It has been ten years since Good Ole’ Rocky Top saw its last National Championship. Yet, as the Vols limp through a horrible season, some might say it feels like a century ago.
Perhaps there are still Fulmer Faithful who would have you believe they have seen this movie before, and know how it ends: With Phil "The Spin Doctor" having a strong second half of the season, and maybe a big upset thrown in.
For these remaining Phil Fans, the question is simple: Have you seen this team play? They are, in a word, atrocious! Fumbles. Interceptions. Crucial penalties. Not just untimely false starts or formation penalties: We're talking late hits and other unsportsmanlike conduct.
In fact, Fulmer has managed to produce the worst year of coaching in recent memory, perhaps rivaled only by Larry Coker's last year at Miami.
Throughout the offseason we were inundated with talk about the potential of Jonathan Crompton. Crompton was projected to be a difference maker for the Vols, a player who, along with highly-touted receiver Gerald Jones and tailback Arian Foster, would have the Volunteers competing for yet another SEC title.
It’s clear that things didn’t quite work out that way.
As a last-ditch effort, "Philly" and his staff have turned the team over to a sophomore from Texas whom no one outside of Knoxville has ever heard of. The obvious question is: If this kid was such a great quarterback, why didn't one of those pass-happy Big 12 teams offer him a deal?
With all the turmoil, it shouldn't shock anyone that Phil's Fans are quickly dwindling. What is most interesting, however, is not the outcry from the fans, but rather the criticism coming from those higher in the ranks of the Vol Nation.
Just last week, Birmingham talk radio heard from the beloved Johnny Majors himself. As head coach of the Volunteers, Majors hired Fulmer as an assistant coach; Fulmer has been in Knoxville ever since.
Appearing on The Paul Finebaum Show, Majors refused to refer to Fulmer by name. Rather, he could only bring himself to obliquely criticize "the current situation." As in, the current situation was “one of the main mistakes I made in my coaching career." Way to be subtle, Johnny.
Listeners could only sit there stunned for several minutes, not knowing quite what to think. When Finebaum probed deeper, Majors steered the conversation towards the historical rivalry between himself and Bear Bryant.
"The current staff have yet to face a fully complemented Alabama team,” Majors said, referring to NCAA sanctions and scholarship restrictions imposed on Alabama after the 2001 season. Sanctions that were, by the way, brought on based on the allegations of Phillip Fulmer.
Finebaum, a Tennessee grad himself, perhaps said it best: “It seems that Fulmer would rather defeat his archrival with shady detective work rather than with his coaching ability.”
Hopefully, Fulmer’s detective hat is pressed. He may find himself looking for a new line of work soon.
With contributions from Mike Dockery.
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