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Vanderbilt 2020 Football Mail Bag #11: Answers to Your Questions

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Letters... we get letters... we get sacks and sacks of letters...

Holiday Season Begins Across New York City Area Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images

(Takes breath.)

Okay. A LOT has happened in the world of Vanderbilt athletics since I put out the call for submissions for this mail bag this Sunday. Derek Mason was fired, enough feetball players wanted to opt out so as to put the season in jeopardy, every single person who has ever touched a basketball all got Covid (*citation needed), and Joe Fisher resigned for... reasons. We’re in coaching search mode now, as is reflected by our profiles on Nadia Harvin, Jamey Chadwell (squee), Clark Lea, and Will Healy.

Oh, and here was the best of the opt out jokes on the Twatters:

All caught up? Good. As such, our answers will reflect our current reality, and may not deal with the question exactly as it was intended. We assume the person who asked it is in the present, as well, and would want that. If not, uhh... sorry?

Oh, and if you’re wondering why we didn’t get a mail bag up last week, ask Louis DeJoy.

Here goes nothing...


Question from Dore31:

Why hasn’t Mason been fired yet? Not necessarily for the mailbag, just a question I ask myself every day...

Answers from AoG:

Andrew VU ‘04: He has! You can now devote the ample time to spend asking yourself this question daily to other worthy pursuits, like scrimshaw, jug band music, or, as I will be doing, reading this new translation of Beowulf.

(*Note: This was asked literally minutes before we got the news that Mason had been relieved of his duties Saturday night. I could have left this question out of the mail bag, but chose to honor my “Will be answered in the mail bag” comment, as we at Anchor of Gold are nothing if not honorable. Ironically, in doing so, I have dishonored my “*Correction: will not be answered in the mail bag” comment, as we are all made of multitudes.)


Question from JAinTX:

Who will the new head coach be?

Early rumors

1) Will Healy (Ties to VU, Uncle was VU legend, Franklin type hire)

2) Jamey Chadwell

3) Clark Lea (Could be our Pat Fitzgerald)

4) Jeff Fisher (who is apparently campaigning for the gig. Herm Edwards blueprint?)

Offensive or Defensive Coach?

...and a similar question from Dave:

It is heartbreaking to see how far the football program has fallen in the 7 years since James Franklin demonstrated that VU football can be relevant and competitive. Surely VU will have to find a new coach, either at the end of 2020 or shortly thereafter. Given that James Franklin’s record is well known, do you think it is still possible for VU to attract a successful coach who is either currently out of a job (Will Muschamp – South Carolina) or one that is likely to be shortly out of a job (Tom Herman – Texas, Kevin Sumlin - Arizona or Jim Harbaugh – Michigan) or one that is coaching and might want to rejoin a Power 5 conference (Hugh Freeze – Liberty)?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: If I had to guess, I would predict Chadwell as most likely followed by Healy. I think Lea will get passed on because of how similar his resume is to Mason, though Lea has considerably more time in other P5 programs than Mason had. I know I have said Chadwell is my favorite, but I think I am starting to lean towards Lea IF he wants to keep Todd Fitch or has a similar option in mind. I have concerns about Chadwell’s offense and how he fits it to our best offensive player.

Dave, you have a weird list, sir. I am not sure why you are worried about bringing in someone who has already shown they are not a very good at being a P5 head coach in a more favorable situation. And Vanderbilt will never touch someone with the past of Hugh Freeze.

Stanimal: I think it’s going to be Healy, though I don’t have any particular belief as to why that’s a good thing. This coaching search, for as much excitement as it seems to have, is still throwing spaghetti on the wall and seeing if it sticks. The traditionalist in me says go with Lea, who has a P5 competitive resume as a coordinator (though no HC experience, but certainly is connected to Vanderbilt football alumni and can drive that base forward). As for Chadwell, I like their offense and obviously they are getting a UCF style glorification this year, but who have they played? (Note I reserve my right to change my opinion after they play BYU).

If you know anything about Vanderbilt, then you know why Hugh Freeze isn’t going to be touched with a ten foot pole. The only other person on your list remotely worth kicking around is Harbaugh, and truth be told, he ain’t coming down here.

