Dawg fans, you won’t have Jim Chaney to kick around anymore, it seems.
Tennessee is turning to a familiar face to become its new offensive coordinator.
Sources close to the situation told GoVols247 on Tuesday night that Georgia’s Jim Chaney is expected to be named the new offensive coordinator for the Vols and barring unforeseen circumstances will join Jeremy Pruitt‘s staff.
An official announcement could come as early as Wednesday.
Chaney previously coached at Tennessee for four years under Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley and has overseen prolific offenses for the Bulldogs the past two seasons, and plucking him away from an SEC East rival is a major coup for Pruitt and a Tennessee offense that mustered 17 points or less in five games in 2018.
The Vols have been in the market for a new offensive coordinator since two days after the season-ending loss to Vanderbilt when Tyson Helton left Tennessee to become the new head coach at Western Kentucky.
Tennessee’s coach, coming off a 5-7 debut season, has been thorough in the process of researching coaches and has spoken with multiple candidates and coaches since Helton’s departure. Pruitt knew the importance of this hire and wanted to make sure he made the right decision. And he will feel he’s made the right decision in Chaney, an experienced play-caller who’s overseen prolific offenses at multiple college stops and a proven develop of quarterbacks at the collegiate level.
Chaney’s salary was $950,000 in 2018, according to the USA Today database for assistant coaches. His contract at Georgia reportedly ran through the 2020 season, and it’s unclear what the Vols will have to pay in terms of a buyout. Tennessee paid Helton $1.2 million this season.
And here is where things start getting interesting. First of all, Chaney’s contract status at Georgia appears to be a bit murky. Per Marc Weiszer,
There had been speculation about Chaney and Tennessee in the days since Georgia’s 28-21 Sugar Bowl loss to Texas on Jan. 1.
So much so that the length of Chaney’s contract—which was to run out before next season—came into focus. A Georgia spokesman said Monday that Chaney was thought to have two years still left, but there was no word from the school when asked exactly when Georgia and Chaney had extended their deal. Georgia via an open records request disclosed in December that quarterbacks coach James Coley and running backs coach Dell McGee were completing the first year of a three-year contract but there was no similar deal released on Chaney.
Extension or not, it appears the move is monetarily driven.
The cost of running a championship caliber program at Georgia could be going up with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney expected to finalize a lucrative offer to take the same role at Tennessee.
Sources say Chaney has negotiated a deal with the Vols worth between $4.5 and $5 million over three years — a significant raise from the contract he has had in place that paid him $950,000 annually ($2.85 million over three years) through June of 2021 at Georgia.
“This move is about money for Jim,” a source close to the situation said late Tuesday night. “Jim’s nearing retirement and it’s a chance for him to make a significant amount more than Kirby (Smart) was willing to pay him to stay.”
Ah, now there’s a question: in the end, whose decision was it? Here’s another: was the money too much?
Apparently, Georgia found itself in a bidding war with Jeremy Pruitt over Chaney’s services, something I imagine didn’t exactly thrill Greg McGarity.
Smart was under the impression as late as Monday that Chaney would be staying, and the Bulldogs offered Chaney a raise to maintain his post.
Tennessee’s offer, however, grew too rich for Smart to match without disrupting his offensive staff’s financial harmony.
“Offensive staff’s financial harmony” is your euphemism of the day, kids.
There is a faint whiff of Richt-era economics to the circumstances. Keep in mind that there was a significant gap between what Georgia paid its two coordinators last season and that there wasn’t a similarly sized gap between the performance of Georgia’s offense and defense, statistically speaking (as an example, both units finished fourteenth nationally in scoring.)
The reality is that Georgia is flush and if the program wanted to match Tennessee’s last offer, it could have done so and gone on to pay the rest of the staff what it takes to keep things harmonious. Somebody chose not to and we’ll probably never hear the reasoning that went into making that call. But it’s the most intriguing aspect surrounding Chaney’s departure.
Is it a coup for Pruitt? Given what the Vols are laying out for Chaney, I have no doubt it’ll be celebrated in Knoxville as such. And human nature being what it is, I’m pretty sure Pruitt’s taking some personal satisfaction in making McGarity squirm. My take, though, is closer to Dan Wolken’s.
Indeed, Tennessee knows what it’s getting better than most, in that it’s a return gig. More power to both Pruitt and Chaney.
As far as Georgia goes, Kirby is now looking to fill both coordinator positions. He’s got to do that against the backdrop of finishing up his 2019 class recruiting, too.
Based on the internet chatter I’ve seen, there’s a significant block of Dawgnation that is cheered by Chaney’s departure. Here’s one prominent example of that sentiment.
All well and good, but there’s definitely an element of be careful what you wish for in play now. Georgia only gets better if it makes a good hire for Chaney’s replacement. Logic suggests that James Coley is going to get a long, hard look as an internal promotion. Coley’s pros and cons are pretty apparent ($$):
Coley was by Chaney’s side in the press box this season. Coley was pursued by Texas A&M last year to be the offensive coordinator under Jimbo Fisher (the play-caller). Smart retained Coley by offering a raise and moving him to quarterbacks coach, plus offering him the title of co-offensive coordinator.
The “co” could now be dropped from Coley’s title. He was the play-caller at Miami from 2013-15, with the Hurricanes ranking 67th in total offense in his final season there, and 48th and 47th the previous years. Coley is a strong recruiter, helping Georgia reel in a number of south Florida prospects, most recently cornerback Tyrique Stevenson.
I doubt Coley is the kind of guy who’s going to bring a radically different approach to Georgia’s offensive scheme, but I also doubt that Kirby is looking for someone to bring a radically different approach to Georgia’s offensive scheme. Count that as another point in Coley’s favor.
One other issue to keep in mind is easy to overlook.
Instead, a position group already in flux with Nauta’s decision to turn pro and freshman Luke Ford’s decision to transfer to Illinois will be further in flux. Whoever the Bulldogs decide to take over tight ends will be that group’s third position coach in three seasons.
That coach will inherit rising senior Charlie Woerner and redshirt freshman John FitzPatrick. The Bulldogs also signed 4-star prospect Ryland Goede of Kennesaw Mountain in the early signing period last month. Several walkons play the position as well.
Talk about a bunch that’s gotten short shrift in the last three seasons. At least they won’t have to hear the jokes anymore about how this was going to be the season for sure when Chaney got the tight ends involved in the offense.
Interesting times, no doubt. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: In case you’re wondering…
I could be wrong, but I think that makes Chaney the highest paid offensive coordinator in the country.