5 Burning Questions: June Jones

The PS staff shares their thoughts on June Jones and his future at SMU!

EJ Holland, Billy Embody, Omar Majzoub, Beionny Mickles, Scott Sanford and Adam Grosbard all give their opinions on June Jones and his future at SMU.

1. Does June Jones deserve a contract extension?

Holland: Absolutely not. June Jones has done a tremendous job of righting the ship and making SMU somewhat relevant again. Give the man credit where credit is due. But he has failed in so many other areas—recruiting, embracing the university's culture, engaging the community, beating BCS opponents. It is clear he is not happy here. He has publicly embarrassed the university, and SMU is simply not getting enough bang for its buck. It's time to move on and find someone who will embrace this program, stop making excuses and take SMU to the next level.

Embody: No. While Jones should be remembered for bringing back SMU to relevancy and to four straight bowls before this season, the program appears to have plateaued. Recruiting has become a struggle for SMU and it appears the staff has not embraced the Dallas-area like it should be.

Majzoub: Absolutely not. I understand it's difficult for the athletic department to swallow the $2 million dollars they would owe him next season, but I definitely don't think he has earned the right to an extension. The team vastly underperformed this year with their five wins coming against teams that have just 10 wins combined. The Mustangs only managed to beat FCS opponent Montana State by one point at home and are 6-31 vs. winning teams under Jones. They have only beaten a ranked opponent once in five years after scheduling some pretty good, but winnable, out of conference games. I appreciate the fact Jones got the program to four straight bowl games, but I think he has taken this team as far as he can.

Mickles: Is he deserving of one? Maybe. Would it be wise for him to receive one based on the trajectory of the program at this point? No. Here's why-- Jones came to SMU to resurrect a program that had been one of the lowest of the low. No bowl games, no contention for conference championships and no real expectations to do anything other than squeak out a few victories a year. Fast forward to the present and Jones' SMU team is looked at as a disappointment if it doesn't get to the postseason. Jones was hired to come in and take the football program to the next level and that he has achieved. However, what has not occurred is growth. SMU plateaued at the point where they attract average to decent level athletes with upside and make a lower tier bowl appearance annually (barring this season). It is time for another coach to step in and take the program further.

Sanford: No. Don't get me wrong, before Jones arrived on the Hilltop, SMU only could have dreamed about four straight bowl appearances, but Jones has peaked. The fact that Jones does not do any of his own recruiting has also caught up to him and even local players seem to be ruling out the Mustangs faster and faster now. I do expect Coach Jones to return for the final season on his contract, but, in my opinion, it would take a miraculous season for Jones to get extended.

Grosbard: 1. If SMU had made it to a bowl this season, the argument could have been made that even if the football team had reached a plateau under Jones, it was still better off than before Jones was hired and he should stay on as coach. But with a 5-7 record, it is hard to say that Jones deserves an extension. The team has regressed and had its worst performance since Jones's first season as head coach. I don't see how any coach can get an extension under those circumstances.

2. If SMU parts ways with June Jones, who would be your ideal (realistic) replacement?

Holland: I have always advocated for a young, aggressive recruiter. But I think Mack Brown would be a great fit at SMU. He gets to stay in Texas and won't have as much pressure as he did at UT. At this point, he doesn't need an over-the-top salary, and I think he would embrace the challenge of helping SMU reach its full potential. Despite a rough couple of seasons, I still believe Brown is a great coach, and there is no doubt that he's one hell of a recruiter. I think he would attract plenty of media attention, recruit the heck out of this state and assemble a staff that would produce results on the field and on the trail. On top of that, Brown is a great salesman so I think he would definitely embrace the SMU culture and engage the Dallas community as well as the students. He could very well be football's version of Larry Brown.

Embody: Clemson OC Chad Morris. Morris was mentioned by Football Rumor Mill as one of the coaches SMU would target if Jones was not retained, and I could not agree more. Morris was the head coach at Austin Lake Travis l and has been incredibly successful as an offensive coordinator at Tulsa and Clemson. He has had success recruiting as well, landing numerous four-stars while at Clemson. If Morris is hired, the high-tempo spread offense that has had success everywhere for him, will come to SMU and expect him to recruit Texas well with his ties to the Lone Star State.

