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Week Eleven Football Mail Bag: Answers to your Questions

You ask, we answer.

New York Comic Con Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/Getty Images

Question from WestEndMayhem:

So much I want to ask. [...] Who knew that the limit against discrimination at Vanderbilt ended with our coaching stuff? Who knew that 130th out of 131st for a position group is good enough to keep a coach despite horrid PR?

I suppose, for the sake of brevity, I submit this question as my one for the mail bag: if Mason was retained for too long at 7 years, what should Lea get?

To editorialize, when I compare the generalities, I am not liking what I see:

Defensive minded coordinator in his first HC role flounders, and has questionable coordinators. Check.

Defense struggling despite the coach’s reputation. Check.

Strong QB performance that isn’t enough to push the team over the hump. Check.

Excuses that the predecessor left the cabinets bare or the barn door open or the chickens have flown the coup, he just needs his players. Check.

A conference win in the second season. Not Lea.

A lack of national scandals regarding the support of hate speech and growing proliferation of ignorance. Not Lea.

Being willing to work with the highest rated recruits and avoid having to remove them from the team, understanding young adults in a new setting need time to adapt. Not Lea.

I mean, I’m not saying deja vu, I’m just saying I have the eerie feeling that we have been through this before yet this time it’s actually worse but the vocal footbawl fanatics aren’t clamoring for an immediate firing because the coach is white and they like what his assistant has to say.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I think I can distinguish Lea’s initial round of coordinator hires from Mason’s, on both sides of the ball. On defense, well, Jesse Minter left because he got hired by Michigan, and he’s a good candidate to win the Broyles Award for best assistant coach this season. That was actually a massive win for Lea, and it’s not really his fault that Michigan can pay its defensive coordinator a lot more money. As far as the offense, Raih was a bad hire, but of a different stripe than Karl Dorrell: it was “take a shot on a guy on Kliff Kingsbury’s staff who’s never been a coordinator before” vs. “hire a retread who hasn’t been a coordinator in 15 years.” One is defensible and the other isn’t.

The other difference, though, is that Mason took over a program coming off back-to-back 9-4 seasons and that had been recruiting well. Sure, Franklin raided his last class when he took the Penn State job, but I still count five guys on Mason’s second-year defense who made the NFL. That’s a big difference from the current roster, which might have two guys on that side of the ball who will make the NFL, and they’re both linebackers.

I mean, sure, your last point is probably salient. But the comparison to Mason’s second year just isn’t a good one. I don’t know if this is going to work out — but I’d say if we’re not a bowl team by his fourth year, we should probably move on. (We will not move on.)

Doreontheplains: Based on how things unfolded with Dan Jackson and the apparent finish (Jackson will be gone), I think there were some more departments involved besides athletics. I do think Jackson should have been suspended for the SC game, but it was probably a matter of Lea being too scared to re-shuffle game day duties on less than 36 hours notice. It is a weak answer and ended up not mattering with a loss.

As for comparisons to Mason’s second year, Clark Lea inherited a different roster than Derek Mason as Tom pointed out. He filled in the details, too. The difference is that I have not seen the deer in the headlights look from Lea. Maybe he just hides it better. Still, he should have a bowl team by year 4. I do not know how long the university will give him, but investing 9 figures into the program then giving a coach too long of a leash would be logically inconsistent.

Cole Sullivan: It is very very difficult to win as Vanderbilt, especially coming off the end of the Mason Era. Dan Jackson should be gone far away, and Lea too depending on his knowledge and involvement, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions. I think Lea deserves more time because, like I said, the Vanderbilt coaching job may be one of the most difficult in college football.

Andrew VU ‘04: Though this was nominally a question, your logic to it is also basically my answer. What a freaking shit show this was. It’s indefensible, just like opposing WRs are against a Dan Jackson coached DB unit.

