published Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012

5 at 10: NFL Best/Worst, UTC wrestling and more UT headaches

Happy New Year gang.

From the "Mama McNabb stage at the Al Davis Studios" here we go.

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    Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley looks during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against the Alabama, Saturday, Oct, 22 2011 in Tuscaloosa Ala.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

More UT headaches

We're not saying the wheels have come off of the Derek Dooley regime in Knoxville, but the lug nuts are certainly wobbling. Wow, defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and up-and-coming linebackers coach Peter Sirmon left the Vols for similar jobs at Washington. That's the UNIVERSITY of Washington, mind you, and not the Washington Redskins. Ouch-standing.

Coupled with the mismanagement of DeAnthony Arnett's transfer request (Background: Arnett's dad is ill, he want to be closer to him in Saginaw, Mich., and requested a transfer; Dooley said OK as long as it's not Michigan or Michigan State, per the school's policy, and UT came out looking rather petty and harsh in the whole deal; it was not a P.R. win by any stretch of the imagination; plus it's the same type of transfer situation that allowed at least three Vols — Tyler Smith, Alex Bullard and Brandon Warren — in the last six years to come to Knoxville and play right away), this has been a trying 10 days, especially when UT fans remember that they weren't in a bowl game.

As bad as the Arnett fiasco played out in the public eye, Wilcox and Sirmon leaving is more damaging within the program. Each was a talented recruiter and each was a very talented coach. Considering the talent limitations up front and the injuries/defections in the secondary, the defense as a group overachieved, and no position group overachieved more than the linebackers. Success can be swayed/determined by talent, but overachievement is based on coaching, and Wilcox and Sirmon each coached their tails off last year. (Sirmon had true-freshman A.J. Johnson playing at an All-SEC level six weeks into his first college fall; that's doing work.)

Wilcox is one of college football's bright young coordinators and there's little doubt he'll be a head coach sooner rather than later, and if that's his path, fine. But remember, Wilcox turned down the Texas defensive coordinator job this time last year, and the Texas D.C. gig is a pretty good springboard to getting a head coaching job. Ask Gene Chizik and Will Muschamp.

From the outside, Wilcox and Sirmon leaving for the same spots at a lesser program — and no matter how far UT falls, Washington is a lesser program on financial, spiritual and perceptional levels; this can not be debated — gives the impression that there is more than a little unrest on Dooley's staff. And if it's not unrest, then it may be worse — a true fear that 2011 is not going to be much better. Plus, the recruiting hit that this will deliver will be felt in a large way.

Dooley will speak with reporters around 10 a.m., and it's fair to say that this may be the most important news conference he has given since being introduced on the Hill. Here's our suggestion: Play it straight. Say there's some things that need to be ironed out, and you were blindsided by Wilcox and Sirmon leaving. They returned to the area they grew up — each is from the Pacific Northwest — and have moved on. Admit you made a mistake with the Arnett deal — or share the unknown info as to why this was not a mistake. Announce the plan that will either get Da'Rick Rogers out of the doghouse or on the road out of town. Excuses will not play well today, and spin will miss the mark.

Either way it should be interesting.

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    Georgia wide receiver Tavarres King (12) pulls in an 80-yard touchdown reception in front of Michigan State safety Isaiah Lewis (9) during the second quarter of the Outback Bowl NCAA college football game Monday Jan. 2, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (Chris O'Meara)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Bowling fun

Yes, the 5-at-10 was less-than-thrilled about not having bowl games on Jan. 1. But maybe they used that extra day to better prepare the offenses, the drama, the weather, even the officials — we watched football all day Monday, and it's hard to think of a bad call; well done — for a full day of college football excitement.

One thing that was not better with the time off was a few special teams. Georgia's Blair Walsh ended his record-setting career with an overtime miss that cost the Bulldogs the Outback Bowl. Stanford's kicker blew an OT kick in the Cardinal's 41-38 OT loss, and Florida scored twice on special teams — a kick return and on a blocked punt — in its win over THE Ohio State University.

That said, the games were enjoyable and entertaining, especially the two night games where Oregon outscored Wisconsin 45-38 and Oklahoma State edged Stanford. (Although, Brent Musberger managed to step on his tongue yet again, saying that Oregon's 40-27 loss to LSU was the Tigers' toughest test. Uh, Brent, Oregon scored a cosmetic touchdown with 0:13 left in the game so that it was not a 20-point blowout, and some team from Tuscaloosa lost to LSU 9-6 in overtime. Brent, it may be time, ah nevermind, it still was a great day of college football.)