Majzoub: Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz. It wouldn't be the sexiest hire, but it's realistic and makes a lot of sense for SMU. Fritz is 31-9 as the Bearkats head coach since 2010 and has been to back-to-back NCAA Division I Championship games. He won the 2012 Liberty Mutual NCAA FCS nNational Coach of the Year and American Football Coaches Association National Coach of the Year in 2011. Before Sam Houston State, he served as the head coach at Blinn College for three years and Central Missouri for 13 seasons. He's done a great job recruiting in-state while at SHS and was mentioned as a favorite for the SMU job when June Jones was expected to leave for Arizona State in 2011.

Mickles: Dan Mullen would be a great guy for the job. He's a relatively young head coach committed to recruiting good solid talent which is what SMU needs most. In five years at Mississippi State, he has earned two top-twenty recruiting classes in the country and he has produced NFL talent such as Jonathan Banks, Darius Slay and Fletcher Cox, who are all defensive players despite his offensive background. Mullen's name has been mentioned in talks about coaches on the hot seat although he has led the Bulldogs to four straight bowl games. The fact that he won the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss helps his chances of staying as well. However, with Miss. St. already on probation for recruiting violations and them possibly facing more because of Fletcher Cox allegedly accepting improper benefits, if offered the right price, Mullen may consider skipping town to North Texas. Besides, what is there to do in Starkville, Mississippi anyway?

Sanford: I would love to see SMU fire June Jones now and make a play for Ed Orgeron, but that won't happen. Realistically, if SMU does not extend a contract to Jones at some point, Chad Morris would be a good fit. He comes from a winning program in the ACC, he has ties to Texas and he actually recruits very well. SMU has done a solid job with the talent that they've recruited in recent years, but an improvement in recruiting would take the program to the next level.

Grosbard: I brought this up on the message board last week, and I'm going to stick with it. Following his resignation from USC, Ed Orgeron would be my ideal head coach to come in and change the SMU football culture instantly. Orgeron proved this season he could inspire a group of players after losing their head coach and get them hyped up to beat a top-tier team, as evidenced by USC's turnaround this season that culminated with a victory over Stanford. Orgeron has SEC experience and is known as a great recruiter. Most importantly, I can't think of single coach within SMU's grasp that has the same potential to connect to the SMU fan base and get it excited about Mustang football again.

3. If SMU keeps June Jones, what does the future of SMU football look like?

Holland: Pretty lame for a lack of better words. SMU will continue to be mediocre, win 5-7 games, go to meaningless bowl games and fail to compete with BCS programs. As far as recruiting, expect more two-stars commits and frustrating comments from recruits about lack of contact from the staff. Also, fans are starting to lose interest so attendance, which is already abysmal, will likely decrease.

Embody: If Neal Burcham turns out to be as good as he is expected to be with his Elite 11 billing, the future is better than people think. The changes to the offense did work for the most part and if the defense can continue to grow, there is enough depth there to warrant some optimism. SMU does need a running game for Burcham to be successful, but that will only happen if Jones commits to running the ball. Expect more .500 seasons for SMU, but it isn't as bad as people think especially with Louisville and Rutgers leaving the conference.

Majzoub: It will look a lot like what we have been seeing lately. June Jones seems comfortable with the team winning five to seven games every season and hopefully reaching a mediocre bowl game. The offensive system Jones and Hal Mumme run will still be very effective and the Mustangs will most likely be near the top of the nation in passing yet again with the return of Burcham and a few other offensive weapons from this season. Still, the coaching staff does a poor job in recruiting on both sides of the ball, and the team has too many holes on defense and in the running game to take the next step and compete for an AAC Championship. Until Jones leaves, I expect SMU football to continue to fight for seven to eight wins a year.

Mickles If he goes about coaching the way he has in recent years, it sure doesn't look very bright. If he miraculously changes his approach to recruiting and makes the decision to tighten up and toughen up his locker room then it could look a lot better. But Jones has coached for so long that it's safe to say he won't be deviating away from his style too much. With that being said, the future of SMU's football program looks mediocre if Jones stays. There will be games where SMU gives better competition than people expect, and there will be games like the one against Tulane last year. There will be two-star athletes that prove to be better than their rating from Scout, and there will be plenty of others that are just serviceable. Mediocre and marginal is how the future looks for SMU football.

Sanford: If Jones' contract is extended, get ready for a whole lot of mediocrity. With no improvements on the recruiting front, 6-6 and 5-7 records will continue to be the norm. And with mediocre records, comes mediocre fan support and game attendance. Because Jones has peaked, unless he rejuvenates this program somehow, SMU's football program will take a step back from where Jones gotten them since the death penalty.