Here’s what I said on Twitter when I first learned of Jackson’s defense of the indefensible:

Here’s what I said when I learned Lee would still have Dan Jackson coach DBs on Saturday against the Game Penises:

(screams all the expletives into a pillow)

...and finally, what I said when The New Bald Coach and VU AD Non-Goldfather Edition tried to apology this under the carpet:

To answer the “if Mason was retained for too long at 7 years, what should Lea get?” part...

Succinctly, Lea should get gone.

Question from Jerry_Palms_Sphincter:

Would people be more sympathetic toward Jackson’s apology* and the “internal handling” of this debacle if Lea weren’t so (trying to think of a non-judgmental word here) fixated on “building a culture” here? The most obvious example of this being his booting of two players from the team after Week 0 with no explanation. Should he maybe stop acting like a hard-nosed perfectionist and carry himself with some humility, at least until we suck less?

*Wanting to offer an edit here and say that I don’t even necessarily think that we *should* be so quick to forgive, given what this disgraceful bullshit evolved into less than a century ago.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The thing is, I’m not sure Lea can fire a coach for cause without running it past about four other people, and that’s just a failure of college athletics where the head coach can boot players from the team basically at will (for disciplinary issues, anyway) but has to run his assistant coaches past HR.

Doreontheplains: I do think it was a bad look from that standpoint. Other players in Lea’s first year were obviously more talented (Amir Abdur-Rahman comes to mind) but were kept sidelined due to “buy-in” and other factors. Maybe that begs the question if anti-Semitism or even just being ignorantly loud, which is the best case scenario for Dan Jackson, are part of the culture Clark Lea is building. It IS a facetious question because surely neither are, but it circles back to the double standard of it.

Cole Sullivan: Dan Jackson should be gone yesterday. Even if it was “just a post” or whatever you want to say, it’s indicative of other beliefs and behaviors that should not be tolerated anywhere. I like to assume that there’s some long, drawn-out process or good reason for him not yet getting the axe, but it’s probably just another episode in the overarching saga of issues like this being more or less hand-waved during Diermeier’s tenure. He may still hang onto his job, and thinking back on decisions Diermeier has made in hiring, campus dining, and

Andrew VU ‘04: I find it tough to speculate on what people will do, given (gestures vaguely at people). I can answer what I would have done, though, as it would have been exactly the same reaction I had in the current timeline.

An apology for agreeing with blatant anti-semitism, and further, saying that a famous virulent anti-semite is “two steps ahead of everybody on this” is not worth the paper it’s printed on/PR team who tweeted it as a pdf image.

People should apologize for mistakes, or after they have truly changed. What would he be apologizing for here? He’s clearly not going to change his mind, so it’s one of those “I’m sorry I got caught/I’m sorry my true thoughts were exposed and I found out people weren’t cool with Nazi style beliefs” non-apologies. Fuck that.

For the TL;DR gif-loving crowd, my response would take the form of:

Question(s) from JesseCuster44 & Jared Rifkin:

Did the PR nightmare of our idiot defensive backs coach hurt the teams performance? And why does said idiot still have a job at VU?


Can we burn the playbook where we run 3 safeties on 3rd and long? Might have been the dumbest defense I saw all night. Gave up plays for 29 and 30 on 3rd and 15 and 20 stupid formation and stupid calling

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I think the fact that we still let him coach the game hurt the team’s performance, but I will leave it up to you, the reader, to decide whether that’s a comment on the distraction caused by his dumb social media behavior or a comment on his abilities as a coach.

Doreontheplains: Three safeties is a standard coverage typically called Cover 3. Teams typically disguise it, but may not in long yardage situations like the 3rd and 20ish plays you are referencing. So, no, the back end coverage should not be trashed, but they should blitz out of it more since you are safe (theoretically) over the top and in a long yardage.

