published Friday, December 6th, 2013

5-at-10: Friday Mailbag on Mandela, football playoffs and grading Butch Jones

Gang, it's been a crazy week, and if you are not listening to Press Row, well, that's your loss. You can listen on the main page starting at 3 p.m. today. Giddy-up.

We are going to move very quickly today because we are volunteering to teach kindergarten at Donaldson Elementary this morning. Giddy-giddy-up.

From the "Talks too much" studios, we truly believe that children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way.

From Believer

  • photo
    A statue of former South African President Nelson Mandela stands outside the Groot Drakenstein prison near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, where Mandela was released on Feb. 11, 1990.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The news of Nelson Mandela's death was sad no doubt. It got me thinking about the people in this world that we all know are better than the rest of us, you know.

Who is on your all-time "Good person" Rushmore? Thanks, and thanks for the 5-at-10.

Believer —

That's a great question that deserves more brain power than we are capable of giving to the topic. If we're forced to make a swing at it, we'll got with Mandela, Mother Theresa, Gandhi and either The Dalai Lama or Gus Malzahn on our Rushmore of Sainthood. (Long the Lama, big hitter.)

Although we're a little worried about how this may affect the way folks view our man-crush on Cam Newton.

Not to be undersold, the Rushmore of Morgan Freeman roles deserves a brief mention here considering Morgan nailed his portrayal of Mandela in Invictus.

We'll go Shawshank, Unforgiven, Lean on Me and Glory. Remember, these are not the best movies Freeman has been in — Dark Knight was OUT-standing — but his best roles.


From Moctastic

You know what guys...we are developing scenarios for what happens if you get a bunch of teams with one loss each. What does that tell us? What would rememdy that? Hmmmmmm..maybe a playoff? And more than 4 teams, a minimum of 8.

MT —

We realize you were asking this rhetorically with a touch of sarcasm, but we thought it was worth a discussion.

A playoff would still yield what-if scenarios this week, they would just be focused on Oklahoma State and the Pac 12 conference saying they deserve a title shot more than Alabama, which would be lobbying for a spot in the field along with the SEC winner, FSU and THE Ohio State. 

We have said eight teams from the beginning, going back several years, long before next year's playoff was shaped. That said, we're scared any playoff will damage the regular season, which we are strongly against.

Still, an eight-team field seems the best for the actual playoff — but with each added level, the value of the best regular season in sports suffers. But, the best way to do this is blend the computers and the selection committee with an eight-team field that has the five champions from the high-ranked conferences in the country according to whatever computer generation scale you want to use. If you want to force teams to play meaningful non-conference games, this would help greatly.

The other three teams would be selected by the committee and at least one of that trio would have to be a conference champion.

That said, whether you are picking two or four or eight teams to make a postseason, teams ranked No. 3, No. 5 and No. 9 are going to complain about getting robbed. Heck the hoops tournament has 68 and teams 69-72 are miffed. The FCS has 24 and the Mocs finished 25th and we were all hacked.

So it goes and here we are.  


From Sportsfan

Jay - I know the season isn't over yet, but for the Friday mailbag...briefly (it's a holiday and there's lots of football to watch)...what good things from season 1 does Butch Jones have to build on for the 2014 season?

Sportsfan —

To be fair, sportsfan asked this before the season finale, and we're just now getting there. That's on us, but like a fine wine or a marinated steak, hopefully time has enhanced the flavor of our response. That, or it's a glass of Boone's Farm with a $2 flank steak. 

  • photo
    Tennessee head coach Butch Jones yells on the sidelines in this file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Butch Jones' first year was filled with highs and lows. There was the high of beating South Carolina and the continued euphoria around a recruiting class that has rival fans calling Press Row on ESPN 105.1 FM saying UT has to be breaking NCAA rules. (SIde note: When opposing teams are taking shots at you — especially when you just wrapped your third consecutive 5-7 season — that's a good thing. Think of it this way: This time last year, Alabama fans felt a little sorry for Auburn. Not so much today.)

Year 1 for Butch also included a fair share of speed bumps. The September quarterback song and dance of replacing Justin Worley with Nathan Peterman against Florida was ill-advised and gave the appearance that Jones kowtowed to public opinion. There also was the disappointing showing against Vandy, the game that sealed the Vols' third consecutive postseason-less winter, considering the Vols looked underprepared and sluggish with their season hanging in the balance and coming off an off-week.

But let's look deeper and break Butch down in four crucial categories.