Tom Stephenson: I don’t really have any idea who will actually be hired. Of the four that have been mentioned, it should be Jamey Chadwell, who I think is both less of a risk than Healy and has higher potential than Lea. Off that list I’m starting to think the most likely hire is Healy simply because he’s the only one who has no reason to turn down the job (excepting Jeff Fisher, but I don’t think Vanderbilt is going to go down that road.)

Now, I also wouldn’t rule out somebody off the initial list and if it is, it’s probably going to be some offensive coordinator somewhere.

Andrew VU ‘04: Nadia Harvin.


Question from Vault Boy:

If suffering leads to enlightenment, does that mean that there’s a long line of Vandy fans that are on their way to achieving nirvana?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: There are a lot of jokes I would like to make but would feel bad for making them considering current events. I’ll just say that I’m straight up not having a good time.

Stanimal: It’s all just endless suffering. Prepare accordingly.

Tom Stephenson: Nirvana is also known as “baseball season.”

Andrew VU ‘04: Gunga la gunga. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.


Question from Tinioril:

Should Sarah Fuller stay the kicker for PATs and Field Goals?

We’re 3 for 7 on the year. If we don’t want to keep squibbing it it makes sense to put our regular guy back on kickoffs, but FGs have been so terrible that it might be worth just having her try to score points instead.

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: The problem is that the “regular guy” is still out for this week. Regardless of whether Guay is back, or even better, I would like to see Fuller get a shot at an extra point IF the coaches can feel confident in her. I think they can from what little footage we have seen, but I have questions about her timing.

Otherwise, it should all be merit based. If Guay is back and hasn’t completely forgotten how to kick again (see: going 13-22 in 2018), he should certainly be doing kickoffs and likely PATs and FGs. I can’t wait for warmups to be appointment watching again.

Stanimal: Best kicker who has passed the clearinghouse and followed COVID protocol plays. Nothing else to see here.

Tom Stephenson: No, it still hasn’t been adequately explained why they can’t just have starting punter Harrison Smith handle placekicking duties or, hell, just go for two on the off chance that we score a touchdown.

Andrew VU ‘04: If she’s the best we’ve got, she should keep the jerb. If future doctor Riley “Pride” Guay is a better option, he should win the jerb, with Fuller as his back-up. All other opinions are... bad?


Question from ComradDore:

With so many professional women athletes wishing Sarah well / possibly tuning in to the game yesterday, what was their most likely feeling following the game:

A) It must suck to be a Vanderbilt football fan.

B) Jesus – people think women’s sports are difficult to watch?

C) How can anyone watch this sober?

D) What is a het, and why is mine now soaked?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: All. Of. The. Above.

Stanimal: Every single one of those thoughts crossed their minds, but especially the het, because they learned something new about themselves.

Tom Stephenson: Their most likely feeling was “I ignored this entire game except for the kickoff to open the second half.”

Andrew VU ‘04: Yes. All of the above.


Question from Shoogymgshoogs:

Where will Derek coach next year?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: I think he stays off the sidelines for a year. He may or may not end up on TV. For the 2022 season, I think Mason probably ends up as a position coach in the NFL or as a DC at a lower-tier P5 school. Maybe Wake Forest?

Stanimal: I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see Mason end up back on David Shaw’s staff at Stanford. Maybe not next year, but perhaps the year after that.

Tom Stephenson: My best guess is that he will be a defensive coordinator somewhere, either at another SEC school or in the NFL. Every fan base I talk to says they would hire him as their DC tomorrow.

Andrew VU ‘04: Nowhere. He’ll join Les Miles on ESPN and/or SEC Network and continue to be the bane of our existence with his nonsensical word salad. In a year or two, after the Baton Rouge-icans have gotten tired of DACOACHO, Orgeron will join the triumvirate on set, and usher in a new apocalypse of unintelligible communicative idiocy. Words will cease to have meaning and all communication will be done exclusively via guttural phonemes.


