Cutcliffe called plays at Tennessee from 1993-1998.
In 1993, that ``conservative'' offense averaged over 200 yards per game rushing and over 200 yards per game passing. It scored a school-record 471 points. It scored 58 touchdowns, 31 by pass. It completed a school-record 65 percent of its passes.
From 1995-97, the Vols averaged more pass attempts per game than run attempts. Manning threw 477 passes in 1997. Tennessee averaged 35.6 points per game and 47 touchdowns per season.
By contrast, the Vols this season are averaging 16.8 points and have scored 14 offensive touchdowns, two on one-yard drives.
Cutcliffe's play calling was conservative in two seasons: 1994 and 1998. In 1994, he lost quarterbacks Jerry Colquitt and Todd Helton. Playing it close to the vest with two true freshmen quarterbacks -- Manning and Branndon Stewart - the Vols won seven of their last eight games.
Cutcliffe went conservative in 1998, breaking in first-year starter Tee Martin. The Vols went 13-0 and won the national title.
So, when Cutcliffe was conservative, the Vols were 20-1.
You want flash or victories?
It's true Manning never won a national title. But he won an NCAA-record 39 games (since broken by Georgia's David Greene). He won the 1997 SEC Championship. He just couldn't beat Florida, which won the national title in 1996 and was in the midst of an SEC dynasty matched only by Alabama in the 1970s.
Manning won 32 games in his final three seasons. If you're a UT fan, wouldn't you take 32 wins over the next three seasons?
A friend told me: ``What if UT hires Cutcliffe and the Vols go 6-5 or 7-4?''
My response: ``What if UT does NOT hire Cutcliffe and the Vols go 6-5 or 7-4?''
If you don't hire Cutcliffe and you struggle next season, you've opened yourself to more second guessing than going with a proven winner who resides in your back yard.