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Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014

Dooley or Bray: Who's the real problem?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

(Photo)
Tyler Bray has shown signs of brilliance this year, completing near 61 percent of his passes for 3,216 yards and 29 touchdowns, but still can't find a way to lead the Vols to a win in a close game.
(T-G File Photo by Chris Siers)
It's no secret to any Tennessee Volunteer fan. Ole Rocky Top just hasn't been the same in the last few years and virtually everybody in the state has no trouble with pointing a finger at Lane Kiffin, who gutted the team of talent when he skipped town after one season and headed for "greener pastures" at USC.

Regardless of the implications and finger pointing everyone is willing to dish out, it's pretty much irrelevant.

What does matter is the here and now.

Fans' focus

Following Tennessee's devastating four-overtime loss to Missouri last weekend, it's a safe bet to say Derek Dooley isn't the most popular guy in the Volunteer state.

But stop and think about this for a few minutes.

Tennessee is 4-6 so far this season with two games left on the schedule--both of which should be penciled in as wins.

The Vols' record is really nothing to be proud of. The only wins have come against non-conference cupcake teams and Tennessee has just one SEC win in the last two years.

This year, the Vols have had several close games, not only against SEC opponents, but against ranked adversaries, but for one reason or another just couldn't finish off the win.

Blame game

Back in September, Tennessee was in cruise control in the first half against Florida, then fell apart in the second half and eventually lost 37-20.

The Vols played No. 5 (at the time) Georgia and only lost by a touchdown--51-44.

No. 1 Alabama rolled past Tennessee, not that anyone was surprised, 44-13.

And lastly, the Vols fell to South Carolina 38-35, and Mizzou 51-48 and one question desperately needs answered--who is to blame?

Not just the coach

Virtually the entire state wants Dooley gone. It's a fair point to raise, especially if a coach is completely out of his league and just can't produce wins.

Dooley definitely hasn't been the productive answer the higher ups have wanted, but is it really his fault?

Sure, to a degree, a head coach should be held responsible. But at what point does the coach do all he can do before players on the field can be held responsible?

It's a tricky question to answer.

Maybe the close games are the coaches' fault, maybe they're the players' fault. After all, he's done something to keep the games within reach.

Nobody can for sure say who is 100 percent to blame.

(Photo)
Following Tennessee's four-overtime loss to Missouri last weekend, many are ready to part ways with coach Derek Dooley.
(T-G File Photo by Chris Siers)
Target

In times of despair, fans often look for the easiest person or persons to blame.

In 2012, that person is Derek Dooley.

While I personally agree Dooley should be held accountable, by no means should he be cut loose just yet.

There comes a point in a game, no matter the sport, when coaches have done all they can do from the sidelines and the rest of the production has to come from players being able to execute on the field.

Vols fans seriously need to take a step back and analyze the predicament the University of Tennessee is in before calling for a coaches head delivered on a silver platter.

QB no leader

Tyler Bray is a great passing quarterback, but he as the leader of the offense sets a tone for the rest of the team.

This year, that tone hasn't been anything special.

Sure, Bray has had his moments of sheer brilliance, but he hasn't come close to being able to lead his team to a win in a close contest.

Far from it in fact.

When Bray gets pressured, he gets flustered and begins to make poor decisions, such as throwing the ball to open patches of the field, throwing into double and triple coverage, and not throwing the ball away when he should.

Tough position

A coach can only coach so many plays from an x' and o's standpoint.

When Dooley came to town, the conditions for his acceptance of the job were anything but perfect, considering the whole Kiffin ordeal.

But Dooley has done what he could with the limited time and resources he has had. To be fair to him, he should be allotted a full four years to see his first full recruiting class go through his system before dubbing him an utter failure.

Important games

Now a lot of this particular perspective depends on the last two weeks of the season.

Can Tennessee beat Kentucky and Vanderbilt to finish the season 6-6?

That's the million dollar question, but it's worth at least two more weeks' wait to answer.

So is the real problem on Rocky Top on the sidelines or on the field?

I don't know and I'm for sure not going to try and answer.

Another year if 6-6

But what I will say is Dooley deserves a chance to finish the season strong, and if by some chance the Vols can finish 6-6, he should be allowed next year to prove his worth with his first recruiting class coming full circle.

Then, and only then, can fans see if the problem is on the field, or on the sidelines.

But then again, that whole logic will be put to bed if Tennessee can't beat Vanderbilt on Saturday.

Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette. He can be contacted at sports@t-g,com.

Chris Siers
The Extra Point
Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette.

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