Question from VandyFrog:

Sure we were on the road do 0-10 but does that change now that he’s gone?

Since you answered “Probably not,” why fire him now and not wait until the end of the season? Everyone outside Kirkland thinks the reason they retained him was that buyout. Is there reason to believe that amount wouldn’t have been lower after the year is out?

While I am on the bandwagon of thinking it was past time for HCDM to go, it just seems odd that now we care about “appearances” and “bad losses” 8 games into this slog.

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: Recruiting. The NCAA did not adjust the early signing period dates, so that important window opens 3 days after the reported date for Vanderbilt’s last game vs THEM. Hopefully, a new coach will be in place before then to both shore up the current class and maybe add to it.

Stanimal: Getting the jump on the coaching search is advantageous this year because I don’t think there will be a crazy number of P5 jobs that open, even though that’s a possibility. At the very least there seems to be a lot of wait and see. As much as the buyout was not ideal for Mason, I have a hard time seeing that it’s not worse for some of these other coaches, and COVID has obviously affected all the universities financially. You’ll have some firings, but you might be able to snag your guy or a little better than that earlier with a head start. I think DotP is right too, and I think it’s interesting that ADCSL was calling recruits. As to whether this is for the fans, well, I still demand to see the goods.

Tom Stephenson: Well, it looked like he had lost the team while I was watching the Missouri game and when that’s the case, there’s really no particular reason to let him finish the season. But also, the recruiting calendar. One thing you didn’t want to happen was for the Tennessee game to get rescheduled for December 19, fire him after, and then go through the awkward question of whether the entire signing class should be released from their Letters of Intent because of the coaching change.

Andrew VU ‘04: The path to 0-10 definitely does not change now. Still, the reason to fire Derp Mason this week was to stem fan apathy/fatalism. Will we be apathetic about the product we see on the field for the next two games? Of course. Still, my fatalism levels ticked down a nudge when CSL did the reasonable thing and left him on the tarmac in Missourah (spits). It’s for our feels. Plus, we get to spend the rest of the Christmas season with fanciful thoughts of new coaches dancing in our hets, instead of knowing Coach Krampus would stuff us in his bag and the only thing we could hope for was the sweet release that death brings.


Question from Denverdore:

Throughout the whole year, it seems we think we can go after an up-and-coming coach like Chadwell, Healy, Lea, etc. Not to be a downer, but why would any of these candidates choose Vandy when they could go to more invested football schools that already have or are bound to have coaching vacancies this offseason?

Yes, Mason, probably needed to go, but how is any new coach supposed to have long-term success at Vandy with a continued lack of financial investment in football?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: James Franklin was talked about after going 6-7 at Vanderbilt in year one. Derek Mason apparently had some interest after his first bowl appearance, so 13-24 (5-19) was good enough to get looks from other P5 school. There’s your answer.

Stanimal: Money talks. Vandy pays an SEC salary and to this point has accepted below average results. There’s not many jobs that allow you to do that anywhere in the world. So job security is obviously a huge plus. In addition, if you hit it out, you’re no longer looking at mid-tier P5, you’re looking at top tier (because if you can win at Vandy.....!) Whether that’s a reasonable thing for the top tier to take into consideration is a completely different matter, but they do.

I am quietly optimistic that Chancellor Diermeier gets it, so I think we MAY be seeing some changes for the better in terms of a financial committment. I don’t know to what extent those changes will be though. Still, if you want any kind of “long-term” success, they will have to accept that’s what needs to happen.

Tom Stephenson: All right, I’m gonna go on a bit of a rant here.

The problem that a lot of fans have when they think about this is that they only think about it in terms of where the coach can win the most and that’s only part of the equation, and it really only matters if you’re talking about a ready-made national title contender like Alabama or Ohio State. If you’re talking about a mid- to low-level Power 5 job, that’s only sort of a consideration. And there are definitely other factors that make a job attractive, like the pay, the locale you have to live in, etc.