Grosbard: It's hard to see SMU being anything more than a 7-5 school with June Jones at the helm. He seems satisfied with mediocrity or moderate success and no longer has the ability to motivate his players to perform beyond their abilities as he did at Hawaii. So maybe SMU will be able to make it back to a bowl game next season but any dreams of a return-to-80s-glory will have to be put on hold until SMU's next head coach is hired.

4. If June Jones does get the extension, what is the most important thing he needs to do better?

Holland: Obviously it's recruiting, but since most of my colleagues are going to say that, I'll go with pride. June has a lot of self pride, there is no doubt about that. He loves his offense and works extremely hard when it comes to breaking down film and perfecting his scheme. But I'm talking about SMU pride. Stop wearing black, that's not a school color. Wear a red or blue polo on game day. Go talk to the students and immerse yourself in the Dallas community. Stop acting like you want to be in Hawaii and start loving the best city in the best state in America. Get out there and recruit and sell your university. Stop complaining and making excuses to the media. Hug Peruna and ditch the wild Mustangs. It's not hard. There is more to being a college football coach than just coaching. This is all part of the job description. And when you're at an SMU, you need to go the extra mile. If 73-year-old Larry Brown can do this so can you.

Embody: Recruiting. Coach Jones and his staff must recruit better to get people back on his side. His laid back attitude does not help, but that's who he is and it's not going to change. Therefore, if SMU goes out and recruits, especially in Dallas, bringing in better players will go a long way. If coach Jones and the staff can improve SMU in the win-loss column, his attitude won't bother people as much in my mind. It starts with recruiting though and the staff must do a better job.

Majzoub: It's obviously recruiting. Jones runs a great offensive system and his coaching staff on both sides of the ball is good with X's and O's. But the program needs to land impact players from all across the country to help them compete with the better AAC teams. The fact they lost quarterback Tyler Harris was a big blow and a perfect example of the issues going on with the program. Right now, the coaching staff seems content with infrequent visits to high schools, only landing two or three-star players, and having no real system for recruiting. The staff would be much more effective if they did little things like stay in constant contact with the kids they are targeting. It seems simple, but SMU football won't produce better results until they start to get more talented recruiting classes.

Mickles: Jones says he only wants to stay if more dollars are poured into the program, which would show the school's commitment to football. Undoubtedly, a bigger budget for football would be a good thing for the future of the team, but I'm not so sure that money is the problem here. Sure a brand new indoor facility would look good to a recruit but even without that, SMU could do a much better job at recruiting. The fact of the matter is, there are still athletes who say they've never actually spoken to an SMU coach. There are still athletes holding offers from the Mustangs who can't tell you the name of their recruiter. Is there a valid reason for this? And before I compare the two, yes I do understand that there is a sizable difference between basketball and football recruiting but from the short time that I've followed Larry Brown and his staff, there's one thing they've figured out that the football staff has not. Building relationships is crucial. If Jones wants to win he has to get better talent on the field.

Sanford: Recruiting. Jones and staff have had a lot of troubles recruiting and it has shown, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The coaching staff consistently brings in two-star athletes and SMU fans won't bother to attend games if they aren't exciting and competitive. The Dallas/Fort Worth-area has loads of talent, but the staff can't even pull in those recruits. If SMU wants to have any kind of success like in the 80's, recruiting is the first place to start.

Grosbard: The obvious answer is recruiting. I understand that Jones is old and doesn't want to fly around the country to recruit, but even getting in his car and driving to watch a local high school player would be a serious improvement. A less obvious answer would be in-game management. In the UCF game, Jones was given second and one in UCF territory in the fourth quarter, down only by four. The team had three chances to get one yard, but Jones could not call the right play to get the yard. Against Memphis, SMU had a two-possession lead and less than five minutes to go and just needed to run the clock out with a few runs. Instead, Jones called three straight pass plays (all of which fell incomplete) and had to punt the ball back after taking less than 20 seconds off the clock. Winning coaches do not makes these mistakes, and Jones needs to make the appropriate corrections.

