Will they or won't they?
It's no secret that Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley's job is on the line.
The secret is if and when, and the clock is ticking.
Dooley isn't just on the hot seat, he's a hot topic.
My job of late has been trolling Twitter feeds and refuting all the Jon Gruden rumors currently circulating the globe.
Not that I have any inside information, I just have an "innocent until proven guilty" approach to the coaching position at UT.
There are too many ifs, buts and whens associated with his job to have any clarity on what may or may not take place.
Now 0-5 in the SEC (note those five are some of the best teams in the country), secure wouldn't be a good adjective to describe the coach's job. Between fans calling for his head, donors chomping at the bit and a flimsy Dave Hart at the helm, Dooley's future is uncertain. But, if he makes it through the week, he has a chance to survive the turmoil. He has a chance to have a 4-0 season end, which should boost his resume.
That's IF he makes it through the week and IF he pulls the team together in enough time to win out.
But hope floats.
The Vols' recent bout with No. 17 South Carolina was full of positives, despite the ultimate 38-35 loss. The offensive line only allowed one sack against one of the best defenses in the country, while the defense held the Gamecocks to only 10 points in the second half. Too bad there was a first half.
Pros and cons abound in an overview of the Volunteers' recent past, with arguments on both sides, but one thing remains certain.
There's a strong call for Dooley's job.
I question the wisdom of this, but my voice clearly hasn't been heard.
It's easy to spout something off on Twitter, Facebook or some online chat room. It's easy to call for a man's job and criticize his leadership when you're not looking at him face-to-face. When all you see is a poster on a billboard or a painting on a rock, you don't see the man.
And Dooley is a man. He's human, and he has a heart.
Fans watch his press conferences, fans watch him pace the field on game day and fans watch him as a public figure, but fans forget that he has a mom and a dad, a wife and family who see and hear everything those same fans say about the man they love.
I glimpsed an intimate family moment after the team's loss to South Carolina on Saturday, and I'll never get that picture out of my mind.
Dooley had just suffered a disappointing and potentially career-altering loss. He had just walked through the tunnel to the chant of "Dooley, you're fired." He had just spoken with a broken-hearted team and he had just held a press conference for nosy journalists like me. His response was to go out and sit down on the pavement with his wife and son. He put his arm around his boy and gave his wife a reassuring nod.
It was tragically beautiful.
I know that's no excuse to keep a coach on staff, but at that moment, I realized something that I'd forgotten. I'd forgotten that every word I write, whether Dooley reads it or not, affects someone. It might be his wife, his family, his parents or his players. I realized that Dooley hasn't broken any regulations. He hasn't given the university a bad name or spoken unprofessionally about anyone involved in the program. He's committed no crime.
Fans would do well to remember the positives as well as the negatives and post facts, not just opinions. Tennessee fans might want to reconsider their hate for a man who has pulled their team through adversity, who came (along with his family) when Lane Kiffin left and who won't leave unless he's pushed out.