clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looking back on the 2017 Tennessee coaching search — where are those candidates now?

New, 21 comments

A look back.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There’s been a lot of talk about Jeremy Pruitt and his future at Tennessee over the last couple of weeks. Tennessee is off to a 1-3 start in year two under Pruitt, causing some concern as to whether or not the Vols picked the right guy.

It seems like Phillip Fulmer is going to be patient with Pruitt and give him a chance to truly build his program, but what about the other candidates that were being considered? How are they doing since the coaching search concluded?

Let’s take a look.

Dan Mullen

According to the John Currie documents, Mullen was the first target in the coaching search. That, of course, ended when Chip Kelly opted to take the UCLA job, which forced the Florida Gators to pivot to Mullen. Currie was ghosted by Mullen from there as talked ramped up with Florida.

It played out just as we feared. Here’s what we wrote on November 19th, 2017.

If UCLA does in fact land Kelly, that could directly change the search at Florida. With the overwhelming masses thinking that Scott Frost goes home to Nebraska, that could throw the Gators right back to Dan Mullen.

Mullen has been rock solid so far in Gainesville, currently sitting in the top ten nationally after a 5-0 start. The Gators went 10-3 in year one under Mullen — an impressive turnaround considering what Florida turned into under Jim McElwain.

With the way everything played out, Mullen was the clear cut best option on the board — even if 100 percent of the fanbase wasn’t sold on him. At least credit Currie for starting here, even if that’s about the only thing he did right during the search.

Greg Schiano

Currie pivoted from Mullen directly to Schiano, which absolutely lit this fanbase on fire. Schiano did some pretty amazing things at Rutgers, but that was ten years ago at the time. His entire body of work brought him to a .500 record as a head coach. The controversy surrounding him following his time in Tampa Bay was worrisome, along with his lack of southern recruiting ties.

You could make a case for Schiano being someone’s 6th or 7th option. But Currie was still very early in the process. It seems like a knee-jerk panic move to settle for Schiano with so many better options left on the board.

Sports: Schiano Tennessee Fan Reaction
Tennessee fans went all out to stop the hiring of Greg Schiano — and it worked.
Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

Since then, Schiano has left his post as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator. His time in Columbus wasn’t all that impressive, either. Alex Grinch was hired as Schiano’s equal in 2018. The two split coordinator duties through the year before each moved on in 2019. Schiano accepted the defensive coordinator position with the Patriots, but quickly backed out of that agreement.

He’s now reportedly positioning himself for the Rutgers opening.

Jeff Brohm

Famously, Jimmy Hyams reported that Tennessee had reached an agreement with Brohm to be the next head coach in Knoxville. As it turns out, it was just another wild moment in this big, stupid, insane search.

Hyams was wrong. Brohm was out recruiting for Purdue at the time and denied the Tennessee rumors quickly. It turned into yet another another embarrassing moment for the program.

After a 7-6 start at Purdue, Brohm went 6-7 in year two. His Boilermakers currently sit at 1-3 in year three, putting his record at Purdue at just 14-16. All things considered though, two straight bowl games at Purdue has to be viewed as a success at this point, but the jury is still out on Brohm, who needs to find some sort of spark in the middle of year three.

Mike Gundy

Currie went from making a universally hated hire in Schiano, to an attempted power move to hire Mike Gundy away from Oklahoma State. Turns out, it was just Gundy using Tennessee for another raise.

Gundy reportedly met with Tennessee officials in Dallas, where the Vols offered him a six year deal worth 42 million dollars. There was plenty of optimism around the Tennessee fanbase that this time would be different. But after an airport stakeout and flight tracking drama, Gundy ended the speculation with a tweet that read, “Cowboy for life.”

So much for that.

Gundy went 7-6 in a rebuilding year last season at Oklahoma State. His Cowboys currently sit at 4-1 with their only loss coming to Texas. Is Gundy an elite coach? No. But he’s a guy that usually finds his way into the top 25 conversation each year and has a chance to win big every few seasons.

Dave Doeren

Kind of lost in the Schiano mess was the fact that Tennessee at one point zeroed in on Dave Doeren — quite literally one of the most average coaches in the power five. The similarities between he and Butch Jones are obvious. Each have produced a good amount of NFL talent, but neither guy really did much with it.

At the time, Doeren’s overall record was close to .500. Again, this just seemed like a situation where Currie could do so much better.

Doeren has seemingly already peaked at 9-4, failing to take advantage of a super weak ACC over the last two seasons. Doeren’s Wolfpack currently sit at 3-2 with wins over ECU, Western Carolina and Ball State. They’ve been thoroughly beaten by two unimpressive teams already — Florida State and West Virginia.

He may stick around at N.C. State for a while, but Tennessee isn’t exactly missing out here.

Mike Leach

John Currie’s final target was the most popular candidate with Tennessee fans. ‘The Pirate’ would have brought his high flying passing offense to the SEC, which would have been a fascinating experiment to watch. After Tennessee fielded a bottom ten offense in 2017, Leach’s style likely would have gone over well in Knoxville.

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Iowa State vs Washington State
Leach went 11-2 in 2018, but is off to a shaky start in 2019.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The question was, could he recruit at a high enough level to hang with Alabama and Georgia? Did Tennessee even have the personnel to run his offense? We never got a chance to see. Currie was called back to Knoxville during his visit with Leach in California, where he was fired and removed from the search.

Leach went on to win 11 games in 2018 at Washington State after convincing Gardner Minshew to join him. Minshew was in play for Tennessee as a grad-transfer, if you’ll remember. Tennessee got Keller Chryst instead, who played sparingly in his final college season. Minshew went on to get drafted, and is now starting for the Jaguars.

It’s entirely possible, maybe even likely that Tennessee could have gotten off to a faster start under Leach in 2018. The issue was always his ceiling. Leach has won 11 games twice in his career with most seasons ending in eight or nine victories.

This year, Leach has already dropped his first two Pac 12 games, currently sitting at 3-2 with the toughest part of his season ahead of him.

We’re coming up on the two year anniversary of the search. What is something that you would have done differently?