Fulmer vs. Majors

If not for 5-6, no one would even raise the question. If not for 5-6, no one would debate whether Phillip Fulmer or Johnny Majors was a better football coach at Tennessee. But last season, the Vols were 5-6, and that has stirred the pot among several Tennessee fans.

Those that argue Majors did a better job point to the fact he had to rebuild Tennessee's program while Fulmer inherited a team loaded with talent.

Those that argue Fulmer point to his 1998 national championship and winning percentage of 77.6.

In 16 years at Tennessee, Majors won 65 percent of his games (116-62-8). He captured three SEC championships, although not once did he have the best overall record in the SEC. He also didn't have to win a conference championship game to claim an SEC title

In 13-plus seasons, Fulmer is 128-37 with one national championship and two SEC crowns. Give the same parameters as Majors, Fulmer would have won four SEC championships. He tied for the SEC's best regular-season record in 1995 and 2001.

Majors finished in the top 10 three times: 1985, 1989 and 1990.

Fulmer has finished in the top 10 six times, including five in a row (1995-99).

Based on those numbers, Fulmer has clearly been a better coach at Tennessee than Majors. But let's factor in the fact that Majors inherited a woeful program. It's generally conceded that it takes four years to build a program, so let's take away Majors' first three seasons. Let's take away his 16-17-1 mark from 1977-79.

When you do that, Majors is 100-45-7 for a winning percentage of 68 percent. That still trails Fulmer's mark by almost 10 percent.

During that time, Majors had two losing seasons and four teams that lost at least five games. Fulmer has had one losing season and two teams that lost at least five games.

Majors' most impressive streak was going 20-1-2 from the second half of the 1988 season to the first half of the 1990 season.

Fulmer's most impressive streak was going 45-5 from 1995-1989. He went 29-2 from late in 1996 to the opener in 1999.

Majors had two teams that won at least 10 games. Fulmer has had seven.

Fulmer upgraded Tennessee's talent level with his tireless recruiting, and it showed on the field and in the NFL draft.

Anyway you cut it, Fulmer would top Majors as Tennessee's coach. Fulmer won more games, had a better winning percentage, won a national title and had more top 10 finishes.

But if you're looking for the coach with the better overall resume, it's Majors.

Majors had to rebuild Tennessee, although it took him longer than expected -- seven years to have a nine-win season and nine years to win an SEC title.

He rebuilt a down-trodden Pittsburgh program, winning a national championship in his fourth season. Had Majors stayed at Pitt, who knows how many games he would have won or how many more national titles he might have lassoed.

Majors rebuilt a nothing program at Iowa State, going 8-4 in his fourth season, losing to the top three ranked teams in the nation – Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado.

In his 29 years as a head coach, Majors won almost 200 games.

Give Fulmer the nod as Tennessee's boss, but give Majors the edge for his coaching career.

Judging UT's offensive line

While I'm convinced that Tennessee's offensive line hasn't been nearly as consistent this decade as last, the draft doesn't necessarily bear that out.

In the 1990s, the Vols had three offensive lineman taken in the first three rounds of the draft: Antone Davis, Charles McRae and Jason Layman.

In the 2000s, the Vols have had three players taken in the first three rounds: Cosey Coleman, Chad Clifton and Fred Weary. Arron Sears will be the fourth next year.

That doesn't help my argument, Still, I've convinced the offensive line hasn't been as consistently good with Fulmer as head coach compared to Fulmer as line coach. My best evidence: From 1989-1994, the Vols averaged more than 200 yards per game each season. Since then, UT has averaged over 200 yards rushing in just one season: 1998.

I realize defenses have made it harder to mount a ground attack, but I also think UT's line hasn't been as physical as it needs to be in short-yardage situations and it hasn't blocked as well on screen passes and sweeps. That's one reason the Vols want most offensive linemen to lose about 10-15 pounds.


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