Amidst all the chatter about Coach Dooley being on the hot seat, I had time for a random thought the other day: What state would Tennessee football be in if Lane (mother******) Kiffin had never left?
There's a very real chance we could be in the same state we are now. There's also a very real chance UT could have bounced back from lousy years like Florida is doing now.
I don't think there's any doubt that a reoccurring bad habit of Coach Dooley's is a pitiful second half performance.
So right off the bat, let's look at some games where Kiffin could have potentially made a difference.*
10/02/10 @ LSU
Now I always remember this game as the game where Tennessee beat the eventual 11-2 LSU Tigers in Death Valley. The score may reflect something different.
Where Kiffin could have changed the game: Obviously there's nothing to say that UT still wouldn't have had too many players on the field. But, there is always the chance that Kiffin would have been cognizant enough to realize "Hey, that looks like too many players." The game also turned on a 4th-and-1 call in LSU territory which resulted in a turnover. Coach Dooley is not known for his masterful play calling, and maybe Kiffin would have drawn up something different to move the chains and ice the game. Who knows?
12/30/10 vs. UNC in Music City Bowl
It's no surprise that another one of Coach Dooley's weaknesses has been the kicking game. This bowl thriller was decided in 2 OT, meaning if Daniel Lincoln's extra point in regulation isn't blocked, ball game.
Where Kiffin could have changed the game: Kiffin has always been a strong supporter of special teams play. Maybe emphasis on the kicking game is what Tennessee needed to pull out this bowl win.
11/26/11 @ Kentucky
Well, as a young Vol fan, this is far and away the most embarrassing loss I can remember. If you believe what you read some places, you're of the frame of mind that the players threw the game to get Coach Dooley fired. Not saying that's the case, just a conspiracy out there.
Where Kiffin could have changed the game: Certainly Kiffin was (still is, really) as guilty as anybody as playing to the level of his opponent. Still, I think he could've given Bray enough confidence to at least get something more than seven points on the board against Kentucky. I mean it's Kentucky... Coach Dooley's obvious frustration at times is echoed through Bray's actions.
9/15/12 vs. Florida
Here we have a classic case of the classic Second Half Meltdown. Tennessee led 14-10 at halftime and 20-13 in the third quarter. Trey Burton then took off for an 80-yard run which completely changed the game (as it turns out, we didn't lose to the crappy Florida we thought we were going to get. Projections have them top five in the upcoming BCS rankings.)
Where Kiffin could have changed the game: Well, this one's tough. The game changed on one play and Florida didn't really pick apart Tennessee through the air. That eliminates the "well if we had Monte Kiffin, we could've won" excuse. But, Kiffin would have done something to keep Florida from rattling off 24 unanswered. Lane could have also certainly dialed up a game plan more centered around Tyler Bray's arm. I mean, the play calling on first down is becoming ridiculously predictable now.
Quite frankly, I don't care who the coach is. If he's Tennessee's coach, I'm going to support him 100%. I'm a big fan of Coach Dooley so this isn't to say life would be better without him. In reality, this just equates to four more games we could have won – even if one was a bowl game. Tennessee would've lost the Oregon, Alabama and Arkansas games of the world even if Vince Lombardi himself were coaching the Vols.
Just an interesting thought that I had. Go Vols
*Disclaimer: this is not to say that UT would have won any of these games since, personally, I think Kiffin is about as good as an actual football coach as he is at telling the truth.