Can Tennessee's Coaching Search Still Be Saved?

In this week’s #DearAndy, the unpredictable coaching carousel and the selection committee’s latest rankings have filled up the mailbag.
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The Great Tennessee Fan Revolt and the College Football Playoff selection committee’s most recent rankings produced some excellent questions this week…

From Jeff: Why do more of the national media think Butch 2.0—I mean Greg Schiano—was a good fit at Tennessee?

I apparently missed the sportswriter meeting where we were told that Schiano is the second coming of Vince Lombardi, but yes, my colleagues certainly do have an affinity for him. I do agree completely with their criticism of the witch-hunt aspects of the Tennessee fan uprising on Sunday. Yes, Schiano’s name got connected to the Jerry Sandusky case. But it got connected by double hearsay that investigators did not take seriously enough to pursue. Schiano has adamantly denied the accusation, and multiple teams have looked into his past before hiring him and offered clean reports of his time as an employee. His future head coaching prospects did not need to be destroyed to get across the point that the fan base did not consider him the best person to lead Tennessee’s football team.

That said, those fans absolutely had a right to disagree with the administration’s choice of coach, especially when the fans seemed to have a better idea of what Tennessee’s job entails than the people doing the hiring. The MMQB’s Albert Breer wrote an impassioned defense of Schiano, but Breer’s opening anecdote showed precisely why Schiano would have been a poor fit. The story opens with Schiano—then the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—yelling at Breer on the day of a game about something Breer had reported. He should have been worrying about the game.

Schiano’s reputation at Rutgers and in Tampa was that he obsessed over every little thing. But aren’t Nick Saban and Urban Meyer control freaks? When it comes to the big things, yes. But they don’t worry about things that don’t help them win football games. They excel at, as Saban’s frequent collaborator Kevin Elko puts it, keeping the main thing the main thing. Schiano, historically, is not good at that. That would make for a toxic mix if Schiano got thrown into the fishbowl of Knoxville. The media environment surrounding Tennessee is more intense than any college job except Alabama. A coach needs rhino skin to handle it, or it will drive him crazy. Schiano still could be a good head coach, but unless his personality has changed completely, he needs a place where the coach’s every play call isn’t scrutinized so heavily.

From Bobby: Seriously, does Tennessee come out of this 1) with a decent coach 2) better than they were, and 3) not looking too much more stupid? [Answer linked here, and in the video atop this post.]

From @realbbbb: Is there any scenario this year you can imagine where the loser of a conference championship game makes the CFP & the winner does not?

I can’t imagine that, but I can imagine one scenario where the winner and loser might get in. Let’s say Auburn beats Georgia, Ohio State beats Wisconsin and/or TCU beats Oklahoma and then Miami (No. 7) beats Clemson (No. 1) in quadruple overtime in the ACC Championship. To add fuel to the fire, let’s say the ending is controversial.

In that scenario, Miami definitely gets in as the 12–1 ACC champ. But there likely would be support in the committee room for a Clemson team that beat Auburn head-to-head and has the same record to stay in the top four. The question then is what happens to everyone else. If Ohio State beat Wisconsin and Oklahoma beat TCU in that scenario, it would come down to a comparison of 11–2 Clemson, 11–2 Ohio State and 11–1 Alabama for one spot. And the Tigers would have a good shot of winning that contest. Now let’s say Oklahoma lost as well. The 11–2 Sooners would be added to that mix along with an 11–2 Big 12 champ TCU. If that happened, my guess is Clemson and Alabama would get in. (Unless Ohio State beat Wisconsin 65–0 like it did in the 2014 Big Ten title game. Then the Buckeyes might have a chance.)

From Dylan: Does Clemson still have a shot of getting in if they lose? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]

From Tom: Some college teams have everyone on defense turn and look at the sideline for signals every time they line up. Why doesn’t the offense always snap the ball when they aren’t looking?

Because the offense may have more than one person in motion or may have a player in motion who needs to get to the other side of the formation for the play to work. When defensive players look back at the sideline, they are looking for adjustments they need to make to the offense’s formation. If they’re playing a team that uses a lot of shifts—think Matt Canada’s offense at LSU—then they have some time to get that information from the sideline. (It’s usually coming in the form of a simple gesture or a picture on a board—just like up-tempo offenses use.

So if a defense were playing LSU or another shift-heavy team and saw three players begin to move to the other side of the formation, they’d have time to glance at the sideline to get more info because the offense can’t snap the ball until all but one of those players in motion have stopped and stayed still for a second. If the offense tried to snap the ball while everyone was moving, it would get flagged for illegal motion. And if the ref really wanted to get old-school, he’d call the penalty by singing this song.

Against an up-tempo team moving at its fastest pace, having the defense look back is far less advisable. But even the fastest teams don’t run that fast all the time. In most situations, there is time to look back and gather one more piece of info.

From Joe: How big of a deal is Jimbo to A&M? [Answer linked here, and in the video below.]