Public perception — B+

Butch was hired a year ago Saturday. He was not the Vols first choice, a fact he joked about in his introductory news conference. There were a slew of Johnny Vols Fans across the area and the country that were underwhelmed by the hire after hoping for a bigger name with a higher profile.

Jones had work to do to repair the guts of the UT program, but he also had work to do to unite a proud fanbase that had been dragged through the mud of a series of bungled decisions and washed cleaned with the bitter spirits of a budding dynasty of their most-hated rival.

So Jones worked and pressed the flash like Pappy O'Daniel. He was everywhere, and he floated catch phrases and cliches with a equal measure of hope and hype. BAsh 'Brick-by-brick' or Team 117 if you like, but the messages and slogans worked for recruits and for a fan base starving for something to believe in.

There are still those that are curious whether Butch can flip the script in Knoxville, but very few of them are in the Big Orange Nation, and that number is greatly smaller than what it was.

In the locker room — B+

The worst stretch in the modern era of the program had left a locker room of players who came to Knoxville to compete for titles in the SEC. They have competed the last three years to stay out of the basement in the SEC East. That's mainly because of the decisions made that were beyond the players' control, but the ripple effects were tangible and telling.

  • photo
    Former Baylor School and University of Tennessee standout Jacques McClendon is with his fourth NFL team, the Atlanta Falcons, and is on the Times Free Press list of all-time top 13 area offensive linemen.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

That said, the biggest ringing endorsement about a positive vibe for Jones, Year 1, is the quotes and testimonials from the players, especially the departing seniors such as Daniel Hood and Jacquez Smith and former players like Jacques McClendon. (Hey Butch is pretty popular with Jacques.)

On the field — C

We expected a bowl trip and a 6-6 mark before the season, but that was before everyone knew that Missouri and Auburn were going to be the top teams in the league. Still 6-6 was within reach until the final moments against Vandy, easily the most frustrating and confounding game for the Vols this season. It also was the game in which UT was most evenly matched, and the Vols could not finish Vandy at home. That fact is troubling and indictment of how far UT has to go to return to the upper echelon of the nation's best conference.

And that loss would have been a little more understandable if it had happened in September, like the ugly loss against the worst Florida team in a generation or if it was in true freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs' first start. But it came in November, in the season's penultimate week, in Dobbs' third start, after an open week and with the season on the line.

As for player development, Jones and company advanced the special teams beyond anyone's expectations, considering Michael Palardy went from liability to likely being an NFL prospect and possibly being UT's offensive MVP. Defensively, UT was better than expected, but those less-than-lofty expectations were forged in the misguided and myopic fires stoked by the lunacy that was the disastrous Sal Sunseri experiment.

Offensively, there was little improvement, which can be pegged to the injuries and inadequacies at quarterback, but there also was little improvement at that position at any point through the season. And the much ballyhooed offensive line underachieved mightily. 

Even with the win over South Carolina — UT's first over a ranked foe since everyone in Knoxville thought Lane Kiffin was flamboyant and clever and Eric Berry was in Knoxville — the product on the field was less than average, and certainly less than what UT fans expect. Yes, the roster is under-talented, but other than Palardy and a couple of the freshman such as Cam Sutton and Marquez North, who on that roster improved greatly this year? 

Recruiting — A+

Even the most avid Jones detractor can not throw stones at the collection of talent Butch has assembled in a recruiting class that is viewed as the nation's second-best by every service that is regarded in such matters.

In fact, the only quibbles that can be offered, as minor as they seem are, a) the commitments are only verbal and non-binding and, b) there is not a quarterback in this class to date and it's likely there will not be one. The first one is a hollow attempt to devalue Jones' stellar recruiting efforts. The latter complaint is easily explained once you realize that the quarterbacks UT wanted were already in another fold, and with a roster with this many needs at this many positions, taking a quarterback just to take a quarterback does not make sense, numbers-wise.

Overall — B that will be a B+ if Jones keeps this recruiting class together.  


From Stuck

I'm really excited about Missouri-Auburn and Michigan State-Ohio State games this weekend, not to mention Baylor-Texas, Oklahoma State-Oklahoma, Arizona State-Stanford, and even Duke-Florida State. Of course, I've got a serious problem. I have a family event that begins at 4:00. I'll be unable to get to a TV until probably 6:30 at the earliest, and even then, the family event will still be going on. And it is the side of the family that does not like football. So I may not even be able to watch the games closely at that point. What's a person to do? 