There are some Georgia fans, though, that will not recall this bowl-a-palooza as fondly. After building a 16-0 halftime lead and looking a lot like the Pittsburgh Steelers defensively, the Bulldogs let MSU back in the game. Two Aaron Murray interceptions became Spartans touchdowns and from there the game was on. Michigan State scored the tying touchdown with less than 30 seconds to play to force OT.

That said, Oklahoma State's offensive efforts did little to change the 5-at-10's mind about the BCS matchup. Yes, Oklahoma State can score with anyone — and Justin Blackmon may be the best college receiver of all time — but the Cowboys are not better than Alabama. Hey, say we're an SEC homer — we are — and say that you have to be a conference champ to play for the BCS title — we agree — and you have a point. But don't say the Cowboys are better than the Tide because that's just wrong, and frankly you're better than that.

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    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Curtis Painter sits on the bench next to receiver Reggie Wayne after throwing an interception during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

NFL Power Poll

Wow, some surprising off the field moves in the hours after the NFL season ended this weekend. Most eye-popping was the Colts decision to cut ties with Bill Polian, the executive who helped construct the Colts into a perennial contender. (Except that is when Peyton Manning is out for the year, but really it's the executive VP's fault that Manning's neck didn't heal quickly enough? Wow, that really is a tough job if you are responsible for nursing players back to health, too. Maybe some witch doctors will apply for the opening.)

As for on the field in the final weekend of the regular season, there were some notable happenings. Before this season exactly one quarterback threw for 5,000-plus yards in a year. As of Sunday night, three did it this year — Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Stafford, who definitely made the leap this year. Darren Sproles set the total yards record and Cam Newton set a slew of marks. It was a year of offense, there was no doubt. Heck the top two seeds in the playoffs — the Patriots and the Packers — are the worst and second-worst defenses in football. Read that again.

The other development was the meltdown that was the Dallas Cowboys. Here's a thought: the Cowboys are bad, and they get a lot of pub because of their logo. They are not that good because — like their logo — they are heavy on stars and light on depth and guts. So it goes and let's just move on.

Here's the power poll:

Top 5

1) Green Bay: Did anyone make more money last Sunday than Matt Flynn, the Packers back-up quarterback who had a record-setting performance as starter Aaron Rodgers took the weekend off? Know this, Flynn is a free-agent-to-be and threw for 480 and six TDs Sunday. In a QB-starved league, here's saying that some team is going to toss out a big contract for Flynn, who has thrown all of 132 passes in his four-year career. (Here's betting it's Washington.)

2) New England: The Pats have embraced the "the best defense is a great offense" approach. They have scored 30 or more in 12 of their 16 games.

3) New Orleans: The Saints are home-field advantage away from being the favorite. Side note: Whoever in that organization decided to draft tight end Jimmy Graham, a converted college basketball player who is now uncoverable, deserves a raise. And yes, we may have made up the word "uncoverable."

4) Baltimore: The Ravens take the Steelers place for two reasons: First, the Ravens would have home-field against the Steelers; Second, Pittsburgh power back Rashad Mendenhall tore his ACL and will be on the shelf for the next eight months. Ouch.

5) San Francisco: Here's saying that the 49ers are going to have a tough time winning three playoff games with the worst offense in this postseason.

Bottom 5

28) Cleveland: Gross.

29) Tampa Bay: Gross, minus a coaching staff.

30) Minnesota: If you are a Vikings fan, what an awful two years. You were a play away from the Super Bowl two years ago, then the world spun off its axis starting with Brett Favre texting debacle and ending with Adrian Peterson starting next year with a litany of questions marks after shredding his knee last month. Ouch.

31) St. Louis: Wow, the 5-at-10 picked the Rams to win the NFC West and the Colts to win the AFC South. Anyone want any stock tips for 2012? Didn't think so.

