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RTT Roundtable: Grading the Jim Chaney hire

What grade would you give?

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Media Day Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

With the hiring on Jim Chaney now officially official, we can start to dig in on Chaney a bit. First things first, let’s grade the hire. Here’s what our staff had to say.

Terry Lambert: B+

I think this can best be summed up as a solid, unspectacular hire. Chaney is experienced and 100 percent gameday ready, which is more than we could say about Tyson Helton at this time last year. He’s probably going to keep a little bit of continuity around heading into 2019, running a similar scheme to what the Vols ran in 2018.

I think it’s pretty interesting where Pruitt started in this search — Freeze, Briles, Lebby, Yurcich — and where it ended up going. From a fit standpoint, Chaney certainly checks that box. It’s just interesting that he spoke with guys tied to spread concepts. Maybe that was simply an attempt to pick some brains.

Is Chaney flashy? Nope. Does he fit Jeremy Pruitt though? Absolutely. That’s all that really matters here. Last season there were rumors of Pruitt meddling with Tyson Helton’s offense — I don’t think that happens here. Chaney should have full control here, allowing Pruitt to keep more of a focus on the defense. It’s a power move to pluck him away from Georgia, who apparently offered up to 1.5 million to retain Chaney. Hopefully this is the last offensive coordinator hire we have to talk about for the next few seasons.

Conner Knapp: C-

I’ll be the wet blanket. I can take the heat on Twitter.

In the context of waiting more than six weeks and seemingly whiffing on several other candidates, this hire is pretty good. If this hire had been made a month ago, however, I’m not sure if fans and media would have the same reaction — maybe they would, but I think hiring someone who has been in Knoxville previously and was well-liked by Tennessee fans has covered whatever deficiencies this hire may have.

My reluctance to praise Chaney’s return to Tennessee hinges chiefly on the fact that his play calling is rather vanilla and is dependent upon elite athletes — like those at Georgia — to really have success. It’s very easy to look like a great offensive coordinator with Jake Fromm, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield, an elite offensive line and so on.

It was pretty imperative, in my mind, for Tennessee to hire someone who would bring an offense which could differentiate the Vols from their SEC peers, be it an air raid, run and shoot or yes, triple option.

Chaney is a good coach. He will do a good job developing quarterbacks and could very well have success here. I’m just not sold he’s exactly what Tennessee needs right now.

Evan Winter: B

Tennessee finally has a proven play-caller on offense. This was obviously absent last season and is bound to improve in 2019 with Jim Chaney.

Similar to Georgia, he will have a full stable of running backs to deploy in Ty Chandler, Eric Gray, and Tim Jordan. If Jauan Jennings returns, the Vols will also have plenty of options at receiver as well.

The biggest benefactor of Chaney’s hire will be Jarrett Guarantano. The new offensive coordinator likes his quarterbacks to be able to throw from the pocket and that’s one of Guarantano’s strengths.

The price is pretty damn high at $1.5 million. Chaney will also receive at least a $100k raise every year regardless of the product that he puts on the field.

This move will define Jeremy Pruitt’s legacy on Rocky Top. It’s tough to say that this was the wrong move right now and only time will tell if it’s the right hire.

But the key here is that the Vols have a competent play-caller that has been in the SEC for years. Once Pruitt and Chaney begin to click, big things should be in store for Tennessee.

Austin Burlage: A-

From the very beginning Tennessee’s search for an offensive coordinator centered around one thing: fit. No coach was a better fit for the Vols at this point in time than Coach Chaney. Forget about his offensive scheme for one second and consider his experience.

Coach Chaney has served as an offensive coordinator each year for the past 21 seasons, with the exception of a brief three-year stint as a position coach in the NFL during the mid-2000’s. Stop reading and just think about that for a second. Coach Chaney has been a play caller every year since before the Vols were winning the BCS National Championship. That is absolutely insane. He has been at five separate universities as an offensive coordinator since 1997, each of which were Power-5 schools and 3 of which were in the SEC. So, not only does he have the experience, but he has it in our conference.

Coach Chaney should be given total control of the offense, which is what makes this hire so special. He is able to implement the scheme, discipline players, coordinate/manage the offensive staff, and make in-game as well as week-to-week adjustments all without guidance. Coach Pruitt will be more free to fully immerse himself with the defense, rather than worrying about what is happening on the other side of the ball. Hiring Coach Chaney doesn’t just make the offense better, it makes the team better.

Sure, his system hasn’t always been described as the most exciting. But, the important thing is that Coach Chaney has an actual system. Tennessee now has something to build an identity around, which not only helps us short term but also helps us plan for down the road. Speaking of down the road, Coach Chaney might actually be here for a while. Tennessee is paying him an absurd sum of money, and by many accounts he loves living in East Tennessee (who doesn’t?). Rather than “making a splash” and landing a guy that might jump to a head coaching opportunity in a year or two, there is a real chance that Coach Chaney sticks around. Consistency is a huge component to building a program, and something Tennessee has sorely lacked in recent years.

It’s safe to say that Coach Pruitt has passed the first major test of his young head coaching career. Now, let’s go win some ball games.

Noah Taylor: B

The hire checks off every category Jeremy Pruitt could want in his second offensive coordinator hire. Chaney brings a plethora of experience, both inside and outside of the SEC, but the SEC experience is by far the most important.

A year ago, Tennessee underwent a tumultuous search for their head coach that ended surprisingly well in the hiring of Pruitt. While this search didn’t offer near the drama, its six week hunt was leading to concern with the early signing period already passed, and the national signing day less than a month away. Still, Pruitt not only hired a guy with proven expertise, he snagged him from a division rival who has spent the last two seasons among college football’s elite.

Were there hires out there that could have been better than Chaney? Sure. But sometimes it’s a matter of fit, and Chaney has that, whereas a guy like Mike Yurcich or Kendal Briles may have not. More importantly than that, he brings stability. Young up and comers would most assuredly take a head coaching job if they prove to be successful coordinators out of the SEC, and that is the last thing this offense needs.

There is a ton of room for improvement in year one, and I expect to see it. But Chaney won’t have the talent Georgia has in his first season, so he’ll have his work cut out for him. Only time will tell if the hire proves to be an A or a dud. I’m leaning towards the former, but B grade is a good starting point.


What grade would you give the Chaney hire?

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  • 58%
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  • 34%
    (416 votes)
  • 5%
    (66 votes)
  • 1%
    (16 votes)
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