Cole Sullivan: Any bad energy like that will hang over your head, and that’s some pretty bad energy. Plus the attention that comes with something like that, on top of Dan Jackson not being a good coach from the jump all kinda harms the team. He still has a job, I hope, because there is just some long complicated process the AD needs to undergo to make sure we can fire him. I

Andrew VU ‘04: 1) It sure as shit didn’t help it. 2) I’m fine with tossing all of Dan Jackson’s schemes after we make him persona non grata and fire his ass, but not with book-burning. He might like that.

Question(s) from DoreFaninDallas & VandyFan1:

When HCCL speaks he always makes listeners feel like VU is making progress. And now we even have a few young offensive players who could be good. But on the other hand, James Franklin came in and made immediate progress. Similarly, Lance Leipold at Kansas has shown significant improvement in a short period of time. So are we cutting HCCL too much slack here? Should we be more demanding?


I really want to believe in CCL but it is hard to believe when we haven’t won an sec game in 3 years, with that said what do you think CCL needs to do this year and next year to gain the respect of the fans?

Also if he beats ewtee should we sign him to a premature extension?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: So, again, let’s contrast those different situations. Whatever you thought of James Franklin, it was clear after the fact that he inherited an SEC roster, regardless of how inept Robbie Caldwell had been with it the year before. I mean, Franklin’s first Vanderbilt team had Jordan Rodgers, Zac Stacy, Jordan Matthews, Chris Boyd, Jonathan Krause, Ryan Seymour, Chris Marve, Casey Hayward, Kenny Ladler, Andre Hal... you can definitely win with those guys. (And we forget now, but Franklin initially went with Larry Smith as the starter ahead of Rodgers.) As for Leipold, he (a) inherited a good quarterback from his predecessor, unlike Lea who had to go out and find one, and (b) is at a school that basically allowed him to go crazy in the transfer portal. Neither of those things are true at Vanderbilt.

Anyway, I’ve given up on this year, but I think a 5-7/6-6 type season next year would go a long way to gaining respect with the fans.

Doreontheplains: Vandy would win games in the Big XII with Jalon Daniels, who is nearly as athletic as Wright but with an arm more like Swann in strength. He may not be as accurate, but the other two factors create a lot of space.

For the Franklin comparison, I again defer to Tom. I am concerned we are agreeing so often.

Cole Sullivan: What new logo?

Andrew VU ‘04: Oh what a difference a week makes. Following the Missourah (spits) game, I would have been all aboard “Team Patience.” See every other week’s mail bag in which I constantly point to the “Jimmies and Joes” in the Jimmies and Joes vs. Coaching questions, and looked optimistically regarding young skill position players. Now? They’ve lost me. If they want my respect, they need to, you know, solve the paradox of time travel.

Oh, and if they do figure out how to go back in time, Dan Jackson can do the one thing we all agree we would do if we had a time machine, and then I’ll accept his apology.

Question from LADores2011:

We don’t have the worst point differential in football (118/131) - that distinction goes to the entire state of Colorado with a nod to the Beefalos. But look at in-conference play only… and we are the worst in the entire FBS by a wide margin. We are also back to finding new and unexciting ways to lose.

What is the longest in-conference losing streak in FBS history? (I wasn’t able to dig this up)

At what point does Clark Lea get a contract extens… er, do we kill it with fire?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: The longest losing streak I could find in a single conference was Northwestern losing 38 Big Ten games in a row from 1978-82, and they actually went 39 games without a win because their last game prior to that 38-game losing streak was a 0-0 tie with Illinois (the same team they beat to end the 1977 season, by the way, their only win that season. So Northwestern had a 2-59-1 stretch in conference play from 1975-82. Jesus Christ.)

I say “in a single conference,” however, because Sewanee (HIPPITY HUZ) lost 44 conference games in a row from 1931-39; however, that losing streak spanned both the SoCon and the SEC. That losing streak also ended only because they left the SEC after the 1939 season. That’s right, Sewanee was a member of the SEC for seven years and went 0-36 in SEC games. That even managed to beat Vanderbilt’s own 33-game conference losing streak from 1976-81, so we aren’t even on the longest conference losing streak in Vanderbilt history yet.

