Why Tennessee and Butch Jones desperately need to beat Florida

Asked about trash talk from Florida’s cornerbacks, some overt and some bizarrely metaphorical, Tennessee coach Butch Jones explained his team’s bunker mentality insulated the Volunteers from such tomfoolery. “Any time I spend seeing what’s out there is a waste of our time,” Jones said Wednesday. “Really, it’s insignificant.” But moments later, Jones bragged about the attention lavished on Tennessee’s program ahead of the most important game of his tenure so far.

“I have spoken with more national media this week than I have in a long time, and they understand how far this program has come in 3½ short years. They understand it, they get it,” Jones said. “It’s like the Wall Street Journal being here last week and wanting the model for building a football program, a company and an organization because of how far we have come in a short period of time. And it’s not just the product on the field, it’s off the field, it’s academics, it’s putting together an entire program.”

It’s appropriate that Jones would mention the Journal because Tennessee is exactly the kind of trend story that paper savors. Company hits hard times and then roars back under new, innovative CEO. Those stories are great. We love writing them, and you love reading them. They brim with the promise of brighter days. They spotlight new and creative ideas. There’s only one problem. Those ideas don’t always pan out.

In 1998, the Journal profiled Steve Jobs, who had just returned to Apple after years in exile. The story outlined all Jobs was doing to make Apple relevant again. As we know now, it worked. In the ensuing years, Apple changed the way most people compute, listen to music and communicate. In 2012, the Journalprofiled Thorsten Heins, who had just taken over as the CEO at Research In Motion—better known as the company behind the Blackberry. Heins had a lot of ideas, too. None of them worked. His company continued losing market share to the company Jobs reinvigorated years earlier.

As the CEO of Tennessee Football Inc., Jones stands at a crossroads. As he has worked his way through the process of rebuilding the Volunteers from the wreckage of the Derek Dooley era, he has sold his program as a cutting-edge outfit built upon the bedrock principles of General Robert Neyland’s game maxims. “Sleep coaches” make sure the Vols get enough rest so they can ball, oskie, cover, block, cut and slice, pursue and gang tackle… for this is the winning edge. At the same time, Jones has stocked Tennessee’s roster with some of the nation’s most sought-after recruits. This has generated excitement among the stockholders, but as Jones’s tenure grows longer, the focus has begun to shift from all the things he’s doing to the things he hasn’t done. Specifically, these two things.

Win the SEC East.

Beat Florida.

The Vols don’t necessarily have to complete the second task to complete the first, but with an 11-game losing streak against the Gators that stretches through the tenures of four head coaches (Jones, Dooley, Lane Kiffin and Phillip Fulmer), the Florida game has come to represent a critical quarterly report for Tennessee Football Inc.

full story here: foxsports