level that you wondered if the Vols were playing with a man short.

Stronger programs might have overcome such setbacks. Better coaches might have as well.

But the ceiling was never high for this program in Dooley's three years. And the margin of error was ever so slight.

There was no Cam Newton or Johnny Manziel to raise the team through sheer individual talent. UT just doesn't have that caliber of players.

It has enough good players that it shouldn't be 4-7, though. This team underachieved significantly, and that falls largely on the coaching staff.

Sal Sunseri, the linebackers coach from Alabama, proved to be one of the worst hires in recent UT history. The thinking behind the hiring — Dooley's intent to field a more aggressive, playmaking defense — seems just as wrongheaded in hindsight.

Justin Wilcox, UT's defensive coordinator for Dooley's first two seasons, obviously didn't believe he had the players to make that work. He was right.

He also was right to leave, taking a defensive coordinator's position at Washington, where he had more security and perhaps a greater comfort level with the head coach than he had with Dooley after two seasons.

One after another, for various reasons, other coaches also left after the 2011 season, which ended with an incomprehensible loss to a bad Kentucky team, quarterbacked by a converted wide receiver.

The loss didn't just go away, it lingered long with UT fans, many of whom were disenchanted with that team's lack of chemistry as well as the coaching staff's lack of wherewithal to overcome an opponent as infirm as Kentucky.

Maybe it was too much to ask for the Vols to replace the majority of their assistant coaches, switch to a new defense and hit the ground running in 2012. But that's what they seemingly had accomplished in their opening-season victory over North Carolina State in the Georgia Dome.

Two games later, with the Vols holding a lead against arch-nemesis Florida late in the third quarter, their fans seemed fully vested in the comeback season. Then, the Gators surged, the Vols faltered, and the season swerved terribly off course. Game after game, the defense looked helpless — never so much as when it gave up 48 points in a seven-point victory over Troy the first week of November.

By then, the empty seats at Neyland Stadium had become as damning as the team's record.

It left Hart with no other choice, no matter how much the buyouts for Dooley and his assistants will cost — and they will cost a lot.

Not making a change would have been even costlier.

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.

© 2012 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 70

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor say lets pay the next guy not to have to deal with a short stick!
Bones never lie.

Govols1995 writes:

The Dooley supporters get on my nerves this coach is pathetic. He made all these promises at the start of the year and we have the worst program in history. We need a big name coach now.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor say lets pay the next guy not to have to deal with a short stick!
Bones never lie.

Now we need a bare knuckle fighter..

pj_ladyvolnMI writes:

I feel good about my decision to not read anymore articles by Adams with a negative title, nor the negative comments to follow. They are cancerous. Have a blast, everyone.

jobrando#216494 writes:

Need the big name that will be a magnet for recruiting

laraccoon writes:

Why in the world did Hamilton feel the need to give Dooley a contract extension and raise after his first season ended at 6 and 7 . how could the higher ups have ever approved of such stupidity baffles me?

aspenvol2 writes:

If anybody knows about little sticks, it's Adams.

Vol_For_Life writes:

My list:
Gruden
Stoops
Fisher
Gundy
Peterson
Patterson
Petrino

voodoo101 writes:

Dooley's big mistake was not using that stick on Adams - and Climer. Maybe we should let Adams coach this week, prepare the game plan, handle the game next weekend, and settle his knowledge on the subject once and for all.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to BIVOLAR_BEARE:

Now we need a bare knuckle fighter..

Woody Hayes is dead.

Vols_fan_27 writes:

Will John Adams leave with Dooley?... That is the question... otherwise, what will he write about?...GBO!

CoverOrange writes:

I got the impression from Hart that had Dooley made a bowl game he would have stayed. From the weekly pressers, it doesn't appear that Dooley knew that as he, and the team, just gave up and weren't prepared for Vandy.

bigorangedude writes:

in response to Vol_For_Life:

My list:
Gruden
Stoops
Fisher
Gundy
Peterson
Patterson
Petrino

My list:
Lombardi
Landry
Bryant
Rockne

voodoo101 writes:

in response to Vols_fan_27:

Will John Adams leave with Dooley?... That is the question... otherwise, what will he write about?...GBO!

