Nashville is a proud football town, but times are tough right now. The team many follow but forget is not from here, the Tennessee Volunteers, are 3-3 at midseason. They are exempt from this discussion, though. Two other state schools some follow are having great seasons, Memphis and Chattanooga. And though we would love to share in their success, they too have little to do with this discussion.
No, at the crux of our diatribe are Vanderbilt, the Titans, and TSU. The positive story first. The Tennessee State Tigers are 3-3, but on the upswing. With one of the youngest teams in the country, at any level, Coach Rod Reed is building a solid foundation. Victories in the John Merritt and Southern Heritage Classics, as well as a strong win at Florida A&M, provide hope for the future. Young teams often endure difficult lessons. The homecoming defeat to Eastern Illinois certainly fits in that category. Only playing 10 games is a disadvantage for sure, and only four remain. I expect them to beat Austin Peay and Murray State at Hale. The Tennessee Tech finale in Cookeville is for a winning season.
While we can be very optimistic about the Big Blue, the same cannot be said for the Black and Gold. Apologists go on and on about progress, but the fact of the matter is the ‘drop-off’ should never have been anything like it was from which to have this ‘improvement.’ Derek Mason was unqualified and unprepared to be a head coach in the Southeastern Conference to begin with, especially coming off all the success under James Franklin. It took Mason one half to undo all the progress made by Franklin and Bobby Johnson before him.
Vandy is still looking for its first conference win under Mason, and it could be a long way off. One would like to think the Missouri game this Saturday is winnable, but how can optimism be possible with this outfit? Word is Johnny McCrary may be replaced as the starting quarterback. If true, it is the epitome of a day late and a dollar short. But will Mason have the sense to go to acclaimed freshman Kyle Shurmur? I am not holding my breath. If anything, we might see Wade Freebeck throw some more interceptions.
Mason has gone to calling the defense, the only thing he knows, and the defense has been very good this year—one deserving of a far better fate than they have had. Mason needs to be a defensive coordinator someplace he can win a championship—and leave the head coaching to someone who can lead and motivate better.
Vanderbilt is not alone in needing a change on the sidelines. The circus that is the Tennessee Titans has spiraled far out into oblivion under Ken Whisenhunt. The Titans, 3-18 under his watch, are 1-4 and on a four-game losing streak since all that promise in the opener. Marcus Mariota is regressing and everything points to Whisenhunt, who has not shown the belief in the young signal caller he needs or deserves.
Mariota rarely throws downfield. With the disastrous offensive line, they cannot run the ball consistently. As a result, the offense has become predictable and defenses are having field days. Game management with Whisenhunt turns into something resembling Vaudeville. You constantly scratch your head and laugh to keep from crying.
The state of Nashville football is in a sorry, sorry state at the moment. New energy and sensible viewpoints must be injected, but there is little hope for success left this season, anywhere.