Bray has been coddled and defended ever since Tennessee hitched itself to his NFL-caliber arm. It's late in the game to hold him to higher standards. Way late.
Bray's off-the-field incidents have either been laughed off or brushed aside with minimal punishment. His on-the-field performances under duress too often have been subpar.
But UT has stood up for him and stuck with him whether he was heaving beer bottles off a balcony or throwing into coverage. Why crack down on him now just because he failed to complete half his passes and threw two interceptions in a 44-13 loss to No. 1 Alabama?
You might have noticed that Alabama brings out the worst in opposing quarterbacks. You saw that last season when UT's Matt Simms, subbing for an injured Bray, struggled to make any headway against the Tide.
With 3:07 left and Alabama leading 37-6, Dooley had seen enough of Simms. So he summoned freshman Justin Worley onto the field to take his first college snap from Tennessee's 1-yard-line against the national champion to be.
Dooley called on Worley again Saturday with UT trailing 44-10 and 9:07 to play. And Dooley insisted he wouldn't hesitate doing so in the games to come.
"If (Bray) is loose with the ball, he is coming out, and we are going to play Worley," Dooley said. "He is being too loose with the football. We can't beat these teams turning the ball over."
Too bad, the Vols weren't thinking along those lines last November when Bray completed 15 of 38 passes and threw two interceptions in a 10-7 loss to Kentucky. Yet they didn't deem his ineptitude worthy of risking a substitute, be it Worley or Simms.
So now Dooley is threatening Bray with bench time? Please.
The Vols could have benched him last season against Kentucky. They also could have suspended him for this season's opener against N.C. State after a couple of off-the-field incidents — neither of which qualified him as a hardened criminal but did make you wonder if he understood the ramifications of being a major college quarterback.
In one case, he was charged with "reckless operation of a personal watercraft." In another, he admitted to throwing golf balls and beer bottles at parked cars in an apartment complex.
"Obviously, his accuracy isn't where it needs to be," Dooley said. "He missed the trash can."
Good line, bad message.
The ongoing message to Bray has been: "You're our guy — no matter what."
Maybe he would have benefited from more competition. Or perhaps, tougher coaching. In fact, I wonder how much further along Bray might be if former coach Lane Kiffin, who recruited him, had never left. Quarterbacks are Kiffin's specialty, and he did a wonderful job with UT's Jonathan Crompton in just one season.
What could Kiffin have done with Bray if he had coached him for three years? The question now seems as pointless as a threat to bench Bray.
Bray has heard too much to the contrary for three years to be motivated by that. The schedule is also in his favor.
After the Vols face 14-point favorite South Carolina on Saturday, there are no nationally ranked teams left on their schedule. Bray might have played poorly against Alabama and might have made wrong decisions in the clutch, but he has never been as inept this season as he was in the loss to Kentucky or the near loss to Vanderbilt in 2011. He remains UT's best quarterback option.
So forget about Alabama, remember that NFL-caliber arm, and tell him, "You're our guy."
It's too late for anything else.