Insider Mailing: Championship of Life Edition

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    Photo Credit: UT Athletics

    Photo Credit: UT Athletics

    We answer your questions about the Vols or anything else in our weekly mailbag, Insider Mailing. If you have questions about anything in the mortgage process, go to

    Dozens of people asked some variation of a question about the “championship of life” quote: 

    Daniel: The sentiment of what he was saying was fine. He was addressing his thoughts about the senior class on Senior Day (some have taken it out of context and said he was talking about the 2016 season), and he was pointing out that this group of seniors has done a lot on and off the field – which is all correct. The way he said it was the issue. Jones has redefined the word “champion,” and that’s not sitting well with the fan base, nor should it.

    After saying on Saturday that championships weren’t the goal, he changed his tune on Monday and said that championships are the goal. When pressed on how the team moves forward having not won a championship this year, that’s when he started saying things like “bowl championship,” “individual champions” and then wrapped up with his “championship of life” comment directed towards the seniors. Those are all great things, but this fan base expected, at the least, an SEC East championship and contention for the SEC and national championship as well this year after all the build up.

    I think Butch is trying so hard to stay positive that he misses some opportunity to live up the season’s motto – “own it.”

    If he would just come out at a press conference and say…

    “We’re hurting and disappointed that we let the East slip away. That was a goal of ours that we’re going to come up short on. But I’m proud of this senior class, this team and the progress that has been made on the field, in the community, and in the classroom. We still have a lot to play for. We can get to 10 wins for the first time since 2007, and we have some very prestigious bowl opportunities still in play for us. We are disappointed, but not discouraged. Our focus will be on playing the best game we can in Nashville next week. I believe this senior class has laid a foundation that will help us win championships in the future, and for that I am grateful to them.”

    …I think that would go over fine with most of the fan base. I don’t think the majority of the rational fans expect perfection, but a little bit more candor from Jones could go a long way in helping win over some of the fans who are on the fence about him and the program right now.

    Ben Miller Loans

    “What do you think the odds are for Vandy to pull the upset this weekend?” – Kyle Munson 

    Daniel: This is a tricky game for Tennessee. The Vols are the better team and will be playing in a neutral environment, so I’m going to pick them. But Vanderbilt played its best game of the year last week and has a lot on the line Saturday. The Commodores have made their living this year by getting teams to the fourth quarter, and they’ve found a way to win a few of those games. I think there’s a 30-40% chance that Vandy will win on Saturday.

    Nathanael: I’d go a bit lower than Daniel and say 20-25% with the odds that Vandy can manage to win this one. I do not doubt whatsoever that they can, but I think Vol fans are simply overthinking this one (at least I hope so). Vanderbilt has a solid running back in Ralph Webb who will surely get plenty of yards against an atrocious Tennessee run defense. But he’s really the only bright spot on a bad Commodore offense. Their offensive line is awful, and their quarterback is mediocre at best. Yes, their defense is solid, but I think it’s a bit overstated how good they are too. I don’t think Tennessee rolls in this one, but they should be able to win it. Even if it’s ugly.

    “When we go to the Sugar Bowl, which is our most advantageous matchup: Oklahoma, Ok State or West Virginia?” – Doug Brooks

    Daniel: I think West Virginia is probably the worst team of the three, but Oklahoma State might be the best matchup for UT. The Cowboys struggle to run the ball, and while Mason Rudolph is a really good passer, I think Tennessee could get to him sometimes and put them in some bad down-and-distance situations. I think the Vols can move the ball well on any of those teams.

    Nathanael: Right now, it’s looking like it will be Oklahoma or Oklahoma State should the Vols make it to the Sugar Bowl. I agree with Daniel’s thought that West Virginia is probably the worst of the three teams, but I would be surprised if they made it to the Sugar Bowl. I also agree that OK State would be a better match-up than the Sooners. Although a rematch with Oklahoma would be really compelling.

    “Who has better one liners, Michael Scott or CBJ?” – Adam Hubler

    Daniel: Michael Scott, Ron Swanson and Les Miles are my first-ballot hall-of-famers for one-liners. Butch has some work to do.

    Nathanael: Michael Scott, hands down. I quote that show more often than any other, and he’s usually the one. If it’s not him, it’s usually Dwight. Butch’s are more recognizable in this market, but his also aren’t as entertaining (at least not in a positive way).

    “Do entitled fans realize they could be pushing Jones away, or are they just stupid?” – Jonah Gibson

    Daniel: If Butch is letting what fans say on social media influence him, he’s probably not the man for the job anyhow.

