Rutgers acted quickly on Sunday as Athletic Director Pat Hobbs made the final decision to fire HC Chris Ash and OC John McNulty after the team’s 52-0 loss to Michigan last Saturday.
Now, the question is, who will be the new coach roaming the sidelines in 2020?
Names like Greg Schiano, interim head coach Nunzio Campanile, Lance Leipold, and Jeff Monken have been thrown out there as potential candidates. One name that others have mentioned, who has plenty of head coaching experience, is Butch Jones.
Jones, the former Tennessee head coach, currently serves as an offensive analyst at Alabama under Nick Saban.
What would Rutgers get in Jones? Well, they’d get a coach who knows what it takes to win a conference championship and has five seasons of SEC experience with the Volunteers. It also interesting to note that Jones’ name was immediately linked with Rutgers after Ash was fired this past weekend.
Let’s take a look at the resume of Jones as a head coach:
Central Michigan (2007-09)
Conference Titles: 2
Bowl Record: 0-2* (Did not coach in GMAC bowl as he was hired to take over Cincinnati)
Highest Ranking at end of season: No. 23 in AP Poll in 2009
Conference Titles: 2
Bowl Record: 1-0* (Did not coach in Belk bowl as he was hired to take over Tennessee)
Highest Ranking at end of season: No. 25 in AP Poll in 2011
Conference Titles: 0
Bowl Record: 3-0
Highest Ranking at end of season: No. 22 in AP Poll in 2015 and 2016
*Note, Jones was fired in 2017 after a 4-6 record including 0-6 in SEC play
Upon first glance, this does not seem that bad for Jones, particularly at Tennessee. He was over .500 in each of his stops but it does not mask the bad ending with the Volunteers in his final season.
Let’s be realistic at what Rutgers needs and should want immediately for the football program: six wins in a season and a bowl berth/win.
If you told fans that in five seasons, Rutgers would be 3-0 (at least) in bowl games, be seven games over .500, and a nice stretch of knocking off ranked conference foes, they’d sign up for that in a heartbeat. There’s no doubt that Jones could bring an immediate impact to the Scarlet Knights with his experience and ability to recruit. It seems the better choice for the program is to bring in a veteran who can build up respectability in Piscataway and make sure Rutgers can hang around in the middle of the Big Ten.
Jones also has the Rutgers connection as he served as a Graduate Assistant from 1990-92 before becoming an offensive coach at multiple stops before taking his first head coaching job at Central Michigan.
He also mentioned on a list of potential candidates by Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports, so there are rumors circulating that he’d be interested in the job considering he would like to become a head coach once again.
If Hobbs is to decide between Schiano and Jones, the decision might favor Schiano due to the outcry for him to return and his familiarity with Rutgers. Jones however, brings the same type of veteran leadership, has had success in each of his stops, and is an offensive minded coach that could retain a guy like Campanile for the New Jersey pipeline in recruiting, his potential as an offensive coordinator, and unlike Ash, would leave the defense in the hands of a coordinator of his choice. Again, having success in the SEC is no fluke, so Jones would focus on the rebuilding the offensive and defensive lines and tailor an offense to quarterback Art Sitkowski in the immediate future while he begins to mesh his system with Campanile’s. Of course, that is speculation that he would retain him rather than find his own offensive coordinator.
Butch Jones and Greg Schiano have emerged as candidates for the Rutgers job. pic.twitter.com/qs9OKbjbrQ— CFB Home (@CFBHome) September 30, 2019
It cannot be understated that Jones is currently working with Saban as an offensive analyst. The prime example of a big name head coach finding second life after Saban has to be Lane Kiffin.
Of course, Kiffin coached Tennessee as well in 2009 after a less than stellar stint in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders, but left after one season. In that one season, Kiffin went 7-6 with a Bowl game loss. The next year, he would take over USC and finished 28-15 as head coach before being fired after five games in 2013. He was 0-1 in bowls as in 2010 and ‘11, USC was still on a postseason ban.
Now you may be thinking, how is this supposed to be a good thing? Well, despite the controversy, Kiffin was 35-21 as head coach of Tennessee and USC before taking the offensive coordinator job with Alabama. Like Jones currently, Kiffin resurrected his chances to be a head coach and in 2017, he took the Florida Atlantic job and went 11-3 overall, 8-0 in the conference, won the Conference USA title and won the Boca Raton Bowl. I know it’s a Group of Five conference, but Kiffin, with lessons under Saban, forged a new way to run a program. Despite a 5-7 season in 2018, he currently sits at 3-2 and is 19-12 at Florida Atlantic.
While Rutgers plays in the Big Ten and is currently working themselves up to top tier Big Ten standards in terms of facilities, resources, money, and everything else off the field, everyone will tell you that Rutgers is several levels below Alabama. As mentioned above, the expectations for Rutgers are simply 6-8 wins a season, bowl games and the occasional upset. Hobbs is reaching for the stars by saying he wants conference championships and he wants to go to the Rose Bowl, but realistically, for the next 4-5 seasons, Rutgers would take the former.
The biggest pro of Jones is the ability to add relevancy and respectability right away to a program that has been desperate for a positive season since 2014, bowl games and maybe a ranking inside the Top 25. However, the con, is the ability to stay consistent. It seems Jones will get a team to a nice peak but then fall off. Again, he jumped to better jobs from Central Michigan to Cincinnati and then Cincinnati to Tennessee, but if he is hired and is successful at Rutgers, he’ll be sure to stay due to the Big Ten, resources, facilities, and the absolute adoration from the fans of a starved college football program.
I think Rutgers fans would be thrilled with a 9-4 or 10-3 season capped off with a bowl victory like this one:
Should Rutgers hire Butch Jones as it’s next Head Coach?
This poll is closed