Insider Mailing: Save the Season Edition

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    Mike DeBord Butch Jones-1

    Favorite new show out of the fall premieres. And if you can’t find one, favorite returning fall show. – @TonyGeist

    Bob:  I’m still recovering from Mr. Robot, which was a summer show, and was spectacular!  But, I watched a few shows last night that showed some promise.  First off, The Grinder on Fox (Rob Lowe, Fred Savage) was pretty damn funny, and the new NBC series Blindspot (the show with the lady covered in tattoo’s and each tattoo is a clue to this epic mystery that we don’t entirely understand yet) is a pretty unique premise and really entertaining.

    Houston: I don’t have a lot of time to watch TV that isn’t sports. I’ve watched the first four episodes of Narcos. It’s pretty good.

    John: What are fall premiers? I’m waiting for Season 6 of Walking Dead while currently devouring Season 5 which dropped a few days ago. I also wanna get on Narcos. HK’s opinion lines up with everything else I’m hearing.

    Reed: The only fall premiere I have watched is Fear of the Walking Dead…so that? I did blow through Narcos this month and am planning on checking out Limitless.

    Would you rather be up by 14 or down by 7 in the 4th quarter? – @RockyTopBlitz

    Bob:  Well, considering that we all saw how things went with Tennessee down in the 4th quarter (I affectionately call that last 1:26 series in Gainesville the “clock block” series), I’d rather see the Vols ahead in the score by any margin and hope for the best.  It blows my mind that its come to us debating if we’d rather be losing a game than winning, but I understand the psychology of why we’re doing that.

    Daniel: Against Arkansas, up 14, no doubt about it, even with all that went on in the last two big game. The Razorbacks aren’t built for comebacks, and they’re really good with a lead as well. But to get to the spirit of what you’re asking, I think Tennessee, based on what we’ve seen so far, clearly has a better mindset when down as opposed to holding a lead, especially later.

    But, be honest, if you were really putting money down on that scenario, you’d take being up 14, even with this bunch.

    Houston: I think you have to say up by 14…but man. With this staff, that seems like a toss-up question right now. The staff’s refusal to go for the throat and secure victory late in games has turned this season south in a hurry. I picked the Vols to be 4-0 at this point, and they 100% should be. In the fourth quarter, they’ve been over 95% favorites to win against OU and Florida…and lost them both.

    Maybe playing from behind would be a good thing?

    John: That question is proof that football is a manic thing, but anyone who says it’s foolish to even consider “down by 7 in the 4th quarter” hasn’t been watching the same team I’ve been watching. I’ve said it a few times either here or in the Pick 6 I do with Kevin — This staff far prefers the role of underdog. Which is why I cringed when the FL game line went to UT’s favor. And I’m not in love with the Vols being so heavily favored in the AR game.

    Reed: Down by 7 every single time with this group. As a friend told me yesterday, Team 119 looks like team 911 with a lead in the 4th.

    Does the OC not believe in jump balls and what happens if we lose to Arkansas? – @Rhickson87

    Bob:  A loss to Arkansas puts the Vols on the expressway to, gulp, a losing season in my opinion.  Georgia, Bama, Mizzou….good God, Kentucky!  All four of those are losable games of varying magnitudes at this point, particularly if Tennessee can’t get up on their feet against the Hogs and restore some confidence.   Man, it could be a cold, cold November around here!

    Houston: Not against teams that they fear. They didn’t respect Bowling Green as much as they probably should have, and they called a great game on both sides of the ball, especially after halftime, because of it. They didn’t stretch the field against OU or Florida, but threw a bunch against WCU. If the staff thinks the opponent is good, then they play a tighter, more conservative brand of football on offense, even if they still have the matchups/situations to take advantage of. It’s very frustrating.

    If Tennessee loses to Arkansas, then they will start 2-5 and absolutely struggle to make a bowl game. Kentucky in Lexington is no pushover, Missouri doesn’t lose to Tennessee and Vandy’s defense will keep them in that game. This team needs a shot of confidence in the worst way.

