The Grumors are irresponsible. No one wants to hear it but it’s true. Jon Gruden isn’t coming to Tennessee. He probably isn’t leaving the booth to coach in the NFL.
Gruden works less than 60 days per year and makes more money than any current college coach. He may love Tennessee but that doesn’t mean he woke up this morning hating money.
With Gruden off the list there are still legitimate coaching candidates that are viable options for the Tennessee job. Here are the top 5 as we see it, from most to least likely to roam the sidelines in Knoxville.
1. Chip Kelly: Chip Kelly should be the top target for every school with a coaching opening this offseason. The fact that some schools are hesitant to hire Kelly is why so many schools are in need of a coach today. They over-think it. Kelly is 46-7 as a head coach. His offense is dynamic. His teams’ games are fun to watch. Yes, he was given a show-cause from the NCAA in the past for paying Willie Lyles to work as an intermediary with recruits. A lot of schools employed Willie Lyles at that time and every good school is at least a little dirty.
2. Dan Mullen: If you miss on Kelly, Mullen has to be the next guy you call. Before Mullen arrived in Starkville, Mississippi State had never been to 3 bowl games in a row. They will make their 8th bowl appearance in a row under Mullen this year. Many Tennessee fans are unfamiliar with the Bulldogs place in the SEC West pecking order. Kentucky normally pulls better talent to its football team than Mississippi State does. With a win over Ole Miss, Mullen will have his 3rd season of 9 wins or more in the last 4 years.
3. Scott Frost: Frost has done an admirable job turning around Central Florida’s program. In just 2 years frost has the Knights on the cusp of an undefeated season. Frost served on Kelly’s staff at Oregon and took over offensive coordinator duties at Oregon when Kelly left for the NFL. Frost may be more interested in the Florida job or returning to his alma mater Nebraska next year.
4. PJ Fleck: Don’t let Fleck’s struggles at Minnesota in his first year scare you. Fleck started 1-11 at Western Michigan. He left after a 13-1 season and a conference title. Fleck’s Broncos finished first in the MAC in recruiting 4 years in a row. Fans may roll their eyes at Fleck’s “Row the Boat” mantra after Butch Jones’ propensity for catch-phrases but Fleck gets the most out of his talent, which is something Jones struggled to do in five years on The Hill.
5. Mike Norvell: Mike Norvell could be an elite coach. He could also be Memphis’ version of Larry Coker, winning with his predecessors players with a drop off sure to come. With Norvell’s short sample size as a head coach, we just don’t know. With apologies to Arizona State, Norvell has never even served as a coordinator at a big time program. While Norvell’s Tigers are winning now, his short sample size as a coach makes him an incredible gamble at a time when Tennessee could use a sure thing.