Tennessee is my favorite college football team. Thus, I feel as if I must post something that relates to Derek Dooley’s failure as head coach of my favorite team.
What the numbers say about Derek Dooley.
They say pretty much what we’ve already known about the guy for a while. His 4-18 SEC mark is the worst in the history of Tennessee football. That mark equates to an 18.2% winning percentage. His overall winning percentage, even when one takes into account his historically weak non-conference schedules, is still the worst for a coach since S.D. Crawford’s single year in 1904, and the worst for a coach who has coached multiple years at Tennessee since J.D. DePree’s 4-11-3 mark during his tenure from the years of 1905-1906.
Defensively, the 2012 team is absolutely, and historically abysmal. A stat that I have come up with called defensive rating bears this out. Defensive rating is simple; you take a team’s yards per play average and compare that to the conference’s average. 100 is the league average, the lower the number is better.
For example, if Team A has allowed an average of 5.5 yards per play, and the conference average is 5.5 yards per play, then they would have a defensive rating of 100.
(Note; there is a basketball stat that is called “defensive rating” that has a very similar look to this one)
Here are the defensive rating stats for this year. Remember, lower is a better defensive rating.
1 – Alabama – 76
2 – Florida – 78
3 – LSU – 82
4 – South Carolina – 85
5 – Georgia – 94
6 – Vanderbilt – 100
7 – Texas A&M – 101
8 – Missouri – 104
9 – Mississippi State – 105
10 – Mississippi – 106
11 – Kentucky – 108
12 – Arkansas – 113
13 – Auburn – 120
14 – Tennessee – 131
Dead last in the league, but most of you already know this. (note: this only takes into account games versus conference opponents) So, what exactly is the reason for this very bad defense? Most people will name Sal Sunseri and his much panned 3-4 defensive scheme, and I think that’s very much to blame. However, lest we not forget, the defense last year was ranked 9th in the 12 team league, and there was much talk about how badly Justin Wilcox’s defenses were on here last year at this time.
However, the view could also be argued that Dooley has quite simply failed to progress many of his defensive prospects, with some notable exceptions. This team, contrary to popular belief, is not filled with 1* and 2* guys who can’t play. Rather, they are 3* and 4* with impressive offer sheets who quite simply have not succeeded in this defensive scheme. It is quite confounding, because this unit should not be at the bottom or hovering around it in every major statistical category.
Now, if there is one thing that Dooley’s teams have been able to do, at least this year, it has been to sling it around and to have an explosive offense. To Jay Graham and to Sam Pittman, there is much credit to be due. The line and the running game has gone from having a dismal 2.76 YPC average last year (dead last in the league), to a very healthy 4.63 YPC average, which is good enough for 4th in the 14 team league. The offense, which had lagged behind the league average for two years, with offensive ratings (same as defensive ratings, except a higher number is better with OR) below 100, has jumped up to 109 this year, and the passing offense is 1st in an SEC that includes Texas A&M and Kevin Sumlin’s powerful offense. That is one of the few areas I do give Dooley a fair amount of credit.
Can Dooley recruit? And can Tennessee recruit at an elite level?
Yes and no. Yes, his recruiting classes have been fair, but all of them have been below the long term (2002-2012) average in terms of star rating.
This table shows who has the highest average star rating of schools’ recruits from the years 2002 to 2012 (I did not factor in 2013 in this, due to the fact that 2013’s class is still yet to be determined).
1 – Florida – 3.68
2 – LSU – 3.59
3 – Georgia – 3.57
4 – Alabama – 3.44
5 – Tennessee – 3.43
6 – Auburn – 3.27
7 – South Carolina – 3.14
8 – Texas A&M – 3.13
9t – Mississippi – 2.97
9t – Arkansas – 2.97
11 – Missouri – 2.92
12 – Mississippi State – 2.80
13 – Kentucky – 2.53
14 – Vanderbilt – 2.24
Now, there was another poster here who posted a thread very similar to this section of my post (I cannot figure out whether he took a long term average or not). Anyways, his theory that talent is the number one thing is certainly based in fact (surprise, surprise). After I gathered these numbers, I gathered the record of all SEC schools that were in the league from 2002-2011. Here are the records for that time period.
1 – LSU – 59-21 (0.738)
2t – Florida – 55-25 (0.688)
2t – Georgia – 55-25 (0.688)
4 – Auburn – 53-27 (0.663)
5 – Alabama – 51-29 (0.638)
6 – Tennessee – 43-37 (0.538)
7 – Arkansas – 42-38 (0.525)
8 – South Carolina – 38-42 (0.475)
9 – Mississippi – 26-54 (0.325)
10 – Kentucky – 23-57 (0.288)
11 – Mississippi State – 20-60 (0.250)
12 – Vanderbilt – 15-65 (0.188)
I then took the winning percentages and lined them up with the average star ratings to see just how strong of a correlation there was between Rivals star ratings and records.
