I understand that the season is only half over, and Tennessee is 3-3 with 6 games still to play this season. I understand that Derek Dooley is signed through the end of the 2015 season. I understand that with a win over Alabama this weekend, fans would want to give Dooley a contract extension instead of firing him. I also understand that you do not fire Dooley unless you have someone lined up to take his place, BUT Derek Dooley has a 14-17 record at Tennessee and is 4-15 in SEC play. This record includes an 0-13 mark against ranked teams, a loss to Kentucky, 0-8 against Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, and 0-1 in bowl game (Music City Bowl).
• Before Feb. 15, 2013- $5 million
• Before Feb. 15, 2015- $4 million
• After Feb. 15, 2015- $2.5 million
Considering that Nick Saban, Les Miles, Urban Myer, SteveSpurrier, and Peyton Manning will not be coaching for Tennessee next year, here is my list of top potential coaches for Tennessee.
1. Jon Gruden- ESPN Monday Night Football
I love this guy. He is half of the reason I watch Monday Night Football. Gruden served as a Graduate Assistant for Tennessee in 1986-1987 under Johnny Majors. He won Super Bowl XXXVII with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I believe that with a Gruden hire, Bray, Patterson, andHunter could return for their senior season. It would be tough to leave his current job, but I believe he could miss coaching.
2. Pete Carroll- Seattle Seahawks HC
If you are going to dream, dream big. I did not like Carroll when he was head coach of USC, but he is more bearable with the Seattle Seahawks. He won the BCS Championship with USC in 2005 and has 6 BCS bowl victories. I am not sure that Carroll would leave the West Coast, but there could be a part of him that misses the college game and recruiting his own players.
3. Charlie Strong- Louisville HC
I believe that Strong is the best option of current college coaches. Being in the same region and currently coaching, he could put together a great recruiting class quickly. He has spent time in the SEC and won 2 BCS Championships with Florida as defensive coordinator. If he is willing to leave the cupcake Big East, Tennessee is a great fit for him.
4. Chris Petersen- Boise State HC
With Boise State joining the Big East next year, this is a chance for Petersen to get out before the competition gets tougher, if you call the Big East tougher. His 78-7 record with 2 undefeated seasons and 10+ wins each year is a good thing to see on a resume.
5. Gary Patterson- Texas Christian HC
Does Patterson want out of the Big 12 after one year to join a better conference where he can be the best team in the state? It is tough to leave the fertile recruiting grounds of Texas. Patterson is 114-31 at TCU since becoming head coach.
6. Bobby Petrino- Unemployed
This guy is a winner. He has proven it everywhere he has been. Off-field issues have him lower on this list than he should be. Petrino had Arkansas a title contender before being let go for off-field issues.
7. Dan Mullen- Mississippi State HC
Mullen has turned the program at MSU around and has given them hope in Skarkville. A win over a more talented Tennessee last week has him on this list, but it is tough to change head coaching jobs in conference.
8. Tony Dungy- NBC Football Night in America
Every parent in America would want their son to play for Dungy. Could you imagine if Peyton Manning became offensive coordinator under Dungy. Hey, it could happen. He won Super Bowl XIII as a player and won Super Bowl XLI as a coach.
9. Bill Cowher- CBS The NFL Today
This name always comes up for Tennessee head coach. Not sure why. Cowher won Super Bowl XL.
10. Gus Malzahn- Arkansas State HC
I am not sure why Malzahn did not take a bigger coaching job after last season. Maybe he knew Auburn was in trouble and jumped ship quickly. Malzahn was offensive coordinator at Auburn for the 2010 BCS Championship.
11. Kirby Smart- Alabama DC
Smart is the top coordinator in the country. He has 2 BCS Championships as defensive coordinator at Alabama in 2009 and 2011. Dave Hart, Tennessee athletic director, is from Alabama and could make this happen.
12. Dana Holgorsen- West Virginia HC
If you are looking for a coach who can replace Dooley’s hair, this is your guy. Along with his hair, Holgorsen is known for his high powered offenses from Texas Tech to Houston to Oklahoma State to West Virginia.
13. Pat Fitzgerald- Northwestern HC
A winning record at Northwestern and 4 straight bowl games has Fitzgerald on this list, but I do not think he will leave Northwestern.
14. Willie Taggart- Western Kentucky HC
Taggart has turned the WKU program around since joining the FBS in 2010 and has many wins over Kentucky as Dooley does.
15. David Cutcliffe- Duke HC
Cutcliffe was at Tennessee when they won the BCS Championship and has Duke one win away from being bowl eligible 7 games into the season.
16. Sonny Dykes- Louisiana Tech HC
I know you are saying not another Louisiana Tech coach, but Dykes is going somewhere bigger after this year.
17. Tommy Tuberville- Texas Tech HC
It has been 4 years since Tuberville has been in the SEC, but during his time at Auburn, Tuberville was 7-3 against Alabama. I know any Tennessee fan would take that right now.