32) Indianapolis: Colts win by losing, Colts win by losing. That should have been the feeling after the Colts capped a disastrously unexpected 2-14 year with a loss to Jacksonville. But the Colts get the No. 1 pick, and let the Manning-Andrew Luck debate begin. Here's saying this will get so played out, that we'll be begging ESPN to tell us more about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry or show more hockey. Hey, we love the draft — you know this, and we're giddy about the Luck-Manning dynamic — but this feels like one of those stories that's going to get out of control. Not unlike players who are said to be underrated so often that they become kind of a star for being underrated, which means they are no longer underrated and they are not talented enough to be a star, so now they are overrated simply because they were over-mentioned as underrated. Did that make sense to anyone else?

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    UTC's Nick Soto, top, competes against Chris Dardanes of Minnesota during the 133-pound championship match at the Southern Scuffle wrestling tournament in McKenzie Arena at UTC on Monday. Dardanes won the championship match 7-2.
    Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

This and that

— Tennessee topped UTC in hoops Monday night. It was a pretty good game to watch, and the Mocs were right there throughout. Trae Golden was certainly the difference. Here's UTC hoops ace David Uchiyama's report (Guard Trae Golden leads Tennessee Vols over UTC Mocs, 76-63) and ace columnist Mark Wiedmer's thoughts (Wiedmer: 'Neat opportunity' gets away from Chattanooga Mocs). Hey, Golden is a great player, but there's no reason that any UT foe should ever allow Sklyer McBee and his 'stache an open look. Ever. (If we had a fantasy basketball team, we'd change the name to

The Mustachioed Skyler McBees.)

— Hey, nice job UTC wresling. Hosting the impressive Southern Scuffle was a neat deal, and now TFP wrestling guru Ward Gossett tells us UTC could be the host school for the NCAA wrestling championship in Atlanta down the road (UTC could host NCAA wrestling tournament in Atlanta). Nice.

— It dawned on the 5-at-10 that college football is almost over. Sigh. Now we may have to start paying attention to recruiting. Stink. Thankfully this has been a pretty good start to college hoops season.

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    In this Nov. 5, 2011, file photo, Alabama running back Eddie Lacy (42) is tackled by LSU linebacker Karnell Hatcher (37) and defensive tackle Josh Downs (77) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Today's question

We promise to have the bowl pick standings up today around lunch. (Side pick: Love the Wolverines tonight. So it goes.)

Today's question is about the bowls: What has been the best bowl, best moment, best player, best whatever? Bring it. It's like the old-school free style rap: Just pick a beat and flow.

We'll have ours later today, but there was a lot to choose from, and here's saying Blair Walsh will not make the highlight list.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jomo11 said...

"SportsbyBrooks", who has been fairly accurate, is reporting that Dave Hart already has Kirby Smart circled as his ( Hart's ) choice, from working with him at Alabama. . . . my question is , if that is the case , why wait ? is it just the perception of having 3 coaches in 4 years ? UTK already is a national laughing stock, what difference would it make ?

January 3, 2012 at 11 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

I'm gonna miss not having an NFL game wrapped around all those sideline shots of Rob Ryan. What was Goodell thinking in having the Cowboys lose? How can the networks fulfill their allotment of Rob Ryan sideline shots now?

And thinking about the Brothers Ryan being out of the playoffs makes me think there is no better way than to tell someone to stuff their piehole (and methinks the Brothers Ryan are quite adept at piehole stuffing) than to say "you are not in the playoffs."

As Gorilla Monsoon once said to Roddy Piper...

"You, sir, are without gold, again."

January 3, 2012 at 11:09 a.m.
jgreeson said...

Jomo —

You can't fire Dooley now — who would take that job if having assistants move on is a fireable offense. That said, while Smart has a nice pedigree, and aside from Hart's previous relationship, does UT really want to look at a former UGA player who has Saban ties? Right now the Saban proteges are not exactly lighting the world of fire.

That said, the DC hire will be huge for Dooley — in the eyes of his bosses and his fan base.

Spy —

Are the Brothers Ryan — especially Rob — like the football coaching version of Anna Nicole Smith. There seems to be very little substance for a whole lot of fame and notoriety.

Glad you had a great new year.

— 5-at-10

January 3, 2012 at 11:48 a.m.
BIspy4 said...

The days of two New Year's Eve parties in one night are getting behind me. Nothing like leaving my annual party in Decatur a little after midnight to go to Princess' pad in Smyrna for her party.

January 3, 2012 at 11:57 a.m.
chas9 said...

