Monday, April 13, 2009

Bobby Johnson right on Mark Richt's heels for longest-tenured SEC coach — but for how long?

Been on vacation and just noticed Chris Low's post from last week about Georgia Coach Mark Richt being the SEC coach with the longest current tenure at one school. Nine years.

Bobby Johnson is second with eight years at Vandy, and Rich Brooks is third with six years at UK.

Low figures that of those three Richt has the best chance of staying put for another 10 or 15 years.

Makes sense. Brooks has already named a coach-in-waiting. And Johnson will need to pull off a balancing act to stay at Vandy for another decade.

How so? Well, sure, Bobby keeps saying he wants to stay in Nashville forever, but what else is he going to say? Remember back when the Dores were 5-0 and Tommy Bowden had just gotten fired and everybody, especially Clemson fans, were anointing Johnson as the next Tiger coach.

Then Vandy lost six of its next seven games, and Johnson's name wasn't connected with any coaching jobs except Vanderbilt, where nobody expects you to win anyway. And then the Dores won the Music City Bowl and Johnson was lauded for doing what nobody at Vandy had done since the Eisenhower administration, but he wasn't getting any offers to leave, either.

That's what I mean by a balancing act. If Johnson had beaten Miss State and Duke, he'd have finished 9-4. If Nickson hadn't fumbled away the field position battle against the Vols, he could have even finished with double-digit victories. And if that had happened, I don't think Bobby Johnson would still be in Nashville.

But he can't slip too much, either. Remember what happened to George MacIntyre, the last Vandy coach to go to a bowl? He followed up a magical 8-4 season in 1982 with a 2-9 season but then he raised hopes with a 4-0 start in 1984 but then he lost six of his last seven (sound familiar?) to finish 5-6 and then he sealed his fate in 1985 with a 3-7-1 record.

So like MacIntyre before him, Johnson has earned himself a free pass in Nashville for two or three more seasons. But to stick around longer than that he's got to continue to hover around .500 — and at Vanderbilt that's mighty hard to do.

Sure, some Vandy fans will be offended by me saying this. They already expect to win an extra game or two next season to finish with eight or nine wins. But let's be realistic. If the Commodores can go 4-2 at the midway point next season (beating Western Carolina, Rice, Miss State and Army and losing to LSU and Ole Miss) then we'll all be excited, right? But to finish where they did last season the Dores have still got to grab wins over two of these teams: Georgia, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee. Not easy.

On the other hand, if Richt has one bad season he'll be feeling more heat than Bobby Johnson ever will in Nashville.

What do you think?


Greg M said...

I think you are dead on. If Ted Cain wasn't his OC he might be gone already. So my longing for a new OC is a double edged sword. Whit Ted we probably win more games and Bobby might be gone. Hope we pay up to keep him.


Good to hear from you, Greg. Yes, Ted Cain is always in the back of our minds, isn't he?

I think the offense has to get better for us to just maintain what we did last season. According to the laws of probability, our defense and special teams aren't going to miraculously bail us out of as many games as they did last year.

But I am encouraged by some of the changes Johnson is making to the offense, especially with the no-huddle offense. We don't have the horses to play smash-mouth football. But we are converting our tight ends and defensive ends into quick, athletic offensive linemen (see Welch, Lauer, Seymour), and we've got some good possession receivers and tight ends and a nice collection of recruits at running back. Oh yeah, and a talented young multi-purpose quarterback.

1050 lb. said...

Maybe, with some real luck, Vandy has a great season and Ted Cain gets hired by somebody else! Talk about a win-win situation...

Stanimal said...

I share your fear Dimon. We all want to think we take another step forward this season, but we are losing some pretty good ballplayers out of our secondary that really put us where we were.

I do think you're right though, in that we have some of the athletes to run that no-huddle and cause some fits. It might be just what we need to keep us where we are and beyond.

Still I'll be pretty happy with 4-2 at the halfway point.


You're right, Stanimal. Reshard and DJ were a huge part of our success last season and won't be easily replaced. We're gonna to have to score more points. We don't have quite the athletes Ga Tech does and we certainly play in a tougher conference but we're in a similar situation (academic school in a big city with a small stadium) and Paul Johnson had tremendous success there last season with his funkadelic option offense. We seem to be patterning our offense more after Rice, which gave us fits with the no-huddle last season, but Bobby seems to realize that we're going to have to beat people with schemes and matchups and catching people off guard.