Dooley will be gone, but Adams' stench will remain. The question is who he will be target next.

tovolny writes:

PLEASE leave Cutcliffe out of the picture, PLEASE. He has proven at both Ole Miss and Duke that he is not HEADCOACH TIMBER. If the next coach wants to hire him as QB coach, then that would be great.

We need an up-and-coming young man or woman that has the big name and the big street crid.

TERRY BOWDEN is not that young, but he would at least have about 10 or 15 years left.

Go get that cat who is now coaching the NFL Lions.

I don't think I could put up with coach chucky constantly overstating the obvious.

Get a GOOD ONE that is not a stab in dark.

volboy50 writes:

The payout should come out of Hart's pocket/salary

tovolny writes:

in response to Vol_For_Life:

My list:
Gruden
Stoops
Fisher
Gundy
Peterson
Patterson
Petrino

I hope not. Hey, you left off Joker Phillips.

BigOrangeRock writes:

Fulmer
Chavis
Meyer
Saban

SignalMtnVol writes:

Here's to hoping Dooley takes not only Sunseri with him to the cheese line, but also Bob Kesling and John Adams.

Go Big Orange!

braintree writes:

in response to Govols1995:

The Dooley supporters get on my nerves this coach is pathetic. He made all these promises at the start of the year and we have the worst program in history. We need a big name coach now.

I know people harp on bringing politics into this, but the same principles apply. Regardless of candidate or coach, at the end of the day you get behind them and support them. I would put that principle to most of the Dooley supporters out there including myself. Anybody left on board that wagon after the Miss St. game though were on their own. Buh Bye!

VFL70 writes:

I am consistently amazed at all the critics of John Adams. He writes with great clarity and to the point. Apparently, we have a lot of readers who still have their heads in the sand.

BIVOLAR_BEARE writes:

Barbara Dooley seemed satisfied..

gpoy22 writes:

in response to VFL70:

I am consistently amazed at all the critics of John Adams. He writes with great clarity and to the point. Apparently, we have a lot of readers who still have their heads in the sand.

He also picked Tennessee to go 9-3.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to Govols1995:

The Dooley supporters get on my nerves this coach is pathetic. He made all these promises at the start of the year and we have the worst program in history. We need a big name coach now.

The Dooley haters get on my nerves. You never gave him a chance - no one would have done better than what he did.

A big name coach doesn't guarantee anything.

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to VFL70:

I am consistently amazed at all the critics of John Adams. He writes with great clarity and to the point. Apparently, we have a lot of readers who still have their heads in the sand.

Except his examples of comparison are horrible, "There was no Cam Newton or Johnny Manziel to raise the team through sheer individual talent. UT just doesn't have that caliber of players."

Really John, really? I know Bray may lack maturity, but I would say he is as talented or more than both those guys.

So he may talk about UT being down correctly, but its not players,, or lack of talent, its purely coaches and X'S AND O'S.

SummittsCourt writes:

in response to VFL70:

I am consistently amazed at all the critics of John Adams. He writes with great clarity and to the point. Apparently, we have a lot of readers who still have their heads in the sand.

You are the one with head in the sand - you must not read many articles to see his smugness and glee when UT is losing.

Vols_fan_27 writes:

in response to VFL70:

I am consistently amazed at all the critics of John Adams. He writes with great clarity and to the point. Apparently, we have a lot of readers who still have their heads in the sand.

What you perceive as heads in the sand, others perceive as nothing but negatives around UT Athletics... While I understand the point of this article... just don't see any reason for beating a dead horse... that's essentially what this article is doing... just don't see the point...GBO!

SummittsCourt writes:

Leave it to JA to kick a man when he is down.

