According to an article by CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli last week, Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones has the hottest seat in the country heading into the 2017 season. But after back-to-back 9-4 seasons and three consecutive bowl wins, Jones’ seat is far from the hottest in the nation.
Is Butch Jones on the hot seat heading into the 2017 season? Yes, and he should be given how the last couple seasons have played out. The Vols collapsed in the second half in multiple games in 2015 and fell short of winning the SEC East, and they gave away the division despite being heavy favorites in 2016 by losing to South Carolina and Vanderbilt down the stretch.
Vol fans have every reason to be upset with Jones and the Vols over how last year went. But even that kind of disappointment doesn’t land Jones on the hottest seat in college football. There are head coaches with much more dire situations than Jones right now.
According to Fornelli’s list, Jones’ seat is hotter than three coaches who had losing seasons in 2016, something Jones hasn’t had at Tennessee since his first year as head coach in 2013. Rich Rodriguez (Arizona), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), and Brian Kelly (Notre Dame) all ended last season with losing records at their respective schools. As Fornelli points out, Kelly has a national title game appearance and last year was really the first bad year Notre Dame has had under Kelly. But there’s been unrest at Notre Dame with Kelly, and his 4-8 record last season with the Irish has him on shaky ground. And with the kind of expectations the Irish have, Kelly could be gone even with a four win improvement in 2017.
But that isn’t enough for Kelly to unseat Jones according to Fornelli. Nor was Rodriguez’s 3-9 season after a 7-6 year in 2015 or Kingsbury’s second losing season in his last three years as Texas Tech’s head coach.
Despite the 4-8 season last year for Brian Kelly, he’s still 59-31 overall at Notre Dame with a national championship game appearance. But that’s not cutting it with Irish fans who have lofty expectations for their program. Rodriguez is 36-29 at Arizona and Kingsbury is 24-26 at Texas Tech. The other coach on Fornelli’s list, Kevin Sumlin, is a solid 44-21 at Texas A&M. But the Aggies have eclipsed eight wins just once since Johnny Manziel left the program, and Sumlin’s squads have gone 15-17 in SEC play in those four years.
Even if you don’t believe Sumlin’s seat is hotter than Jones’ right now, there’s still another coach who’s seat is undeniably hotter.
Yes, Hugh Freeze’s situation at Ole Miss is much different because of the NCAA investigations going on. That alone would be cause for concern for him. But throw in a disappointing 5-7 season last year, and Freeze could be back on the job market after the 2017 season if his team doesn’t show marked improvement this year.
Gus Malzahn saved his job last year with a surprising 8-5 record at Auburn, but he’s still firmly on the hot seat. Auburn has shown before (i.e. Gene Chizik) they aren’t afraid to cut ties with a coach shortly after a national title appearance, so Malzahn’s job is far from safe. And his job security is arguably much lower than Jones’.
With a 30-21 overall record at Tennessee including an 18-8 run the last two seasons, Jones isn’t likely to be fired this year unless the Vols have a total collapse. Another 8-4 regular season likely won’t get Jones canned, and a 7-5 season may not either. Even if a large portion of Vol fans would want him gone after a season like that.
Butch Jones is on the hot seat after a disappointing 2016 season that followed a confusing 2015 season. That much is true. But his seat is far from the hottest in the country.