    John: What happens if UT loses to Arkansas? With games coming up vs GA and at Bama, 2-5 is probably what happens. With a Halloween night game in Lexington where (a) the Vols have struggled in recent history and (b) the fans will be 73 kinds of liquored up. A win this week and all is still (relatively) okay, but a loss this week and things will go from bad to dire.

    Daniel: There’s very little, if any, trust that’s been shown in a wide receiver to go up in a 50/50 opportunity and make a big play for Tennessee in a big game so far this season. I can really only think of one true opportunity – and that was Dobbs throwing one up that Von Pearson took away from a defender for a touchdown at Florida that was taken off the board due to an illegal man downfield call. Arkansas has the worst passing defense in the SEC statistically speaking, so if they can’t do it this week, hard to say if they will ever be able to this season.

    And I have to think 2-5 is likely around the corner if they lose to Arkansas. Maybe they could pull off an upset in one of the next two games, but it’d be difficult for me to predict that after a loss this week.

    Reed: Nuclear. War. Seriously, evacuate Oak Ridge and head as far away as possible. Knoxville will be absolutely toxic if the Vols lose to Arkansas and then start 2-5.

    Will we wear the smokey grey’s against Georgia? – @Nick_Mathews8I

    Bob:  YES!  Mark it down!  I say if an alternate uni can provide material benefit in the game against the Dawgs, then Butch, let your smokey grey freak flag fly high!  Hey, I don’t entirely buy it, but desperate times…

    Houston: That’s the rumor. Gotta be honest, though…I’d probably scrap that plan.

    John: I brought this up the other day with a friend. I’d stop any and all “new traditions” till the seas are more tranquil.

    Reed: That was the plan before the season. This staff hasn’t shown a general willingness to depart from any plan/chart/analytics, so we’ll see.

    Help me find the silver lining in Saturday’s loss. Open to anything that eases the pain. – @Carter_Lawrence

    Bob:  I absolutely loved the all white “stormtrooper” uniforms.  Not enough?

    Houston: Tennessee has the talent to win every game on their schedule. We said that in the preseason and it’s been proven true through the first four games of the season. They also have a coaching staff that is good enough to use that talent to build double-digit leads in the 4th quarter against good teams. Those two things are very, very promising. The mistakes are very fixable and 8-4, 9-3 is still a serious possibility with proper changes.

    Now, they just have to MAKE those changes…

    John: Silver lining: the FL game made the heartbreaking loss to OU feel like the TaxSlayer Bowl. I’m all about retroactive benefits.

    Reed: Tennessee can still get to 8-4 or 9-3 and, for all but about 10 minutes of the season, has looked like the team many people picked to win the SEC East.

    Daniel: Agree with all that’s been said and will add that it was no small feat to be able to run the football like the Vols did against the Gators. Florida entered that game No. 2 in the SEC in rushing defense and had a really good defensive front that Tennessee was able to find space against on its way to 254 yards – approximately 100 more rushing yards than the first three Florida opponents gained combined against the Gators.

    If, and it’s a huge if, the Vols can get the passing game going a bit, have that kind of effort on the ground, keep playing pretty good defense and maintain solid special teams, this is a team that can still win a lot of football games this year and maybe even be in the SEC East conversation. Or they might implode. We’ll see.

    Is it wrong for me to be strangely optimistic about our team this year. I still expect a decent season, 8-9 wins. – @r_reed5 

    Bob:  Puzzling would be the first description that comes to mind when I hear anyone link this team with 8-9 wins after what we’ve seen in our early season “defining” games.  I was right there with you, predicting 8 wins as the season kicked off.  Now it feels like we’d be salvaging the season with a 7-5 record, and another 6-6 season (sadly) feels like a real possibility.

    Houston: Wrong? No. Risky? Yes. That only happens if this staff trusts themselves less and their players more. Have they reached that point? It doesn’t sound like it based on press conferences.

    John: I was between 7 and 8 wins before the season started with a slight nod to 8. Now I’m pretty locked on 7. UGA and Bama likely leaves you with 4 Ls, thus 8 Ws assuming no more missteps. And based on what I’ve seen so far, I simply cannot rule out a misstep. This weekend is obviously a big game, plus, I’m not one who’s chalking up Lexington on Halloween night as an automatic

    Daniel: I think nine is bordering on delusional at this point, but I also can’t completely rule it out based on some of the positive flashes the Vols have shown this season. I think eight certainly still could happen, though six or seven feel more in play than they did when I was making preseason picks.