BTW, the Duke-Florida State storyline is so much more entertaining than any of the other possible ACC Championship Game storylines. If it had been Virginia Tech-Florida State, I'd be shrugging my shoulders, but interested because of how important it is. With Duke, you've got this miracle season. Sometimes, a miracle season ends with a miracle. Could this be one of those times? Almost certainly not. But it's more entertaining than if Virginia Tech, Miami or Georgia Tech were in this game. 

Stuck —

You most definitely have a serious problem. Let's pause for a public service announcement: Ladies and families of the sons of South, please do not schedule any lengthy events on Saturdays in the fall without consulting with us. Yes, we know that normally when matters of scheduling arise that we get that glazed over look that screams "Just tells us when and where" and we all agree that that system works best.

But from the first Saturday of September to the first Saturday of December, we've got stuff going on. We can work in a quick trip to the store or stuff around the house that we can juggle around schedules, but road trips and family gatherings where we have to pay attention to cousin Eddie or Aunt Edna are out of bounds without prior discussion. There are off-weeks during the regular season that we can work around, but Championship Saturday? Egad.

There, with that off our chest, we firmly believe the advancements in hand-held technology were pushed forward by a mismatched duo of geniuses that included one big-time gamer who could not go anywhere with access to Angry Birds or Jewel Mania and a big-time sports nut who needed full-time access to scores and fantasy updates. So make sure your ESPN alerts are tuned in and you can follow along the Twitter updates from our staff writers David Paschall (@DavidSPaschall) and Downtown Patrick Brown (@patrickbrownTFP) from the SEC title game or from us (@jgreesontfp) for all-day football updates.

As for the Duke point, you bet. Duke is a much better storyline — well at least for the first quarter. Who knows, maybe the awful weather will make the game interesting, but it's highly unlikely. In truth, FSU is so much better than the rest of the ACC, and ACC all-star team from the other schools against FSU would be a closer game than any of the other potential match-ups. 

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.
MocTastic said...

JG, if the goal is to get the best team to be National Champions, then a playoff is the best way. It is better to argue about who is more deserving of a playoff spot at number 16 than at number 2. The number 17 team can complain, but we can rest pretty assured that with 16 teams the top half dozen teams are in the playoffs. I really don't get this diminish the regular season stuff. While being an avid follower of the Mocs I was keenly aware every week of the season how one slipup could cost the Mocs the post season. When the referee blew the call at Ga Southern many of us Moc fans were commenting after the game how that call might end up keeping us out of post season, and it did. Each week did mean something. A slip and you could be on the outside looking in.

I guess I am going to play the devils advocate on Mandela. While acknowledging his great work on apartheid in South Africa, I cannot overlook his other political views. My reading of his political views has found that he was a self admitted marxist who did not believe in private land ownership, captalism, or other things we hold dear. He believed in democracy, but democracy in a marxist setting. While he never imposed these socialist views on the people, one must look at the whole picture when reviewing history. I suggest all do some reading of his views. You might be suprised. While doing some great things, he was at heart a communist who did not believe in true freedom for all men.

December 6, 2013 at 10:18 a.m.
chas9 said...

Yesterday we noted that Michigan State is # 1 (for now) in basketball and #9 in pointy ball. Also praiseworthy is that UK is #3 in men's basketball and #5 on the distaff side. Tonight's Lady Kats vs. #9 Baylor (minus Griner) will be a big 'un. And on ESPN the men face The Men of Baylor in AT&T Stadium, where they'll be again for the Final Four. Last year The Bears ended UK's 55-game home winning streak.

Amazing that former also-rans and doormats The Chiefs, The Panthers, This Bungles, and even The Lions are now respectable.

Don't look now, but Our Atlanta Hawks are #3 in the Eastern Conference. Bad news is that at 10-10, they'd be #10 and out of the (generous) playoffs if they were in the Western half of the Neverending Basketball Association. In fact, only three Eastern teams are below .500.

I love Morgan Feeman, but Stand by Me is better than Lean on Me. Lean on Me or To Sir, with Love?

December 6, 2013 at 10:19 a.m.
Maximus said...

Jay, Very nice. I still contend that the best investment the City of Chattanooga, UTC, and corporate/individual gift givers can make is to forget about that sorry orange team to the east and go all in for Mocs football. A sparkling new retractable roof stadium along with an indoor practice facility would do wonders for the Chatt skyline and put the program on track to where they eventually will have to go, D-1 FBS status. It would most likely be a 5 to 10 year plan for the Mocs to become a Boise or Pappa Johns Louisville but with vision, a plan and determination it can be done. Imagine, Little Debbie Stadium, hosting the national championship between Russ Huesman's Mocs and Notre Dame! What you can conceive and believe, you can achieve. One thing for sure if you are not moving forward you are coasting downhill fast!

