Tennessee fall out, Day 2
I feel for Steve McB, and TFP sports editor Stephen Hargis and Brad Shepard and Weston Wamp and ESPN 105.1 the Zone program director Wells Guthrie and my cousin Scott Cole and several other folks who have been long-standing and, over the last decade, long-suffering UT fans.
Simply put, Saturday was the worst loss in program history, in my opinion.
It was to a 2-10 team from a season ago that got housed by UTC a few years ago and that started playing when Cam Newton was at Auburn. Seriously.
You know the details about the game. What are the circling ripples in the aftermath?
This was not about talent. This was not about experience. This was not about Butch or Dooley or Kiffin leaving after one year and blowing the whole thing up.
This was about coaching, plain and simple. From Jeremy Pruitt to Jim Chaney to Derrick Ansley — and should we have been a little more concerned about his lack of experience because Pruitt missing decisive moments running the team to work with the defense is not a good look — throughout the staff.
The Vols were not motivated or ready to play. That's on coaching.
The Vols were outmaneuvered in the second half, especially on defense. That's on coaching. And speaking of coaching, well, do not use the transition of the staff as an excuse for the Tennessee debacle. Georgia State's on-field coaching staff, for the most part is entering its second season together. Those not in year 2 are in year 1.
Now comes the spin cycle that started Monday from Jeremy Pruitt.
And if I were among the group of hard-core Tennessee fans I mentioned above or the countless others who are trying to come up with reasons not to scan the basketball prospectus, well, Pruitt's comments in the above Gene of Many Hats Henley's report in today's TFP are, at best, tone deaf.
Here's one of the chunks near the end of Henley's update: "We've got to go to work. We've got to go back and practice the right way, work on creating the right habits. We're young and inexperienced and we've got to continue to grow; the most you improve is from the first to the second week. We have a great opportunity starting today to do that, and if we're made the right way — I'm talking what's inside of us about wanting to go back, having a little pride about who you represent and who you play for — you go back and you dig a little deeper, try a little harder, watch a little more film here, or do a little extra in the weight room, whatever it is. We've got to look in the mirror and figure out what we've got to do, each and every one of us to get better and that's what we've got to do in this building."
It would have sounded similar if UT had won 38-30, right? And that's unacceptable.
Hey, I understand picking your moments, because the coach that blows up in every news conference becomes the Boss that Cries Wolf and the screaming becomes commonplace and you've lost the high RPM meter for impact.
But again, this was the worst loss in program history, all things considered.
Again, here's more from Pruitt on Monday via Gene of Many Hats: "Everybody in the room has Tennessee on his chest, so, what do we all need to do to improve to be at our best? It all starts with me, so on the defensive side, we've got to be able to improve, execute, make adjustments during the game. We've got to eliminate mistakes.
"When you look at the teams that win, there's lots of people that talk about talent and there's probably something to that, right? It helps to have talent, but if you look at good football teams, they create the right habits, make very few mistakes. They play the right way, compete, play smart, play together and don't beat themselves. When things aren't going their way, they find a way to change the momentum of the game, that's what good football teams do. It's not like some kind of dust that you sprinkle out there.
"Since I've been here, there's been a few games we've played pretty good. The reason we played pretty good was the focus on the details; we executed, and maybe we continue to do that until the other team makes mistakes. That's what you have to do. That's what we've got to focus on and that's what we'll always focus on."
Coach, now is not the time to mention the good times, and there is no doubt the "focus on the details" is unbelievably important. But that's for the speech when Florida beats you by a score or you let South Carolina off the hook.
Again, this was the worst loss in program history.
Put the room on blast. Put the program on blast. Put your staff on blast. Put the players — all of them, from Guarantano to the last walk-on — on notice that every job is on the edge, because you realize how unacceptable Saturday was for a program as proud and accomplished and determined as the University of Tennessee.
The damage from Saturday has been done, so damage control seems counterproductive and in truth, hollow.
Is this harsh? Maybe? There likely is nothing that Pruitt could have said Monday or today or after Saturday's game against BYU that changes the shock and ah (bleep) moment from after the final was official that has lasted 48 hours.
Still, downplaying Saturday with the coach-ese of focus and details and execution is not enough. Not after this, because Pruitt absolutely must show the fan base he cares about this program as much as they do. Truly.
I've said this before, that the hallmark of a well-coached team is the sum is better than its parts.
Well, Tennessee had much, Much, MUCH better parts Saturday. And Georgia State walked away with a convincing win and $950K.
Braves big move
Wow, break up the Braves.
Winners of 13 of their last 15, the Braves have moved closer to making it a four-team race for the World Series trophy than anyone else in baseball.
There are three teams with 90 wins — Astros, Yankees and Dodgers — and the hot run from Atlanta puts them at 85-54, 6.5 games ahead of the Nationals with 23 games left. (The ESPN probability metric has the Braves' postseason chances at 99.9 percent, which seems pretty good, no?)