    Nathanael: Absolutely agree with what Daniel said. And I don’t think those fans are “entitled” either. Everyone is allowed their opinion. Every coach at every major university deals with negative feedback from some portion of that fan base. Nobody is pushing Jones away. And if he truly feels like he is, then what Daniel said is correct. He’s not cut out for SEC ball if he lets it get to him like that. I don’t think he does, but I’ve been proven wrong before.

    “What would be the most effective way, hypothetically, to run off a underachieving coach?” – Tyler Pellom

    Nathanael: I don’t know, start a petition to bring back the previous head coach maybe?

    Daniel: Hypothetically, become UT’s next AD. There is an opening, you know. Speaking of….

    “I have a theory that Butch is saying these infuriating things because right now with Hart on the way out he has no one to “answer to” right now. Your thoughts? Also, how likely is the Blackburn hire? I think this is what needs to happen in order for me to have more faith in this football program.” – Caleb Castleman 

    Daniel: Interesting theory, but I don’t think so. Butch has been making comments like this for years, people just only care when he loses. In 2014, he said that the “so-called experts picked UT to win two games.” That was not even close to true or in touch with reality, but the fans loved him saying that because he made a bowl game – which was the goal that year. I think David Blackburn should be, and is, the favorite for the job. UT doesn’t need to overthink this. John Currie (Kansas State) and Jon Gilbert (UT associate AD) are two other names to keep in mind, however.

    Nathanael: Yeah, no way that’s why he’s doing it. That’s just how Butch is. He’s a coach speak, motivational speech, cliche spouting machine. If you expect anything more of him after four years here, I have nothing for you. I don’t think he’s changing any time soon. And if they don’t hire Blackburn, I’ll be highly disappointed. As will a lot of Vol fans. He’s the obvious choice. Unfortunately, Tennessee has been bad at making the obvious choice in the past.

    “How likely do you think it is that Josh Malone jumps to the draft this year?” – @chuck_des

    Daniel: Great question, and I think it’s an overlooked possibility. He’s going to probably have 800-900 yards of receiving in a run-first offense, he looks the part and should test relatively well. I think he could be a mid-round pick if he goes this year. I think the biggest question will be if he feels that he can come back with a new quarterback, who might have a better arm overall, and put up 1,000+ receiving yards and maybe jump higher in the draft. He’s definitely a name to watch though.

    Nathanael: I’m honestly surprised his name hasn’t been brought up more often when there’s been talk of underclassmen at UT making the jump to the NFL. The WR class in this draft isn’t very strong, and Malone is having a very solid season. He’s in the top 10 or 5 of every major receiving category outside of receptions in the SEC, and he’s proven he can be a reliable deep threat. He also didn’t appear to exactly be happy at Tennessee early in his career, and I don’t know how appealing a fourth year is to him. I definitely think it’s likely.

    “Is making the Sugar Bowl better than getting smacked by Bama in the SEC Championship Game?” – Bryan Shrader 

    Daniel: If you give me that benefit of hindsight, then yes. Without it though, I think it would’ve been best to go to Atlanta and take a crack at Alabama. I know the odds would be against UT, but I think Tennessee is a program that should compete for and sometimes win real championships. You can’t do that on the couch in early December.

    Nathanael: No. I still don’t think it is. I understand the appeal of the Sugar Bowl, and if the Vols can make it there, that’s the only consolation prize I’ll even be happy with. Because the Sugar Bowl is still prestigious in an era when bowl games are losing their notoriety. But I’ll still maintain that winning the East and making it to Atlanta would’ve been better for the program as a whole. It would’ve helped with national perception, recruiting, and just overall health of the program. Also would’ve made a lot more fans happy in my opinion.

    “Potential path to and odds of Sugar Bowl for Vols?” – Jeff Cook

    Daniel: I wrote a full post about this recently that will give more context and detail. But, in short, Tennessee needs to beat Vanderbilt, have Alabama win out (and win convincingly), and have Florida State beat Florida. All that wouldn’t guarantee anything, but it would definitely put UT right in the conversation to be the highest-ranked non-playoff team in the SEC in the final College Football Playoff rankings. All those things are likely to happen, in my opinion, but any time you start talking about needing four or five games to fall your way, you can’t love your odds too much.

    Nathanael: Based on this week’s CFP rankings, the Vols need a couple things to happen. They need Auburn to not only lose to Alabama in the Iron Bowl, but they probably need them to lose fairly convincingly as well. Secondly, they need Florida to lose to Florida State and then again to Alabama for good measure. Tennessee would also have to beat Vanderbilt in all this, and they would have to do so in a way that wouldn’t make them drop or stand still in the rankings. An ugly win is a win, but we’ve seen before that Tennessee winning can still drop them in the polls. They would also need Texas A&M not to blow out LSU and have a chance to vault back into the rankings. That’s a very small chance, but it’s better to be safe.