Joker Phillips starts his third season as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats football team on September 2 and depending on who who talk to/what website you go to, his job is in jeopardy. After two season, Phillips has a 11-14 record, which in the recent history of Kentucky football coaches is not a bad record after two seasons. Only Hal Mumme had a winning record in his first two seasons (12-11) but other coaches like Guy Morris and Jerry Claiborne did post a winning record after a disastrous first season and at least provided proof the team was headed in the right direction after two years.
To be fair, Phillips did inherit a team that had been to four straight bowls and after a bowl appearance in his first season, went 5-7 last year and ended the bowl streak. In Phillip’s time, he has broken the infamous 26 game Tennessee losing streak, an “0 for ever” record against Steve Spurrier and a decade long streak against South Carolina. So there has been some success for Phillips. Just not enough.
So this week, I have put together a panel of WBN writers and some of your favorite writers from other sites and asked them the simple question:
How hot is Joker Phillip’s seat this season and what does Kentucky need to do on the field to earn him another season?
Let’s go to the round table:
James Streble, WBN Associate Editor: Joker’s seat is hot in the minds of the fans more than in the minds of the administration. I believe he has the confidence of Mitch Barnhart with the recruiting classes that he has put together so far as the head coach at Kentucky. The fans don’t think in terms of the future. They want results now and Joker has been a little underwhelming thus far. With Rich Brooks leading the team to four straight bowl games and bringing an exciting brand of football back to Kentucky, Joker had some big shoes to fill. Again, I think Joker is safe unless the Wildcats completely tank and win only two or three games. Four games would be iffy as far as his job status, but I think he would still be OK. If he wins five or more games with a young, promising team, then no doubt his job is secure.
Brian Eldridge, Kentucky Scout site: Joker’s seat is fairly hot. But like he said himself, he’s not sitting down. He’s working his butt off. He has also proved a lot of people wrong, now, by naming Smith as his starting QB. A lot of people were convinced he’d go down with the ship (Newton). That’s one big question mark that has been eradicated. Now people want to see an improved team. Despite the struggles of last season, they were only a single game away from bowl eligibility. The offensive line has played well so far in camp. Smith has nailed down his job. And there are a slew of play makers are running back and wide receiver. This offense has potential.
Defensively, I just want to see them build upon last year. And they can, despite the losses of Guy and Trevathan, they have great athletes and natural ability on the defensive side of the ball. Minter’s scheme is solid and if they execute, this is another unit that could surprise some people. To put a cap on this, I’d say people just want to see a team that isn’t nearly as dismal as last year’s team. They want to see some explosion on both sides of the ball and they want to see some fire by the players and the staff. Where will that lead the win-loss record? Only time will tell!