So look at it this way: would you rather be the head coach at Vanderbilt or, let’s say just to take an example, Missouri? You have a marginally better chance at winning at Missouri, but you also have to live in Columbia instead of Nashville and the pay isn’t really any better. Oh, yeah, and they fired the last guy (an alum!) after going 6-6, whereas Vanderbilt just gave Derek Mason seven years in spite of never having a season better than 6-7, and they didn’t even fire him until he was about to go winless for an entire season. When you consider all of that, which job would you rather take? Oh yeah, and I don’t buy that the job is a “career-ender” because who has that been true of before? You might have to go all the way back to George MacIntyre to find a coach whose career was arguably wrecked because he took the Vanderbilt job, and even that’s debatable. We know now that Watson Brown was a good OC or FCS/Group of 5 coach who Peter Principled his way into the Vanderbilt job, and the same is probably true of Derek Mason. Bobby Johnson retired here, Gerry DiNardo and James Franklin both moved on to bigger jobs, and Woody Widenhofer’s head coaching career was already dead before he took the Vanderbilt job. Seriously, what’s your example?

Andrew VU ‘04: Every single one of them would be jumping up and down if we offered. For Chadwell, it’s a 10X pay raise, plus he can be a Franklin-style media darling immediately across the entirety of the ESPN platform, thus raising his profile to get the USCW jerb or some such blue blood opportunity in three years. For Lea, it’s a Pat Fitzgerald dream scenario. For Healy, see Chadwell, but with less personality (and potentially more dude-bro douchebaggery). I am unsure whether or not “etc” would accept, but I’m going to assume you meant “Nadia Harvin,” and sadly no, she’s a Temple lifer.


Question from Your Uncle Mike:

Why not say screw it and hire Greg Schiano as Head Football Coach?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: Image. The Penn State stuff, while I never viewed it as credible, would not be a good look with the 2013 Rape Case and then this summer’s problematic reports.

Stanimal: I’m honestly not opposed, but I think Andrew may have a point. The move would essentially be a lateral one for him, and he already has clout at Rutgers, whereas he’d have to jostle with the athletic department here. Not sure he wants to take on that headache.

Tom Stephenson: What if, and hear me out, we hired Butch Jones and he went 5-0 against THEM before taking the Florida job?

Andrew VU ‘04: I would sprint to Jersey to get this done if I thought there was even a chance he would accept. Not only for the wink, nod, and thumb in the eye to the Chuggers’ conspiracy theory-laden fanbase which kept him from taking the job to the East, but also because Schiano is a legitimately good college football Head Coach and recruiter. Not likely to happen, though. I bet he stays at RU long enough for them to build him a statue. He has been ripped from the Plato’s Cave of New Brunswick, and you can forgive him for never wanting to see the outside world again.


Question from RocketCityVandy:

Odds that Saban has a new Defensive Teams Intern next year?

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: 10%. Mason is supposedly much more well thought of as a position coach or coordinator than most of them who end up in those roles.

Stanimal: 0%. Butch Jones will forever remain his b*tch.

Tom Stephenson: The only reason Mason would do this is if he wants to stick it to Vanderbilt, but we all know that he can get his pick of open DC jobs and would take him to court over this charade.

Andrew VU ‘04: 50%. See above re: Les Miles, Derp Mason, and DACOACHO’s feetball analysis TV dystopian hell-scape.


Question from RocketCityVandy:

Advice on writing up a loan application to help finance our collective alcohol bills? Because nothing’s gonna change, and I’d like to drink myself into a coma until Baseball starts back up.

Answers from AoG:

DoreonthePlains: I normally just turn my invoice in to Tom and list it is a “writing aid.”

Stanimal: Recommend returning to the Natty on beer, or perhaps the Beam on bourbon. Additionally, I always loved George Dickel. They are oldies, but goodies, and will help keep you going through these tough times.

Tom Stephenson: Just switch to the cheap stuff, you’ll thank me later. Save the good stuff for celebrating the next College World Series win.

Andrew VU ‘04: You’re a Vanderbilt grad. It would be crass to talk petty matters of finances. The Hired Auburn Man deals with our filthy lucre. Have him sell off one of your yachts. The small one. “The Ro Coleman.” Not “The Ted Skuchas.”