There were many criticisms of former Tennessee Vols head coach Butch Jones during his time in Knoxville.
One of the biggest criticisms, however, was the “chart” that Jones apparently used to make certain decisions, such as going for a two-point conversion or going for it on fourth down.
When the Vols lost to Florida 28-27 in 2015, Jones’ chart was to blame.
Jones decided to kick an extra point with Tennessee up by 12. So instead of pushing the lead to 14, the Vols led by 13. Florida scored two unanswered touchdowns to win the game. If Tennessee had successfully gone for two, the game would’ve been tied and UT would’ve had another shot to win.
After the game, Jones brought up “the chart”.
“We were discussing that prior to the drive — if we did score whether we go for one or two,” said Jones. “We have a chart that is pretty standard in football first of all and maps it all…We felt very comfortable with the decision.”
Jones’ penchant for playing it safe — field goals in the red zone or not going for it on fourth down — was usually a direct result of the chart.
Vols fans will be happy to know that current UT head coach Josh Heupel doesn’t share that same philosophy.
On Thursday, Heupel was asked by a reporter about his philosophy in those situations.
Heupel noted that a variety of factors go into those decisions. And he didn’t mention a magical chart as one of those factors.
Sound like Josh Heupel doesn’t have a fourth down chart like Butch Jones had pic.twitter.com/3GSi3VHwsc— zach ragan (@zachTNT) September 22, 2022
“We talk about it as a staff in our gameday meeting, just my thought process and how situations might unfold in different field zones,” explained Heupel. “There’s a feel for the game too, and how things are structurally playing out and your matchups during the course of it.”
I’m sure Tennessee fans are breathing a sigh of relief after that.
Having a great feel for the game is part of what separates average head coaches from elite head coaches. There’s a lot of focus on what happens off the field these days — building a culture, recruiting, hiring the right staff, the transfer portal, NIL deals, etc. But at the end of the day, a college football coach — especially in the SEC — has to be a great game-day coach.
We’re still learning how Heupel handles these decisions — it’s still early in his tenure. But his fourth-down philosophy is already significantly better than what fans saw from Butch.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports