Surprise, You Just Got Dooleyed!
There’s a new term that has entered the lexicon of college football thanks to Tennessee football, to be “Dooleyed.” Contrary to popular belief, this catchphrase isn’t used to describe a football coach who loses a game that they were winning when time expired. And unfortunately for Matt Simms, its not a new television show where a Coach plays silly pranks on unsuspecting players, but then steps out from behind a hidden camera to tell them he was just pulling their leg, not pulling them from the game. Nope, to be “Dooleyed” means that you’ve just had the unfortunate experience of having your job taken by a true freshman, for a second time in your college football career. Congratulations Matt Simms, you’ve just been Dooleyed!
Look, let’s get something straight here, I am squarely in the Dooley camp. I want Coach Dooley to succeed more than anything, and if we Vol fans don’t want this program to really (and I mean REALLY really) fall on hard times, then we need Coach Dooley to succeed. And short of football armageddon, I am not suggesting and would not ever suggest that we replace our coach anytime soon. In case anyone is left wondering, I readily admit that Derek Dooley is smarter than me, he’s played and coached way more football than me, has much better hair than me, and let’s face it, he makes a pair of creamsicle dress pants look damn cool.
But I am a life long fan who’s had to endure over thirty years of the ups and downs of all that being a Tennessee fan entails. And I’ve just witnessed us taking a Grade A ass-kicking from 4 teams I don’t like very much (okay, two that I hate with a passion). And to be honest, I’m tired of being a fan of the team that plays hard but in the end has to get up from their latest butt-whipping and dust off their britches. So by golly, I’m gonna climb up on this soap box again and tell you what I think.
I could not believe my eyes when I saw Justin Worley running onto the field Saturday night late in the game. My first thought was that someone should tackle him and drag him back to the side-line because obviously he was on some redshirt-burnin’ suicide mission that was not endorsed by anyone on the Tennessee staff. But when no one ran out to stop him and when Dooley didn’t burn another time out to correct a substitution error, it became clear to me that Justin Worley had been sent into the game, INTENTIONALLY, and his redshirt freshman year was no more. I am still left wondering why.
Someone way more intelligent than me is going to have to explain why Coach Dooley pulled Matt Simms at the end of a blowout that everyone expected to put in a true freshman quarterback who in all likelihood won’t play much next year barring another injury to Tyler Bray. And while you’re at it, please detail the valuable in game experience gained from a few handoffs and a QB sneak at the end of a game. Even if you can begin to explain the positives of a move like that, that late in the game, they pale in comparison to all the negatives that come with it. I want to give him every benefit of every doubt, but I just don’t understand why Coach Dooley did what he did this past Saturday to both Matt Simms and to Justin Worley. I’ve tried, and I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m totally wrong, and I hope more than anything I am, but I can’t help but think he pointlessly damaged the psyche of one young man (arguably for a second time), and could have potentially set up another to be damaged down the road.
Even if Dooley were planning on starting Justin Worley against South Carolina (and of course he HAS to now, since he kind of painted himself into that corner), how does pulling Simms when the game was decided (and after all the shots he had taken that night) in favor of playing Worley so that he could take a few meaningless snaps against Bama’s third string do anything to help our current QB situation? Simms is by all accounts a team leader and a stand up guy, so how does embarrassing a young man like that on national television, yet again, by benching him in favor of a true freshman do anything to help the team in the weeks ahead? How did it help Justin Worley and the rest of the team who has to go out and play? Why was this move better than holding a QB competition in earnest this week, away from the prying eyes of the media, and giving Worley the majority of the snaps to see if he can take the job from Simms during game prep? Why not wait, break the news to Simms and the team first, then to the media just before the South Carolina game? I just don’t understand any of it. Don’t tell me its not possible that Worley could have a terrible week of practice and that it could become clear that he’s not ready to take the reins against a good team like South Carolina. Don’t tell me that Matt Simms couldn’t have engineered wins against Kentucky, MTSU and Vanderbilt, and even maybe helped us upset South Carolina or Arkansas (he was the QB at LSU last year, remember). Without playing Worley this past Saturday, Dooley still had the fallback option of going with Simms. Now that he’s used up a valuable redshirt year, he doesn’t.
But what’s done is done, and I hope Justin Worley goes out and plays the game of his life against South Carolina, and puts me and all the second guessing, armchair quarterbacks in our place. I want him to do well. But that doesn’t stop me from doubting the move and worrying for a young kid put in a very tough position. No pressure son, but your coach just upped the ante for you, you’re all in. All you have to do is go out and make sure you earn the respect and confidence of your teammates in a week and then make damn sure you keep it and win at least 3 of your last 5 games. No big deal, since you will just be playing against a great SEC defense, a great SEC offense, and three teams who would like nothing better than to make their season better by beating the hell out of Tennessee.
But seriously, I’m pretty sure I speak for most of the Vol nation when I say we are behind you Justin, and we are behind your coach. And no matter how many times a true Vol gets knocked around and knocked down, we are always gonna get back up and keep fighting for Tennessee. Just like Matt Simms.