5er--As for your power poll, I can't see New England at #2. They've beaten ZERO teams with a winning record.

Uch's story quotes Coach Cuonz saying of the mustacioed McBees, "we're getting better." Maybe, but beating the Mocs by 10 doesn't show it. Hitting 13 of 39 3's is just good enough to get you beat. We know Skyler can shoot, but that's not a balanced team. Every SEC team will defend the three better.

But I do think the Moccasins are getting better.

January 3, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, I agree, it would not do Tennessee any good at all to have Barbara Dooley, not mention Vince, on air slicing up the Vol's Athletic Department if her son is perceived as a martyr for not being granted the time to turn around a dismal program many years in the making.

Three coaches in four years, then hire another this year? That's straying too close to Al Davis territory.

January 3, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I liken the Ryans more to the Kardashians. Another "you're famous because your dad was famous?" happenstance.

January 3, 2012 at 12:23 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

New Year's is overrated. Big time. And the Kardashians call is perfect.

9er —

Regardless of whom they've played, and which of those teams floundered down the stretch, the Pats have Tom Brady, and that's better than not having Tom Brady.

Your hoops assessment is spot-on, as usual. The Vols needed a career night from their point guard to beat a UTC team that played just OK. And we agree that UTC does appear to be improving.

When the SEC schedule starts, it will take three weeks for Skyler McBee to get as many open looks as he did last night.

FE to the C —

There's no question that this is the make-or-break season for Dooley, and you bring up a fair point about the PR hit. After all the orange-gloved hand-wringing about Kiffin's departure and the lack of loyalty etc., if UT fired Dooley after two years, it would appear world-class hypocritical.

Best bowl moment for us so far Countdown

No. 5: Andrew Luck ends college career with a 27-of-31 master piece. Dude can flat out play, and consider this, he had Stanford in the top 5 each of the last two years. Yes, Stanford.

— 5-at-10

January 3, 2012 at 12:55 p.m.

Being a guy who tends to appreciate a good defensive battle as opposed to the "whoever gets the ball last wins" kind of games we have seen this bowl season, I must say that watching Andrew Luck command an offense the way he did last night (even in a losing effort), was a treat. There really have been no great defenses step up this bowl season (although the Gamecocks didn't do too bad shutting down Nebraska for three quarters). And how those Dawgs did a stellar job of laying down in the second half of their last two games, to help us forget the dominating performances of the first halves. So, I haven't really enjoyed watching these games with no defense. The Rose and Fiesta bowls kind of made me wish that we could have gotten an LSU/OK ST and an AL/Stanford matchup scenario. I think LSU or Bama's defenses would have killed OK St, Stanford, Oregon or Wisconsin. What do you think?

January 3, 2012 at 1:08 p.m.
JimOkay said...

In regards to the more UT headaches, maybe the Tennessee program isn't regarded as highly as you think. Time to take off the orange colored sunglasses...

January 3, 2012 at 1:36 p.m.
Yngvai said...

Washington...a lesser program? Based on what evidence? You say "spiritual, financial, and perceptional" levels yet you provide no evidence to support any of that.

Washington has had down years the past 10 years or so but before that they won multiple Rose Bowls, a national title, and had one of college football's all-time winningest coaches in Don James. Sarkisian has them back on the upswing now and it's no wonder Wilcox wanted to go there. Plus Washington actually has an offense which UT doesn't have.

Less program? Please. You sound like a bitter guy whose girlfriend just left you for another guy.

January 3, 2012 at 2:03 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Addicted to the Chalupa —

Agree on the interesting match-ups between an elite defense and those high-powered offenses. Although the difference for the SEC defenses is the stud defensive linemen, and the fact that Bama, LSU, even South Carolina can get pressure without blitzing. The front sevens in the SEC are scary good — although hats off to Michigan State, because Sparty's front seven was pretty stout against Georgia.

JimOkay —

Welcome to the program and feel free to stop by anytime.

There's no comparing Tennessee and Washington as programs. Seriously. You're glasses could be Tennessee orange, UW purple or Ladybug polka-dotted and this is not debatable.

