Stephen's Report

Former Vols head coach Butch Jones turns to Nick Saban to revive career

Denny Medley - USA TODAY Sports

Not winning a national championship or losing to Auburn both stand at the top for things that frustrate Crimson Tide football fans, however, a new category might be added to the list after seeing a certain former head coach appear at the University of Alabama on Wednesday. 

Lyle “Butch” Jones, former University of Tennessee head coach, was spotted wearing an Alabama shirt during the school’s annual Pro Day. After a disappointing 4-7 season got him booted from the Volunteers in 2017, rumors sparked about conversations on Nick Saban being “interested” in bringing Jones on his coaching staff to serve as an off-field offensive analyst. 

Traction on these rumors gained more clarity after Saban confirmed with the media that the institution is interested in adding Jones, despite not having contractual details worked out. 

Jones, 50, has been known throughout his career as an offensive mind.  

His first role at a Division I program came in 1998, serving at tight ends coach for Central Michigan University. For seven years (1998-04), Jones worked with tight ends, wide receivers and running backs. He handled all offensive play-calling for the Chippewas from 2001 to 2003. 

When he became the head coach for CMU in 2007, Jones led the program to three winning seasons (2007-09) — including a 10-win year in 2009 that resulted in a Mid-American Conference championship. He would capture four conference titles as a whole at both Central Michigan (2007, 2009) and Cincinnati (Big East, 2011-12), but could not deliver the same success at Tennessee from 2013 to this past season. Even with having guys like Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, Alvin Kamara, Derek Barnett, Jaylen Reeves-Maybin and Cam Sutton, the Volunteers were able to earn nine wins in 2015 and 2016 but couldn’t get over that hump. 

Aside from not backing up his talk with consistent wins on the field, character issues in the locker room was another hit on Jones’ tenure at Tennessee. Multiple players, including Kamara, talked on how toxic the program was on the inside and how they were not developed properly. 

Not to mention, there is also the story on Drae Bowles.  

Bowles, a wide receiver at Tennessee prior to being dismissed, was called a “traitor” by Jones after he chose to help a woman that was sexually assaulted by two other players in 2016. 

One thing for certain is that Jones does recognize talent. 

He coached a 1,000-yard receiver in Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh Steelers) and a 3,000-yard quarterback in Dan LeFevour at Central Michigan, while mentoring a two-time 1,000-yard running back in Isaiah Pead (2010-11), a 1,000-yard receiver in Armon Binns (2010) and a solid tight end in Travis Kelce (Kansas City Chiefs) in 2012 for the Cincinnati Bearcats.  

The difference between Jones and others coaches being hired at Alabama is that the others bring a distinct trait that can help the Tide — as opposed to Jones in that Saban has to help him learn the scheme to be a part of a winning program. Should the loose ends be tied up and Jones is welcomed aboard, he does bring a pretty strong resume as a marquee recruiter.  

Tennessee did have a pair of top-10 signing classes in 2014 and 2015, especially the 2015 group that was ranked fourth nationally and second in the Southeastern Conference. Regardless of how weird it is (and it’s weird) to see him at Alabama, let’s keep in mind that Saban has a policy that ensures hard work, attention to details and not much conversation with media for his assistants. 

This formula proved successful for those that trusted the six-time national championship head coach, but now it is time for Jones to buckle down and get with “The Process.” 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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