Doreontheplains: Clark Lea is responsible for 13 SEC losses. He will in all likelihood own 16 SEC losses before this season is over. The last two seasons of Derek Mason were awful even by Vanderbilt’s standards, so I do not think this is some “new normal” of Vanderbilt football. They need to keep it close tomorrow and show fight against Florida though. The early season showed obvious signs of the improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. Midseason on has shown how far they have to go.

Cole Sullivan: We were hopeful once. I still carry some small part of that hope within me. This year is better than last year, and hopefully next year can be better still.

Andrew VU ‘04: Kill it with fire.

Question from 92Drummer:

I’d like to distract everyone with a discussion about bias…SEC bias. Is TCU really better than a one-loss THEM? Does this reflect the fact that THEM will not be able to play in the SEC championship despite making a possible case for being #2 overall in the league?

Is there a scenario that a 2-loss AL still makes it to the playoffs? Or a 2-loss LSU? I can see a scenario where no SEC team makes it because a 2-loss western division champ beats UGA in the SEC championship. Unless it is recognized that the top 3-4 SEC teams are the best and just keep beating themselves up.

And what about the Ole Miss factor? Better record than either AL or LSU.

Oh the drama!

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Honestly, I don’t actually care whether or not Tennessee is a better team than TCU, but that’s because I view the Playoff as a way to decide a champion rather than a way to decide who the best team is. Therefore, yes, if TCU gets through the season unscathed, they should go to the Playoff instead of Tennessee, but also, it would be fun to watch Vol Twitter’s collective head explode over that.

A two-loss LSU maybe gets in because they’d be the SEC champion in that scenario, though I can’t be confident they’d actually be included ahead of a one-loss ACC champ Clemson and a one-loss Big 12 or Pac-12 champ. Because so far, the committee’s SEC bias has only gone as far as sticking a one-loss Alabama or Georgia in ahead of other one-loss teams that didn’t win their conference and/or two-loss conference champs.

Doreontheplains: The Committee knows most of it will work itself out, so they avoid the “SEC bias” talks by keeping the team leading the Big XII over Tennessee for now. Wait for the dust to settle.

Cole Sullivan: I like TCU more than I like Tennessee, so I will say that yes, TCU is a better team than Tennessee. I think any undefeated team, barring that there aren’t more undefeated teams than there are playoff spots, should get a spot. Yes, I am a UCF truther.

Andrew VU ‘04: Living in Big XII country, I feel pretty confidently that TCU would basically be Kentucky if they were in the SEC this year. They’re king shit of Cripple Fight Mountain. You know, for this week. The ranking will likely go to their heads and they’ll lose to Tejas, and/or The Branch Davidians over the next two weeks. I give them a solid “meh.”

As for the 2 Loss Ramajama or LSU dilemma, a 2 loss LSU team were declared BCS National Champs in 2007. 2007 was like two weeks ago to most people over 35. I will certainly not say it’s impossible.

*Note: Auburn fans from 2004 are seeking treatment for PTSD after reading this.

Question from ask_thedoctor:

General question, distracting from the current misery: Notwithstanding putting a winning product on the field, do you think that the new football stadium planned with Brand New Vandy or whatever we’re calling it will help with recruiting? If you could improve one thing about our facilities, what would it be and why is it better band uniforms?

Fun (“fun”) question: Favorite uniform combo so far?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: I mean, it can’t hurt. What would help even more than a new football stadium, though, is a football stadium that is not a road trip for visiting fans.

Doreontheplains: Somewhat, but the stadium is the least important part for most athletes. The training facilities and player areas getting huge upgrades are the keys to Phase 1 being useful on the field.

Thought the new band uniforms are pretty good. Am I missing something? The band has more important struggles.

The all white is a pretty good look, but I think the gold helmet with black jerseys and gold pants is the best. Last week’s look as a special Salute to Service look was freaking sweet, too.