    Is arrogance the flaw that ends up costing Butch his job? – @chaz9908

    Bob:  I’m not sure it’s arrogance as much as it is rigidity that could be Butch’s ultimate undoing.  Certainly, someone needs to be the CEO of the program to instill structure and discipline, a role that Butch covets greatly.  But this is a crazy game, feeling more and more like the NFL in how these days, no lead is safe until there’s nothing but zero’s on the clock in the 4th quarter, and being more innovative, intelligent, and well, ballsy than in  years past has become table stakes for all successful head coaches.  That’s the part I feel is missing, the coaching part.  Today’s game requires of level of agility in a coaches in-game strategy where anything less than recognizing when to throw out the script, ditch the “chart”, and rely less on analytics and more on experience in decision-making simply won’t cut it.  Based on what we’ve seen lately, that’s a big ask of a coach like Butch, who USA Today’s Dan Wolken aptly characterized last weekend as “the consummate paint by numbers guy”.  If Butch can adjust that mindset of his and embrace a little risk tolerance, he could be coaching here for a long time.  It’s all up to him though.

    Daniel: It could be. Butch Jones has his system. He has a way he wants things to be done, all the way down to the language that is spoken, the philosophy of practice, how he handles the media, what kind of mindset his players have, the type of people he wants on his staff, the sports science he utilizes and on and on. It’s a system that won him a lot of football games at his last two stops and has some very strong roots. I don’t blame him for bringing it to Tennessee and trying to stick with it.

    A lot of it works and needs to remain in place. I’m just not sure the part where he tries to play everything 99% by analytics/charts/the book will work in the SEC, especially, despite what a great recruiter he has been so far, because Tennessee is never going to have a huge talent edge against some opponents they play on a yearly basis. And I’m just not sure how much he trusts his players to be athletes sometimes. It feels like they’re sometimes over-thinking and the conservative mindset of the coaches in many situations this year has spilled over to the players in key situations.

    Nothing I said there is really that difficult to change. Coach by common sense/your gut sometimes. I’m not saying be foolish. Know the numbers and be prepared. I like a coach that knows there’s a 40% chance he’ll be successful at something but realizes that the upside in that situation outweighs the risk of the 60% failure and is ok to bend the rules a bit when he feels the time is right. Let players like Joshua Dobbs make adjustments and reads and not be afraid to take some chances. Those are the type things I’d like to see going forward from Jones, and if he’s not willing to make some of those adjustments, then yes, I do think stubbornness/arrogance could end up costing him his job at some point, though he does enough well that I expect him to be around for awhile in Knoxville.

    Houston: Yes. An unwillingness to change, adjust, adapt…etc. will be the reason he doesn’t survive here. If he can realize his mistakes and adjust, however, I actually think he has a chance to be a pretty good coach. He does everything else really well and is SO close to being really good on game day. If he can coach the 4th quarter like he coaches the first three, he’ll be fine.

    Reed: That’s the only thing that can cost him his job. He does many things VERY well…better than any UT coach in a long time. People love to say he’s a great coach Sunday through Friday, but they’re wrong. He’s a great coach until the 4th quarter Saturday. A few tweaks in his mentality and he’ll be here a long time and win a ton of football games.

    If its 1st and 5 in favorable field position..do you take a shot deep or run for another first down? We ran twice at Fla. – @david1vols

    Bob:  AIR.  IT.  OUT.  A guy can dream can’t he?

    Daniel: I’d need to know more about the whole game scenario at that point, but that is a good time to take some kind of shot play. You have three downs to get five yards after that, so, in most scenarios, I’m thinking try to push it down the field there.

    Houston: Again, fear. They value a first and 10 more than a big play in the passing game. For a team that plays the percentages as much as they do, they rarely take a shot at big plays when they are well ahead of the chains.

    Reed: I take a deep shot 10 times out of 10. They’d run it 10 times out of 10.