Peyton Manning knows what it takes for the Tennessee Volunteers to be a great college football team. Now, with the Vols set to kick off another search for their head coach, their legendary quarterback could play a deciding role in picking the right hire.
Tennessee is set to fire head coach Jeremy Pruitt with cause, amid an ongoing investigation into multiple recruiting violations by the program. In addition, per Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, athletic director Phillip Fulmer will be stepping down from his role to allow a full change in the program’s operations.
With Fulmer and Pruitt headed out the door, the program’s most beloved alum will reportedly help determine who takes over as head coach.
Tennessee Volunteers coaching search: Peyton Manning will help find next head coach
According to The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman, Manning will have a big role in Tennessee’s search process. Not only will he help sort through potential candidates, but the Vols legend is expected to have great influence over who takes over as the program’s head coach in 2021.
Coaching searches have almost become a hobby in Tennessee. Ever since Fulmer stepped down as head coach following a 5-7 season in 2008, the program has struggled to find relevance in the SEC.
The Volunteers showed signs of life in 2009, posting a 7-6 record under Lane Kiffin. However, he bolted for the USC Trojans after one season and Derek Dooley was hired to take over. Three years later, with a combined 16 wins over that span, Dooley was fired and another coaching search eventually settled on Butch Jones.
That didn’t work out well, either. While Jones seemed to have the program on the right track with consecutive nine-win seasons and two bowl victories (2015-’16), he was fired in November 2017 after a 50-17 loss to Missouri dropped the Vols to a 4-6 record.
Fulmer, who took over as athletic director in 2017, hired Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The partnership lasted just three seasons, ending with a 3-7 record in 2020 and an NCAA recruiting scandal.
Given the Volunteers have posted a 78-82 since 2008, allowing Manning to pick the next head coach might seem like the wise decision. Across four seasons (1994-’97), he posted an 89-33 TD-INT ratio with 11,201 passing yards, 147.1 quarterback rating. During that time, the Vols were one of the best teams in college football and Manning was the biggest reason for that success.
However, it might be wise for Tennessee to take Manning’s advice with some caution. He recommended Adam Gase to the New York Jets. Needless to say, that decision backfired in epic fashion and the Jets are still picking up the pieces because of it.
There’s already one name in this coaching search to monitor, per Bruce Feldman. Just days after he agreed to become the offensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is reportedly being targeted by several influential figures in Tennessee.