We can dissect every single play from Tennessee’s 30-17 loss to Auburn. We can give our opinions on what went right, what went wrong, what we think will improve, what we think will get worse, etc. We can even look for the bright spots in a losing effort.
But you’re not here to read about that.
Yes, it was nice to see the results in the running game, and some quality defensive performances. But we all know it doesn’t matter, because in the end it was wasted on another missed opportunity.
Because when Jarrett Guarantano tried another ill-fated pass into the end zone, and Auburn’s Smoke Monday jumped the route, every Tennessee fan watching knew what was coming. They saw it against Kentucky this year, they saw it against Georgia this year, they saw it against Alabama in 2019, they saw it against Indiana in 2019, they saw it against Florida in 2018, they have seen the same story over and over and over again. A quarterback who can’t stop making mistakes.
And a head coach who refuses to acknowledge the root of the problem.
It’s kind of incredible isn’t it? At least two years of the Jeremy Pruitt era have been defined by a quarterback who not only inhibits the offense, but actively helps opposing defenses. And it’s a player he did not recruit! Whatever idea of loyalty you might have in college football, it is beyond obvious that a new coach simply won’t have the same connection to players he never recruited.
Yet, for whatever reason, this did not apply to Jeremy Pruitt and Jarrett Guarantano. Now Tennessee finds themselves with five straight losses, with no permanent change made at the one position on the field that cannot consistently do the job.
No, at this point I actually do not blame Jarrett Guarantano. He has been at Tennessee for five years, and we have all seen what his ceiling is. We know all his limitations and all his strengths. There is exactly one person in the world who entered Saturday’s game against Auburn and expected anything different. That man is the head coach, Jeremy Pruitt.
If you’re looking for a parallel situation, you might look at the Saints and backup quarterback Taysom Hill, who they simply refuse to give up on, no matter how many fastballs he throws into the dirt. It’s mind boggling—if not slightly humorous—that highly paid professional football coaches have a stubbornness that actively inhibits their decision making. Pruitt is in this group, of course. Even less fortunate coaches, like Mike Norvell at FSU, made a quicker change when they realized their upperclassmen option at quarterback could not do the job. This revelation has yet to make it to the Tennessee football staff.
I don’t think Pruitt will get fired this year. But I think this game—and more distinctly, his decision to start Jarrett Guarantano—is the beginning of the end. Coaches can have bad losses like Kentucky, they can have completely deflating performances like Arkansas. But when the entire fanbase can see something that you are completely oblivious to...it’s time to start heading to the exit sign. Your ego has gotten in the way, and by that point, you can guarantee that your team doesn’t trust what they are being told.
At this point, I sincerely hope that Guarantano leaves the program. Either for a chance at the next level, or a chance on a different team. Because whatever this staff is doing has not helped, and the constant decision to trot him out there—only to absorb the brunt of fan ire—is a downright abuse of power.
There are three games left in this train wreck of a season that the Tennessee Volunteers have embarked on. They will likely finish 3-7, with a distinct chance at 2-8. A worse mark than pretty much anyone could have imagined. There are first year head coaches doing significantly better than Tennessee right now, despite not even getting a full offseason to assess their rosters.
There are no more excuses left to be had, and no more blame to be passed around. Jeremy Pruitt has completely and utterly failed in his third year with the program. His team is not prepared, and he is unwilling to make the necessary calls to change the long-term outlook. Right now his best option is to roll with Harrison Bailey the rest of the way, and try his best to pull off an upset of either Florida or Texas A&M.
If he chooses not to do so, he might as well start clearing out the office.