December 6, 2013 at 10:42 a.m.
Stewwie said...


The bad call at GSU was not what kept the Mocs out of the playoffs. Our failure to stop GSU on their final drive kept us out of the playoffs. Our failure to make a 31-yard FG at Samford kept us out of the playoffs. A 1-3 record against FCS teams with winning records kept us out of the playoffs. It's past time for Moc fans to stop playing the blame game and instead allow Huesman to take full responsibility for the outcome of the season (both good and bad).


Sad to hear Ned Ryerson will be leaving us soon. He did a great job covering the Mocs. Who will take over for his beats?

December 6, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.
Maximus said...

Oh yea and for you UT fanatics. If Alabama can have two D-1 teams in the top ten then so can TN. Why should Knoxville hog all the resources? Like Auburn and Alabama with a lot of hard work we could have the Vols and the Mocs in the top ten. Go Mocs Football!

December 6, 2013 at 10:46 a.m.
Maximus said...


You must not have been around for the 1-11 season under Hot Rod Rodney Allison. Very, very, painful! Coach Huesman and his assistants especially our new offensive coordinator have done an AMAZING job of rebuilding the program especially when the football team has to dress and have meetings in the basketball arena. Half the teams in the SOCON have more support and better facilities than UTC. Don't forget, I think Russ has another football playing son over at Baylor. #14, Jacob Huesman has been a high impact difference maker and leader for the team. UTC needs to get a new, very lucrative contract to Huesman ASAP! He should be one of the highest compensated head coaches in the question.

December 6, 2013 at 10:55 a.m.
chas9 said...

I vote for keeping the 5@10 a politics-free zone.

And if anybody's looking to get me a Christmas present, I'd love one of those chia pets that grows into a Duck Dynasty uncle beard.

December 6, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
Stewwie said...


I remember well the 1-11 season under Hot Rod. And I don't disagree that Russ has us on the right path. Our D has been solid since he's been here and having a 4-star QB fall in our lap in the beginning didn't hurt either. My beef in the comments above is about when Huesman and/or Moc fans in general are content with playing the blame game instead of taking full responsibility when/where it is due.

Regarding Huesman's contract, he did get a raise and an extension before this season began. His contract now runs through the end of 2016. I don't think any other raise or extension is necessary at this time. Win 2 playoff games next year and then they'll re-visit the contract. If we miss the playoffs again though, there will be more questions than answers about Huesman's future.

Love the stadium idea since it'd get us the heck out of the Southside dump that we're in now. But you might need to find a few deep pockets to bankroll a venue with a retractable roof. Or we could just raise taxes to pay for it (kidding).

December 6, 2013 at 11:45 a.m.
jgreeson said...

9er —

I concur about being a politics free zone, but I'm the one to blame because I raised the point. And MT gets full credit for offering a civil disagreement, which is a founding "Brick-by-Brick" on which the 5-at-10 was built.

If this turns into Clay's Playground, well, we'll shut it down before we let that happen. But this one is on the author, so we'll take full blame. (And if you must, replace Mandela with Malzahn and we're cool with that too.)

Are you talking Stand and Deliver, which Morgan Freeman was not in. Freeman was not in Stand by Me either, although Stand by Me is a personal favorite.

Maximus —

How big would the retractable roof Little Debbie Dome be? And yes Russ has done an excellent job, but we think MT's points are exceedingly valid.

Stewwie —

We also are sad to see Ned leave the Scenic City. He served our paper, his beats and his readers exceedingly well, and that's high praise in our eyes for a reporter.


The immediate plan (short term fill) is for Gene Henley to cover the women's basketball beat and for Stephen Hargis to pick up UTC recruiting through signing day. We are planning on making a hire when we find the right person, and we'll take a hard look at everyone's role at the end of the school year.

MT —

Concur the postseason would be better and everyone agrees that a playoff is a better way to find a champion. And your point is valid about the Mocs, but that was as much because of the hole UTC was in early and the streak from there.

Look at the NFL, the regular season is not as exciting. Period. Look at college basketball, the regular season is an insurance seminar. They have great postseasons, but the regular season has become a watered-down version of just getting to X number of wins. A 16-team college football playoff would be the same thing. Heck, an eight-team playoff this year would mean the safest team in the field right now likely is Alabama, so the Iron Bowl meant little in the chase for the title for the Tide.