As it turns out, yes, there is a very, very strong correlation.
(The actual number that I got was 0.9239893852124414, with 1 being a perfect positive correlation, and -1 being a perfect negative correlation)
Now, firstly, I took a look at Derek Dooley’s three classes that he himself has been able to recruit — 2011, 2012, and 2013. (I did not count 2010 as one of his classes, as both he and Lane Kiffin had recruits for that class)
2011 – 3.41
2012 – 3.38
2013 – 3.24
These three classes have been pretty good, but still below the average that Tennessee has been able to accomplish over the long term. Thus, Dooley, if you believe this method of looking at things, is a very, very average recruiter.
Furthermore, I also took a look at the 4 year average (2009-2012), to get a rough idea of what kind of talent level that Tennessee is working with right now.
1t – Alabama – 3.78
1t – Florida – 3.78
3 – LSU – 3.60
4 – Georgia – 3.58
5 – Auburn – 3.49
6 – Tennessee – 3.46
7 – South Carolina – 3.22
8 – Texas A&M – 3.20
9 – Mississippi – 3.15
10 – Arkansas – 3.08
11 – Missouri – 3.07
12 – Mississippi State – 3.04
13 – Vanderbilt – 2.84
14 – Kentucky – 2.83
Now, you could easily argue that one of those classes essentially left (and that is certainly a plausible point). However, even taking that into account, Tennessee should not have a winless record in conference play in mid-November (and the same would probably go for Auburn as well).
Has Dooley ever done a good job as a head coach?
Yes, but not here. All three of his teams here have statistically performed below expectations.
So how exactly does one define expectations in a strictly statistical term? Well, for those of you who are familiar with Sabermetrics, you might have heard of a stat called Pythagorean win expectation, which takes the amount of runs a team has scored and given up, and uses that to compute an expected record to see whether a team over or underperformed that year.
The same can be done in football. I took all the teams that Derek Dooley has coached, both at Tennessee and at LaTech, and computed their Pythagorean win expectation. I also use a stat called Team Performance Index (TPI) which takes the winning percentage and divides it by the Pythagorean winning percentage. 1 is average, higher means that the team performed above expectations, lower means that the team performed below expectations.
2012 – Tennessee – 4-6 (0.400)
– Pythag Expectation – 5.14-4.86 (0.514)
– Team Performance Index – 0.78
2011 – Tennessee – 5-7 (0.417)
– Pythag Expectation – 5.26-6.74 (0.438)
– Team Performance Index – 0.95
2010 – Tennessee – 6-7 (0.462)
– Pythag Expectation – 7.07-5.93 (0.543)
– Team Performance Index – 0.85
2009 – Lousiana Tech – 4-8 (0.333)
– Pythag Expectation – 6.88-5.12 (0.573)
– Team Performance Index – 0.58
2008 – Louisiana Tech – 8-5 (0.615)
– Pythag Expectation – 6.79-6.21 (0.523)
– Team Performance Index – 1.18
2007 – Louisiana Tech – 5-7 (0.417)
– Pythag Expectation – 3.41-8.59 (0.284)
– Team Performance Index – 1.47
Lifetime TPI – 0.97
Tennessee TPI – 0.86
Louisiana Tech TPI – 1.08
According to this, Dooley’s job at Tennessee has been abysmal. His best job came with his first team in 2007, and coaching a team that should have won 3-4 games to win 5 games. He coached his 2008 squad to 8 wins, when they really should have won about 7. Aside from that, it really doesn’t get much better. The team this year is underperforming by about a win, the 2011 team performed to about average, and had he remembered how to count in Baton Rouge, he could have performed to expectation in his first year.
Is it worth it to fire Dooley right now?
Yes. A UT football game is estimated to be worth a few million dollars, and if Dooley has not been announced to be fired or resign, the Kentucky game could see as low as around a 50,000 person attendance. Using the listed ticket price of $50, that means that Tennessee will have lost $2,500,000+ in revenue from that game. No bowl game that Tennessee would get an invite to would have a purse or a payout that could satisfy that. Thus, it would be most expedient to get this whole circus over with and announce that he is no longer coming back.
This assumes though, that Dave Hart has made a final decision, of which we do not know.
Where does Tennessee stand in the new look SEC, and will Tennessee be competitive again?
Tennessee can still recruit at a level high enough to compete and win in the SEC. The stats bear that out over the long term. The right coach and the right management however, has to be there, and so far, it hasn’t been. That will change.
This era in Tennessee football has been especially bad. I mean really, really bad. Tennessee has not had an era like this in at least 30-35 years, and probably will not have one this bad for a long, long time to come.
The prospects for the future look bright, as long as the vision for what Tennessee football can be is brought to light and is implemented by whoever the new coach is.
Hopefully you have made it through this page of text and numbers without sleeping. Heck, I’m tired, and I wrote all of this stuff.