Dooley: Jones’ style a lot like Les Miles

Tennessee coach Butch Jones signals to his players in the game against Georgia Tech on Sept. 4 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

He’s an easy target, a punching bag of sorts no matter how many games he wins, because he’ll let you know about each one of those wins in some bizarre way.

He wears a haircut from the 1950s and talks like a used car salesman. He is Butch Jones and he is the new Les Miles.

Strike that. He is Les Miles without the championships.

A lot of people in this industry cringed when Miles retired because deep down they really liked the guy enough to put up with his long-winded and nonsensical answers to simple questions. Les ate grass, never figured out clock management and was as stubborn as a rusted bolt.

But he was lovable.

That’s one reason he is on TV now. His fans couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say, then were switching over to “Mike and Molly” reruns as soon as he was on his third ramble.

Jones has taken over the role in this SEC of making head-scratching statements, but he’s not quite caught on as being that guy everyone would like to have a beer with.

His problem is simple — he says things that many coaches say but he says them publicly.

He opens himself up to criticism almost as if he welcomes it. But you get the feeling he is still amazed by how many people talk about expressions such as “Five-star hearts” and “Champions of Life” and run with them.

One of his favorite sayings is that every program has many of the things he gets hammered for in the media.

True, every program has a way of making the procurement of turnovers a big deal. They are game-changers. But not every program has those turnovers delivered into a trash can.

It’s almost too easy.

It’s as if he delivers one-liners to the media boys and girls brick by brick.

Ah, thank you very much. I’ll be here all week.

Last season was ultimate Butch-fest. The Vols were picked to win the SEC East because they were supposed to be really good and the rest of the division was supposed to be really bad.

Instead, they were a late-season mess. They finished two games behind Florida and Jones swore after the Gators clinched that “you never heard me talk about” winning the East.

No sense setting unrealistic goals.

This is also a guy who said last season, “We learned the value of being ready vs. the value of being prepared” after a crippling loss to South Carolina.

Go ahead and digest that. I’ll wait.

There is no question that the guy who is leading his Tennessee team into The Swamp on Saturday is an odd duck.

But it’s important to note the difference between being baffling and eccentric.

Between strange and quirky.

Between laughable and lovable.

And that difference — in college football at least — is winning big.

The profession is full of oddball coaches, guys who would be standing alone at a party if they were plumbers, because their personalities are dominated by 20/20 tunnel vision.

But the guys who win big are respected. The guys who win just enough are scrutinized. The guys who don’t win at all are selling Amway.

Jones is one of those guys who wins. He just hasn’t won enough to make anyone in the Big Orange Nation totally comfortable. There are no division titles in his Tennessee resume and his overall SEC record is four games under .500. He has yet to see what it’s like to coach in a major bowl game.

He likes to point out that only three SEC programs have won nine games each of the last two years. The rest of the country likes to point to that as an indication of the SEC’s sudden mediocrity.

Tennessee was a mess when he took it over. It’s less of a mess now. And for that, Lyle “Butch” Jones is to be applauded. On Saturday, he has a chance to end a Gainesville losing streak that stretches back to the Ron Zook Era of Florida football.

If he does that, we’ll all have to admit that he is trending in the right direction.

No matter what he says.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at



  1. Just an awfully written article. Dude, not a huge fan of yours but respect your opinion enough being you are so close to the program. That being said, this was just a rambling article that, if absolutely must be published, could have been summarized in two paragraphs. Stick to your ego and the Gators. Has worked well for you so far.

  2. I try not to be Debbie downer but why would we expect anything different from this offense from 2 weeks ago? I think we are about to get whipped by Tenn at home and have zero confidence in this staff. That Michigan game looked like we were making up plays in the huddle. Get ready for the we got to get better speech, Irma blame game and suspended players had a choice to make.. So sick of this coach. He won two east titles through smoke and mirrors and we all know that because we all actually watched all the games. It will go like all of our other games vs a quality opponent… Defense will be great for 2.5 quarters and be exhausted from being on the field all game because of our 3 and out offense and we’ll he blown out late. He’ll probably fire Nuss after this week as if that will change fact that he is not the man for this job. I love the gators but I may have to turn this one off if it starts going like I’m pretty sure we know it’s going to go.

  3. As a Tennessee fan, I would trade Les Miles for Butch Jones in a heartbeat. Sadly, I have no confidence that Tennessee will beat Florida on Saturday. Our defense is so bad that even your offense, which I know that many Gator fans are upset about, will look good. I know that deep down, Butch Jones is a good guy who means well and carries himself with integrity and he has definitely brought UT from the depths of despair to being respectable. But our offense is gimmicky and we have way too many players who were either 4 or 5 star recruits that have not panned out or developed like it seems they should have at this stage. Right now, I would not be surprised if Tennessee loses every SEC game on the schedule. After our first 2 games, there’s not one SEC team that is on our schedule that I feel confident we will beat. If I had to bet, I would say we will win 2 SEC games at the most. God’s blessings to the state of Florida as you recover from the hurricane.

    • As a Tennessee fan, it sounds like you should turn in your fan card, orange loving T-shirts, the 3rd week in October framed picture hanging in your man-cave,( which sounds like you should turn that back to your wife since she has the cahones in the family and let her make a she shack out of it) take the T sticker off your back window of your car or minivan, take the orange collar off of your dog, burn the orange T flag you never fly anymore, lose the telephone number for UT athletic dept, since you won’t be going to anymore UT games, cancel you SEC Network from you cable subscription since you won’t be watching the big orange anymore, and finally, stop wearing the orange or gray cap with the power T on it. And since you can’t decide how many SEC games UT is going to win or lose, lose your bookies number on speed dial. If I had to bet, I would say you’re a closet Vandy fan since your wife went there and makes more money than you. God bless you as you try to reclaim your balls from wherever you lost them.

  4. Since I am a pastor, I need to be as honest and truthful as possible, so here goes…
    My cahones have never been much to brag about, so I’m content with what I have.
    My wife didn’t go to Vandy, but rather a nursing school in upstate New York.
    She does make more than me, which is wonderful.
    I have several Tennessee golf shirts and short sleeve shirts which I wear with a ton of pride
    I grew up in Knoxville and attended UT in the early 80’s, where I got to see UT win some amazing games, beating #2 Alabama my soph. year and ending Bama’s 23 game win streak, then beat them 4 years in a row, and then destroy #1 Auburn and Bo Jackson my senior year in 1985 and then smoke Michael Irvin, Vinny Testaverde, Benny Blades and their awesome Miami team in the 85 Sugar Bowl.

    Sadly, our Vols just don’t inspire me this year. I’m hoping like crazy that Shy Tuttle and Khalil McKensie and Kyle Phillips have a huge game and can control the line of scrimmage, but injuries have hampered them their whole career at UT, so our defense is the shell of what we all hoped it would be. Now, if those 3 guys had stayed fully healthy, along with Darrin Kirkland, this defense would be stout and there would be reason for much optimism. Maybe Tuttle, McKensie and Phillips will begin to get their sea legs back as the season progresses and our defense may round up into a solid unit.
    Until that happens, it’s hard to get excited and optimistic about what we have seen in our first two games. Go VOLS!

    • I think you forgot you’re a fair-weathered type of Vol fan. Thought a pastor would have a LOT more FAITH in their team than you portray. Sounds like you’re the type that loves to talk about HIS VOLS on Sunday after they win, but won’t claim them after a loss. Why not trying to follow some of what you may teach in the Bible …….from Matthew 8: 26……….”Ye of little faith” So, this year you’re “NOT INSPIRED”. Hmmmm, maybe some of your congregation isn’t inspired either. Think about it.