Jeff Lockridge had a very interesting article in yesterday's Tennessean that I think sheds light on the pressure CBJ is currently under to make changes to the Vanderbilt coaching staff in the offseason. Vice Chancellor and Athletic-Director-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named David Williams said he's standing firmly behind Coach Johnson and, moreover, will not force him to make any changes to the coaching staff (not yet anyway).
But there is much more going on in the subtext of this article than the title would lead one to believe. For starters, Lockridge not-so-subtly points out that offensive woes were the prominent theme in the Dores' 2-10 (0-8) follow-up to their successful 2008 season, and he notes that four members of the offensive staff are guys CBJ brought with him from Furman in 2002: offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Ted Cain, quarterbacks coach Jimmy Kiser, wide receivers coach Charlie Fisher, and offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell. The implication is clear: eight seasons of consistently disappointing offensive output, particularly in years without Jay Cutler under center, is a long time to go without doing anything to shake it up -- especially given the asymmetry in terms of success on the defensive side of the ball.
Even more interesting to me is this quote from CBJ: "We're going to look at what the cause is for our season. But I'm not changing coaches because I hear a few fans talking. I'm not afraid to make changes. I've made them before." Not afraid? Who said anything about being afraid?
My stab at what's going on here: David Williams had the chat with Bobby and basically said the administration supports him 100% -- BUT, if CBJ were to decide that it's time to drop Ted Cain or Jimmy Kiser, I don't think the powers that be are going to stand in the way one bit. They may have even cleared a path for the coach to do it. In his comments, Vice Chancellor Williams hinted at just that: "Bobby is our head coach and he'll be our head coach," Williams said. "Bobby basically will go and do his evaluation of his team and coaching staff. I wouldn't ever think about going in and saying you've got to do this and you've got to do that. We're still very, very happy with Bobby."
With Bobby. Not with Ted, not with Jimmy, not with "the entire staff." With Bobby. I don't pretend to know the intricate details of these private conversations, but I've got a pretty good hunch that CBJ has been given a green light to fire members of his staff if that's what his "evaluation" deems appropriate. We know this man is loyal, and we've called him loyal to a fault. Will he have the stomach to shed a coach he's worked with for many years? Is his defensiveness a sign that he's going to stick by these guys 'til DW & Co. actually force his hand? Only time will tell.
While Lockridge concludes from all this that we shouldn't expect many -- if any -- changes to the football staff in the offseason, my takeaway is a bit different. Bobby Johnson appears to be feeling the heat from the fans (who generally like him but hate the offense they've been watching), whether or not he's getting it from the Vanderbilt administration. My own two cents: under the circumstances, I sure hope that's the case.