Bowl memorable moments countdown:

No. 4: Mark Richt's decision to take a knee. Why did Georgia take a knee on second down to set up a 43-year field-goal try. Run the offense. Go get a chip shot or a TD. Why do you turn it over to a kicker who has the football version of high school senioritis? (Seriously, has there ever been a player catch the "Stinkiness" after a stellar junior year like Blair Walsh? Dude was an All-American as a junior and he couldn't play kick the can now.) Wow, that was a bad way to head into the offseason.

— 5-at-10

January 3, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Yngvai —

Washington is a fine program, and they do fine work in the Pac-12.

Tennessee is a bigger, more financed and supported program that recruits nationally.

Tennessee has played in 49 bowls, third most ever behind Alabama (58) and Texas (50). Washington has played in 31. Washington's stadium seats 72,000, which is roughly 35,000 fewer than UT's.

This is the worst run in UT history, and that means the Vols have not been to a bowl game in two of the last four seasons. Washington has been to two bowls in the last nine years — the 2010 Holiday Bowl and last week's Alamo Bowl.

Hey, Don James was a great coach and built a great program in the mid 1980s into the early 2000s, but Tennessee is historically a much stronger football program.

— 5-at-10

January 3, 2012 at 2:14 p.m.
chas9 said...

5er--Love your advice to DD to "play it straight" and "spin will miss the mark." Following that advice would help a lot of folks in a lot of situations.

I read a Jan. 1 piece in the Knoxville News Sentinel that discussed the ten biggest UT sports stories of 2011. Admittedly, a tough year to do that. Not surprisingly, most of the 10 stories concerned disappointments/disasters, even putting aside the Pat Summitt story, which is different.

The writer did not follow your "no spin" philosophy. Full of the "moved on for a better opportunity" shinola, and coulda, woulda, shoulda observations. "We have a lot of passion."

Yes, the hometown fish wrapper has to shade towards the home team, and that's OK in a normal year. But when you try that for a disaster filled year, you lose credibility. Even rabid Johnnyvolsfan knows better.

And it quoted Mike Hamilton doing the same sort of song and dance about pride and passion. I guess he's in such a vulnerable spot he can't shoot straight.

January 3, 2012 at 2:36 p.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

Underestimating your audience — whether you're a football coach, a journalist a fifth-grade math teacher or a Sunday school instructor — is a dangerous move.

There's spin like trying to get your message out there and trying to make the best out of a bad situation. That spin is both applicable and to be expected a lot of the time.

Then there's spin that insults the listener and makes the spinner seem clueless.

Dooley is talented in the interview room, there's no doubt. And by all accounts he did fine today, but winning news conferences is not enough.

— 5-at-10

January 3, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.
Yngvai said...

You missed the whole point...which is essentially the arrogance of your post.

Believe it or not, there are reasons why someone might want to go to coach at a program other than the capacity of its stadium or its long-time bowl record or overall record.

Tennessee's all-time winning % is .688, while Washington is .611.

Tennessee's bowl win % is 0.52, while Washington is 0.516.

Tennessee has 16 conference titles while Washington has 15.

Tennessee has 6 national titles, Washington has 2.

Yes, Tennessee has superior record to Washington in these areas, but it's not vastly superior.

And there are other reasons for someone to go coach at a school other than your short-sighted

  1. An opportunity to be a part of a rising program. Washington is currently on the rise while Tennessee is currently falling
  2. An opportunity to compete for a conference championship. Washington is much closer to that currently than Tennessee.
  3. An opportunity to be closer to home
  4. Regardless of how much money Tennessee has, the fact is Washington likely offered more, although the details of the contract have not been revealed yet.
  5. A chance to be with a team that has a good offense, compared to Tennessee which had one of the worst in the country. As a defensive coordinator, it is certainly not fun when your defense is always on the field because your offense can't do anything
  6. A chance to coach alongside Steve Sarkisian who has an excellent reputation in the coaching community and has engineered one of the best turnarounds of a program that anyone has ever seen in a short period of time.

Your comment about Wilcox going to a "lesser" program is like you complaining that your girlfriend dumped you for someone who makes $1 million a year when you make $2 million a year. How could she dump you for someone who is so clearly inferior? Hey, maybe there were other things a better personality.

January 3, 2012 at 7:19 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

.688 winning percentage to .611?

Six national titles to two?

yeah, I'd say that's vastly superior. And I don't have a dog (be it a Husky or Smokey) in this fight.

January 3, 2012 at 11:14 p.m.
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