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to Vol_For_Life:

My list:
Gruden
Stoops
Fisher
Gundy
Peterson
Patterson
Petrino

That's everyone else's list. How about giving us a name to consider that no one else has given?

tnoutlaw2001#228008 writes:

in response to SummittsCourt:

The Dooley haters get on my nerves. You never gave him a chance - no one would have done better than what he did.

A big name coach doesn't guarantee anything.

Really? Go look at the season, I mentioned it many times. Dooley sent/sends mixed signals constantly to players. Example, Tiny Richardson has cost Tennessee nearly every game multiple false start penalties. Multiple as in several per game. Bray complained about this, people said his attitude was bad, but some of it was his lineman constantly moving. Dooley never benched or mentioned Tiny's poor play. Bray took the heat and the blame for poor body language. But Bray get the hook for poor play. These kids were confused and pissed all year, and they took the bullet for aloof coaching.

cloudodust writes:

At the time of CDD's hiring, Tennessee couldn't beg a HC of any major-minor stature to come onboard. That's why we settled on the nightcrawler, Lane Kiffin. That specific past and then sitting ADept's administration showed the country that loyality died a sudden death Atop Rocky. Don't misunderstand me here. I'm not a CPF hanger-on'er but the deal CPF got from MH rang loud from coast to coast. Shootfire, CPF couldn't even land a decent OC because of MH. I can only hope the future of our program doesn't hinge further on the past and thankfully long gone Mike Hamilton, et al...GBO and good hunting Mr. Hart.

FlaVol2 writes:

in response to voodoo101:

Dooley's big mistake was not using that stick on Adams - and Climer. Maybe we should let Adams coach this week, prepare the game plan, handle the game next weekend, and settle his knowledge on the subject once and for all.

I agree with Voodoo. The question here is why do we have media pundits like Adams reporting on our Vols. Several on the staff of the NNS should be tarred, feathered and immediately run out of town. They are not advocates, they are rabble rousers. We need them like another hole in the head.

mumfordfan writes:

This is off-topic a little, but what gives with how ugly our campus looks these days? I was over there today, and it looks like bombs have been dropped everywhere. Where the U.C. used to be, now is a massive crater. Cranes and partially built buildings on every block. Then we have those gaudy neon orange barriers everywhere. What in the world purpose do those cheesy things serve? I have been on all but 3 of the SEC campuses. I have been to many non-SEC schools. I hate to say it, but right now our place just looks plain ugly. I would be embarrassed to have to showcase that mass destruction to a recruit or his parents. Aesthetically awful! Pleaae, pick up the litter (which I did some today). Finish the buildings. Remove the cranes. And for God's sake, please get rid of those hideous neon barriers.

MurfVol77 writes:

What about Mario Cristobal (FIU, look up what hes done before blasting me) or Dana Holgorsen?

zackster writes:

Comparing Adams' column written at 12:40am today with his column written at 5:48pm today, you see his typical pattern arising. First column: run the coach out of town on a rail. 2nd column: "This would have been a daunting assignment for any coach." If it's similar to what he did with Fulmer, next for Adams will come denial. Such as, "I wasn't trying to get him fired". Yep, you were - in both cases.

Huttdawg100 writes:

I wouldn't sleep on Al Golden. Miami is a mess, and they don't support that team. I wouldn't be surprised if Golden doesn't want out.

Obviously the first choice is Gruden, but if that doesn't happen, I want Golden. I'm gonna go buy some orange neckties.

civilianvol_formerly_marinevol writes:

Good article.

FanNotSheep writes:

Coach Franklin is the only person I can think of who has taken over a program in as bad a shape as UT and won in the SEC. He may or may not be able to be bought and he may not be able to turn things around with players of lesser IQ than those at Vandy, but I for one would support him.

Snapshot writes:

in response to volboy50:

The payout should come out of Hart's pocket/salary

Hart didn't hire Dooley you idiot!

golfman1975 writes:

And the window treatments on Frat row!
Are you for real?

voloffaith writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

Coach Franklin is the only person I can think of who has taken over a program in as bad a shape as UT and won in the SEC. He may or may not be able to be bought and he may not be able to turn things around with players of lesser IQ than those at Vandy, but I for one would support him.