And while the bats have bounced back from a mid-August dip, the biggest story on why the Braves are now the biggest challenger to the Dodgers and the AL power clubs has been a bullpen that has been lights out for the last couple of weeks.
Look at the three dudes acquired in early August who had a less-than-ideal start to their Braves tenure.
Mark Melancon's last eight outings: 7.1 innings, 5 hits, one earned run, 10 Ks, seven saves and a win.
Shane Greene's last 10 outings: 10 innings, 4 hits, no runs, one walk and 10Ks.
Chris Martin's last 10 outings: 9 innings, 11 hits, three earned runs, no walks, and 10 Ks.
Yes, Josh Donaldson and Freddie Freeman and this dudes who bring sticks to the plate have been great.
But when your biggest issue becomes a budding strength, well, who else thinks Alex Anthopoulos deserves serious consideration for MLB executive of the year?
NFL game week
The offseason of "Say What?" has ended.
Be it a slew of trades — most generated by Houston — a monster retirement from a top-five quarterback in the middle of his prime, holdouts from RB1s in Los Angeles and Dallas, a "Hard Knocks" that was universally called soft, and the unabashed optimism of the most-downtrodden franchise in the NFL if not all of sports — it's in the books.
The NFL is returning Thursday with a classic Packers-Bears game that is hard to ignore for a multitude of reasons.
The Packers have a new coach and the best quarterback in the NFL. (Who also happens to be on my fantasy team, so, "Let's go Aaron" clap-clap, clap-clap-clap.)
It's one of the best rivalries in the NFL. These teams have met 198 times — crazy, right? — and are all-time divided by fewer than four TDs in cumulative points.
Also, the Bears are a trendy Super Bowl pick, which before we toss out our NFL season picks on Wednesday is where we start today.
The public loves the Bears, and if Chicago wins the Super Bowl, the bookmakers in Vegas say they will lose a sizable amount of coin, something that is not commonplace in the desert.
Back East, according to ESPN gambling writer David Purdum, bookmakers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been swamped with bets on the Eagles winning the Super Bowl.
That's understandable, and is also to blame that the Iowa sports books are pulling hard against Scott Frost and Nebraska, which has garnered a ton of public backing as a national championship long shot at 66-to-1.
(Here's betting that localization will be a key adjustment component as more and more states legalize gambling. For example, when Tennessee goes live online with state-run sports betting, the line of say Vols basketball or Predators hockey will be weighted for the fandom of the home-town teams.)
But neither the Bears nor the Eagles are the biggest NFL concern for the Vegas dudes.
Meet the Cleveland Browns, the lightning-rod team with Baker Mayfield at QB and Odell Beckham running routes and know this:
> There are more bets on the Browns to win the Super Bowl in Iowa, Nevada, Jersey and West Virginia;
> After opening at 22-to-1, the Browns are now 8-to-1, which makes them the No. 3 favorite behind only the Patriots and the Chiefs;
On the other end of the spectrum, last year's NFC champs do not interest bettors, as the Rams have fallen from 6-to-1 to 15-to-1. Also, the teams with the fewest bets and least amount of money on them at the MGM, according to Purdum's excellent article, are the Bengals, the Redskins and your Tennessee Titans.
This and that
— This can't be a coincidence at this point. Dallas has now extended another fringe contributor — adding five years to former LSU star La'el Collins' deal — and still have not come to a deal with Ezekiel Elliott. Hmmmmmmmmm.
— Speaking of NFL futures bets, according to Purdum, roughly half the money bet legally on the Super Bowl is bet before the season even starts. That surprised me.
— Speaking of UT football, how in the name of Baby Jesus and baby carrots is Tennessee a 3.5-point favorite over BYU, which would be a 13.5-point favorite over Georgia State, which beat UT by 8 after the Vols' cosmetic TD in the final seconds in Week 1? Anyone? Bueller?
— Here's a sad story on the state of high school sports in Dayton, Ohio. Dunbar High School, which is already on probation as an athletic department until 2022, had to forfeit a game after one of its players head-butted an official.
True or false Tuesday. True, I think. (Hey, there were a few CoColas poured at glorious Lake Martin over the Labor Day weekend, friends.)
True or false, the coach of any high school team that has a player go after a referee should be fired.
True or false, Saturday was the beginning of the end for Jeremy Pruitt in Knoxville.
True or false, you feel much, Much, MUCH better about the Braves now that the 'er' months are here.
True or false, Ezekiel Elliott will miss multiple games because of the holdout.
You know the drill, answer a few, leave a few.
Charlie Sheen is 54 today.
Does the tandem of Sheen and Emilio Estevez make the Rushmore of acting siblings?