5. How much of the blame does June Jones deserve for this 5-7 season?

Holland: We knew coming into this season that there was a strong possibility SMU would miss a bowl. But once everybody saw how terrible the AAC was, I think everybody raised their expectations. The bottom line is this team just wasn't very talented or experienced. Looking at the bigger picture, it's June's fault for not recruiting better. June, however, did do a good job of sparking the offense and winning games that he was supposed to win-- even if they shouldn't have come down to the wire. He is still a terrible in-game manager and some of his decisions proved costly. He is also very stubborn and refuses to install packages that would utilize guys like Jeremiah Gaines or simply help SMU pick up first downs in short yardage situations. It should be noted that Tom Mason's defense was horrendous, but June is the man in charge and deserves most of the blame. He needs be accountable. If my staff fails and this site fails, I deserve all the blame. The same should go for June.

Embody: A lot of it is due to the tough start to the season against Texas Tech, TAMU and TCU, which were tough games for SMU to win to begin with. Once SMU got into conference play, SMU was in every single game aside from Houston and won the games it was supposed to. If SMU would have upset UCF, Coach Jones would have gotten back some fans, and it would have been interesting to see how SMU would have performed in a bowl. Without any threat in the running game, SMU's one-dimensional offense was solid, but that was due to Garrett Gilbert's performance. This season is not on Coach Jones as much as it is on the defensive struggles in the secondary and a tough opening schedule, but ultimately it does fall on Coach Jones.

Majzoub: Most of the team's problems on offense fall on his shoulders. Jones' poor job in recruiting led to the lack of depth across the offensive line and at running back this season. Even when Garrett Gilbert was healthy and playing well, he struggled behind very weak blocking and nearly led the team in rushing yards even with his injury. In the team's loss to Houston, Jones was shut out for the first time in his coaching career because his offense struggled without their talented QB. The Mustangs defense also gave up a lot of points, especially early in the season, and the secondary was awful all year. That's not all his fault, but everything comes back to recruiting. It wasn't an easy schedule by any means, but Jones had the opportunity to do much better if he was well-prepared and confident in his recruiting.

Mickles: Well, most respectable coaches will step up to the plate and accept responsibility for their team's shortcomings, and I think that Jones knows there were times during the season where his play-calling was questionable. But play-calling is only a small portion of the reason why the team went 5-7. The amount of penalties SMU accumulated throughout the season (especially the 15-yard personal fouls) is a clear sign that there was a lack of discipline in the locker room. Against arguably their four biggest opponents (Tech, TCU, A&M and UCF), SMU had 22 penalties for 321 yards, some of them coming at crucial points during the contests. There were also times where SMU was just flat-out out-coached. Because football is a game where factors such as heart, momentum, being technically sound and executing with attention to detail all play a vital part, it's not uncommon to see a good team get upset. Those upsets usually occur because the more-talented team makes mistakes, and the less-talented opponent not only capitalizes on those mishaps but displays a level of mental toughness prohibiting plays that could give the advantage back to the other team. Even with the disparity in talent between SMU and a few of their opponents, I don't believe there was a program on the schedule this year that was unbeatable. But the Mustangs seldom hit the field like a team ready to make the world believe. Instead of ready at attention, at times they looked lost or asleep. The touchdown SMU gave up on 3rd and 24 in overtime against Rutgers is the play that perfectly summarizes the season. Instead of rising up and seizing the opportunity, the Mustangs watched it go over their heads. That falls directly on the lap of the men that are supposed to not only prepare the athletes but instill into each of them the belief that no moment is too big or victory unable to be seized. "If a leader doesn't convey passion and intensity then there will be no passion and intensity within the organization and they'll start to fall down and get depressed." -Colin Powell

Sanford: For the most part, SMU won the games that it was supposed to win. There were games, like against Rutgers, and even Cincinnati, where the Mustangs had chances to win but came up just short. While you could blame the defense, or special teams, or even Garrett Gilbert's injury for the losing season, ultimately the losses fall on the shoulders of the entire coaching staff and the head coach in particular. Jones, in the past, has done a good job of winning the games he is supposed to win, but with a tough non-conference schedule, there was no room for error this season. I think because Jones is the head coach, he needs to take full responsibility for whatever record the team ends up with, whether that's 5-7 or 7-5.

Grosbard: I'd say about sixty percent. It's hard to say that Jones deserves all the blame for this disappointment of a season. The unit that he has the most influence over is the offense, which overall played very well this season before the injury to Garrett Gilbert. But Jones has done a terrible job of assembling his coaching staff. The defense only was acceptable when it was up against the bottom-feeders of an already-weak American Athletic Conference and the special teams kept every Mustang fan in a state of panic all season long. So Jones' blame comes from his failure to put together an adequate coaching staff.

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