Remember when Ole Miss was good? I mean other than when they had a future number one pick and two-time Super Bowl winner starting at QB. Legend tells me that Ole Miss used to be good before Jimmy Carter was sworn in. Their best player was a gun slinger QB who put Ole Miss on the map with a legendary shootout on the first national college football primetime broadcast. Know who he is? I am sure you do because he fathered that aforementioned number one pick along with siring another. Archie Manning is now more famous for being the father of Peyton and Eli, but he is also known the best player to every play for the Rebels. He has long been the face of the lost greatness of a program that once loomed large in SEC land. Much like he used his experience to guide his sons to quarterbacking greatness, he will be able to help both of them transition into the role of historical figure for a program that has lost its way. This was preordained for Eli, who was the consolation prize for Ole Miss after Peyton went to Tennessee. Everyone knew that they were going to suck after Eli left and Ole Miss isn’t going to get recruits because it is a destination school. At best they get lucky every few years (kill that motherf**ker, Patrick Willis) but they knew what they were.
What wasn’t to be expected was Peyton’s transition to figurehead for a lost era of greatness. Tennessee seems to be heading down a road that it may not ever recover from. Alabama had its duldrums in the early to mid 2000’s (thanks to UT’s FAT PHIL) but they are also in a much better recruiting state and have a much more rabid fan base to fall back on. Tennessee never recruits heavily in Tennessee because the talent is not as strong there. SI did a survey of the best programs and how far away their recruits came from and how that compared to program success. UT had one of the highest mileage averages for players among the traditional powers on the list not to mention how they compared with other SEC teams which, as a league, tended to have one of the lowest. Maybe because their state borders seven others and has a weird geographical layout, but they just don’t have a lot of in-house talent.
What this means for Tennessee is they need the prestige and money (to pay for recruiting trips etc 😉 to get the talent to come to Knoxville, which isn’t a great college town anyway. Well when you go through three coaches in three years and you come out with Derek Dooley as your head coach full of a roster of Kiffin cry babies, you have a recipe for failure which is what UT is experiencing now. I would feel bad for Dooley if he didn’t coach UT. Instead I am loving seeing this program fall apart at the seems while giving the breathing room to South Carolina to make their move to the elite teams of the SEC East.
Now you are saying ,’well they will be back’. Bullshit. If you are saying that you sound like a ND fan who has been singing that same tune since the Mid-90’s except no one really gives a shit about UT. I mean running through the T and the Vol Navy could go away and somebody might write an ESPN article about it, but no one except those few that actually like that pumpkin puke orange would really miss it. With the upcoming expansion of the SEC, UT is not in a good place to have more competition. Missouri might not be a powerhouse, but they will win games and currently have a more stable program. Hell, they were in the national championship race as recent as 2007 which is better than UT can say. UGA will eventually replace Richt with Kirby Smart and Muschamp will probably right the ship in Gainsville. It has been a bad couple of years for UT, but it has been self inflicted because the East has been historically weak. If they have been struggling these past couple of years, it won’t be good for them in the next couple.
I expect the cult of Peyton to become even more present in Knoxville in the coming years, because Vol fans won’t have many recent triumphs to grasp onto. Who knows? Maybe Peyton will have to retire and might be in the market for an offensive coordinator job in the near future. He may have to come back in some capacity to revive their mojo which seemed to becoming back with Kiffin, who left town as quickly as he began to regretting giving his son the middle name Knox, but quickly left with his departure. What I expect is that Peyton will be the new Archie and will be the last great player to come from a program who’s glory days are a thing of past. I will miss the competition on the Third Saturday in October, but like they say..”a W is a W”.