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2008 retrospective: the final inquest

A final look back at the 2008 season, quick-like, because pain should be fast.

Up today: The final inquest.

We'd had such high hopes. Vol fans were extraordinarily happy to welcome David Cutcliffe back into the fold after Randy Sanders had departed. But even with Cutcliffe's success, we still clamored for Phillip Fulmer to expand his horizons when searching for a new offensive coordinator after Cutcliffe left for Duke. It was the perfect opportunity to update the program, to bring it into the modern age so that it could narrow the growing gap between the Big Orange and the Florida's of the world.

So although we didn't know the first thing about Dave Clawson, when he and coach Fulmer spoke of the innovative new scheme Clawson was bringing to Tennessee, we ate it up. Gave it a nickname. Built up our expectations. Ignored the warning signs.

And then the season none of us expected played out. Our first impression? Disappointment in the much-anticipated innovative offense. And almost immediately after we discovered a bit of a running game, we learned that we were allergic to the red zone. We seemed incapable of taking advantage of opportunities, and when we changed quarterbacks against Northern Illinois, it simply revealed that we had other significant problems as well. After rushing for one stinking net yard against Georgia, we enjoyed a brief respite against Mississippi State only to be reminded in our own stadium that Tennessee was formerly formidable and Alabama was presently kicking our tails. It wasn't until the South Carolina game that the program finally accepted the inevitable, and when coach Fulmer was fired, the hangover lasted for an entire week and a loss to lowly Wyoming. The Vanderbilt and Kentucky games were wins, but those victories, especially the one against Kentucky, were important primarily because it afforded players and fans an opportunity to send coach Fulmer out on the right note.

So the Clawfense, whatever it was, was summarily kicked to the curb in the middle of its supposed two-year gestation period, and so was anyone who had a hand in bringing the cursed thing to Rocky Top.

But 2008 was merely the end of the 17-year Phillip Fulmer Era, and our hope here at RTT is that the Fulmer Era will, in time, be remembered more for its outstanding accomplishments than for its final days.