Cole Sullivan: The big news for recruiting is better practice facilities across the board. The stadium is specifically so we can charge more to all the visiting fans and create more of an “experience” or something. I don’t really know. I just want my grassy North End Zone back.

Andrew VU ‘04: In the land of NIL, the man with shady bag-man-style deals made good and legal is king. I don’t think a new stadium would hurt, but I also don’t think it would help all that much given the current 1980s SMU-ification of all of college feetball.

Question from Your Uncle Mike:

Do you think the players care about how we/the fans feel about how things are going?

Is the article photo of Dave Doeren of NC State?

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Moreso than they used to, yeah, because they’re all on social media and don’t have to go out of their way to find out how the fans feel about how things are going. It’s the difference between fans yelling at a sports radio jock that the players don’t listen to versus fans sliding into the players’ DMs.

Doreontheplains: Some definitely do. The more interesting factor may be parents of recruits seeing stuff. As essentially the lone voice covering the soccer team, it is always a bit uncomfortable when I start seeing likes or reTweets from parents.

Cole Sullivan: I think so. I mean who doesn’t want to be good and have people think highly of them? Plus a lot of them are probably all on Twitter (derogatory), Instagram, and Anchor of Gold (maybe?) at least occasionally. I doubt you can escape the negative energy forever, and you certainly can’t escape walking past a packed Hawkins Field in the spring.

Andrew VU ‘04: The picture was one of the first things that popped up when I searched for “Eleven Stranger Things” on Getty images, as this is the 11th mail bag, and our program is in the Upside Down. I cannot say for sure, but yes, that is someone from QAnoNcState.

As for your first question, all I’ll say is the players seemed to care a whole hell of a lot that we thought the program sucked (and most students didn’t care to get to the stadium until half time when their hangovers were more tolerable) when I was in college. Lots of big boys with hurt fee fees running around campus hitting people with blue security phones and whatnot way back at the turn of the millennium...

Question from RocketCityVandy:

What pairs well with despair? Recommendations?

*Note: When I asked a follow-up, “You looking for wine or bourbon pairings?” his response was, “Yes.”

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Toilet Duck.

Doreontheplains: Personally, it’s whiskey and unending search for reasons to be optimistic. At some point, it is laugh or cry though.

Cole Sullivan: 90’s music

Andrew VU ‘04: Real answer? Comedy. There’s a reason gallows humor exists. For my full thesis on this, see the 1941 Preston Sturges film Sullivan’s Travels. Seriously. I’ve got a DVD you can borrow if you want to make a long drive my way. If not, you can rent it for a few bucks on Prime or other streaming/rental services. Hell, you might be able to find it for free if you search a bit.

I mean... just what did you think we’ve been doing all these years here at Hetwetters Anonymous, I mean Anchor of Gold?

Question from VandyOptimist:

How can I continue living up to my username in the feetball world? The Vandy world? Feels really dismal these days in the Vandyspere (at least basketball starts tonight). Do we still think the future could be better under the current regime?

Sidenote - The Jackson situation is incredibly frustrating and disappointing. This past week of events has made me want to break out the brown paper bag on my Vandy support. It about aint politics, it’s supporting the hatred/demonization of an entire group of your fellow human beings. That kind of thing deserves more than just the wrist-slapping that we’ve seen.

Answers from AoG:

Tom Stephenson: Continue to hang out at Anchor of Gold, where we won’t just sit around asking you when you’ll be aboard the Fire Lea train.

Doreontheplains: Do I need to bring back Ungunking the Sunshine Pump? I could do it pretty easily from my notes from Lessons. I put way too much effort into something 6 people and Import’s stuffed squirrel Bucky reads.

Cole Sullivan: Soccer. The answer is always soccer. Or bowling. And yes, fire Jackson. At any other elite school I feel like he would be gone by now.

Andrew VU ‘04: Same advice my old man gave me during the sex talk: “Shut your eyes and think of baseball.”