Now that is downright funny........he is good ,but baggage and school he is at would not set well with Vol Alumni or the 'Power' brokers. WV coach ain't got no D and he looks good because of Geno Smith.. have lost 5 or 6 in a row since beating Texas in a thriller. Speculation is fun, but how soon we get a coach and staff is important for saving the recruits that new staff would try and salvage. Plus shot at a few others, but primarily giving stability asap. Search quickly, but wisely............

JohnnyVol writes:

in response to tovolny:

PLEASE leave Cutcliffe out of the picture, PLEASE. He has proven at both Ole Miss and Duke that he is not HEADCOACH TIMBER. If the next coach wants to hire him as QB coach, then that would be great.

We need an up-and-coming young man or woman that has the big name and the big street crid.

TERRY BOWDEN is not that young, but he would at least have about 10 or 15 years left.

Go get that cat who is now coaching the NFL Lions.

I don't think I could put up with coach chucky constantly overstating the obvious.

Get a GOOD ONE that is not a stab in dark.

Woman?

volboy50 writes:

in response to Snapshot:

Hart didn't hire Dooley you idiot!

Didn't say he did, you idiot!

ROCKYnROCKFORD writes:

How ironic would be if Dooley had to take Univ Tenn to court

to collect his 5 million.

The line between point-shaving and sheer incompetence can be

very fine. The end result can certainly be the same. Most

everyone agrees players laid down against Kentucky. Dooley

appeared to take several games off with bizarre calls. Calls

that 99% of Div I coaches wouldn't make. Tenn was 10-0 on the

over/under. A porous defense made the over an easy pick.

0-6 at Neyland against the spread.IF Dooley did offer to leave

after the Kentucky game, was he trying to hasten his

departure in the 2012 season?

No need to call Oliver Stone....just a frustrated fan trying to make

sense of the mess that won't end.

All this would suggest a serious character flaw. Aside from

Sabin, I've not heard ringing endorsements for Dooley from

coaches or players(past or present).

I'm sure there's an ethics clause in his contract. He would

probably counter-sue and wind up owning Ayers Hall.

Best to keep the FBI and NCAA off campus. Hope Barbara

dosen't read this.

Colliervol writes:

in response to FanNotSheep:

Coach Franklin is the only person I can think of who has taken over a program in as bad a shape as UT and won in the SEC. He may or may not be able to be bought and he may not be able to turn things around with players of lesser IQ than those at Vandy, but I for one would support him.

No doubt he is doing a decent job but has he beaten anybody with a winning record?

dirislr#209355 writes:

in response to VFL70:

I am consistently amazed at all the critics of John Adams. He writes with great clarity and to the point. Apparently, we have a lot of readers who still have their heads in the sand.

don't worry. All the people on this site read his articles. He is not going anywhere.

FanNotSheep writes:

in response to Colliervol:

No doubt he is doing a decent job but has he beaten anybody with a winning record?

He is 5-3 in the SEC this year.

Look at where they were when he was hired. Today they are not the same old Vandy. I gave Dooley some slack because of the mess he took over, but compare what Franklin did with his mess and you will see a great young coach. This is a proven commodity. Proven recruiter who routinely beats UT on 3 and 4-star players. Proven coach who keeps it closer than the talent gap even when losing to top teams.

We have been here and done this. One more mistake and there may be no climbing back to the top.

jamalamerican31 writes:

in response to volboy50:

Didn't say he did, you idiot!

OK!.... Then what was the point of your post volboy50? By your logic, you should pay for Dooley's buyout.

Jesse_VFL writes:

I can't see anything wrong with what John Adams writes in this or any other article, yet he is seeming always attacked when he writes about that which most of us voice and discuss anyway.

10Vol85 writes:

in response to bigorangedude:

My list:
Lombardi
Landry
Bryant
Rockne

How someone with "big orange" in their name could list Bryant over Neyland is beyond me.

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