You're spot on though that the bigger the field, the weaker the argument of 5 or 9 or 17.

December 6, 2013 at 12:05 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Let me first say thanks to John Frierson, he will be missed. I have enjoyed his coverage for his years in Chattanooga. He raised the bar high.

A difference in the NFL and college. The NFL has 32 teams, Div I-A, FBS, has 163 teams. The NFL lets in 12 teams to postseason which is 37.5% of the teams. If I-A football let in 16 teams you would be letting in 9.8% of the teams. The NFL is letting in roughly 4 times proportionally the number college would be if they let in 16. So, I think you might be comparing apples and oranges.

I have never gone political here, but as JG said, the door was opened. I just merely ask for people to educate themselves on the whole man, not just what you are seeing in the news. Education is never a bad thing. Plus, we are a sum of our whole life, some good, some bad, some people end up in the positive, some in the negative.

December 6, 2013 at 12:34 p.m.
chas9 said...

Edjukashun is indeed a good thing. Stay curious.

I know MF wasn't in Stand by Me, It's just that the titles are similar and I love to remind folks of a very good movie.

I'm usually bothered by biopics in which the actor doesn't look enough like the familiar face of the real person, but Freeman's so good, he can do anything. Even play a convincing God. He may get the nod when they do The Saban Story.

December 6, 2013 at 1:21 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...


There is a not-so-public-yet capital campaign for a new [mostly] football building at UTC. Please post your PO Box # + zip code; I will get the Mocs Club boys to send you a pledge card.

Go Blue! Be Gold! Go Mocs!


December 6, 2013 at 1:51 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, please tell me there is footage of you teaching.

Can we start the Saban to Boise rumors? Please?

And what a sports morning, without a single game being played. Cano, Granderson, Kubiaxed, Petersen to U Dub. And I know you will dissect at length today the US World Cup draw.

December 6, 2013 at 2:06 p.m.
jgreeson said...

MT —

Fair point about the percentages, but it's still a race to X number of wins without the do-or-die that is Saturdays in the fall.

And well said about the sum of our life. We are not as good as our best day or as bad as our worst. We can only hope to have significantly more days that feel like the former.

9er —

Great point about Morgan. Dude has played Mandela, a president and God. And the guy who makes all of Batman's cool gadgets. He has more range than Vinnie Johnson feeling it. He's got more options than an untouched Tommy Frazier (or Tracy Ham) turning the corner.

Dude can go.

Spy —

No video of the tape, but the little 4-footers were great.

We read them a story about farmers and asked the kids what was their favorite vegetables. The first little gapped-tooth cutie shouts, "Hot Dogs."

We read them a story about animals and had them draw their favorite animal. one kid drew a car and asked us, "Does your car look like this?" We said now and drew a reasonable version of the Ford Expedition. Little dude looked at it, paused and said, "It needs spinners."

We introduced ourself and told them about our day job. One kid had on a Michael Jordan No. 23 T-shirt and we shared that we met MJ long ago. There was a bunch of Oohs and Ahhs and one girl looked up and said, "He was a great dancer before he died. " Uh, that's Michael Jackson, sweetie.

Great times indeed.

December 6, 2013 at 2:22 p.m.
GratefulDawg said...

Now the wee tikes at Donaldson Elementary can drop a quote from "Caddyshack" at any given time. And Gus Malzhan wrote The Declaration of Independence. And Bo Jackson uprooted a cherry tree with his bare hands but could not tell a lie about it. Them young-uns been educationalized.

9er wrote: "I vote for keeping the 5@10 a politics-free zone." I ain't even got a garage, you can call home and ask my wife!

December 6, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.
Maximus said... big as yo Mama 's bootie. Just kidding dude but I do think a new football stadium and practice facility should be in process for Chatt. Let East TN support the Vols which again, the Vols got beat in the fourth quarter by Vanderbilt.......sad. It's gonna take a number of years and probably, yes, another head coach to get the football Vols on a level with Ole Miss.

And it should be a matter of public record, how much is Huesman getting paid as compared to what UT is paying Dooley and Kiffin? Inquiring sports minds want to know?

December 6, 2013 at 3:25 p.m.
Maximus said...

Morgan Freeman has made mega bank! Good for him!

December 6, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.
MocTastic said...

Maximus, it is public record and has been published, you can find it online.

December 6, 2013 at 3:33 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

5, did you feel like you were in the middle of an AT&T commercial?

December 6, 2013 at 3:38 p.m.
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