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Joker should be judged on improvement in 2012, not number of wins.

Two years ago, not including the BBVA Compass Bowl loss against Pittsburgh, the Kentucky football team outscored their opponents by a score of 396-342 on the 2010 season. UK’s point differential in the 2010 season shows that they were actually slightly better than a 6-6 team. The results of the season were disappointing, especially the way it ended in consecutive losses to Tennessee and Pittsburgh in the bowl game, but at least the team was competitive in the nation’s best conference and exciting to watch in 2010.

It took a last second field goal for Cam Newton’s team, the eventual National Champions, to escape Lexington that season with a 37-34 win. The following week, the Cats finally ended the streak over Steve Spurrier, knocking off the 10th ranked Gamecocks 31-28. The Cats were competitive in every single game in 2011, with the sole exception of a 48-14 loss at Florida. Under Rich Brooks, the Cats routinely took care of business in the non-conference schedule against lesser opponents, which continued in Joker’s first year. UK defeated Western Kentucky 63-28 in 2010. In 2011, however, the Hilltoppers gave Kentucky all they wanted down in Nashville, and UK barely escaped with a 14-3 win.

In 2011, UK’s record shows they were only a game worse than 2010, but their point differential says they were very lucky to even come close to five wins. The Cats were out-scored by over 100 points in the 2011 season (296-190). Looking back on 2011, five wins is not terrible for a program that is expected to win no more than six in a season, but what was disappointing about 2012 was how terrible the majority of the seven losses were. The Cats were not competitive in the majority of SEC games (with losing scores of 54-3, 48-10, 38-8, and 35-7) and for the first time since prior to 2006, Kentucky football was not very fun to watch until things turned around towards the end of the season.

To win back the fans and have the continued support of the administration, Joker Phillips must have his team more prepared to play competitive football every week in the SEC in 2012. It is unfair to say that Joker needs to win a certain number of games, or make a bowl game, or beat Louisville, because they could win the same number of games this season as they did last, yet still be much improved and way more competitive than they were last season. UK football needs to be fun to watch again and they need to be improved and much more competitive than a year ago, but not necessarily judged by reaching an “X” amount of wins, at least this season.

If young players like Max Smith (or Pat Towles) and Josh Clemons can stay healthy and improve the overall competitiveness of the team in 2012, there would be reason for optimism for the future under Joker Phillips.

Article written by John Wilmhoff

Former beer vendor, college mascot and ESPN editor. This spring, you can also find me blogging about the Reds on Follow me on Twitter: @JohnWilmhoff

60 Comments for Joker should be judged on improvement in 2012, not number of wins.

  1. Kentucky Gentleman
    4:07 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I agree, but I don’t see enough on this team for it to happen.

  2. KyColonel
    4:07 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    This is so stupid. Wins is the ONLY thing Joker is going to be judged on. Rightfully so.

    4:12 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    You know how the rest of the coaching world gets judged???? By wins!!!!

  4. lldjr
    4:13 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    If “ifs” & “buts” were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas !
    Should have hired Mike Leach when we had the chance.

  5. Cat89
    4:14 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Sorry John but you’re wrong.

  6. Huh
    4:16 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Loss to Tennessee? I thought I remembered us winning? Hmmm

  7. Smyrna_Caat
    4:18 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    In 2011, UK football was flat and uninspired. I was surprised at how many times we didn’t seem ready to play. We had one of the worst, most predictable, most conservative offense I have ever seen. THAT is why UK fans are concerned about the upcoming year.

    And WINs DO count. We aren’t in this for moral victories. That is just plain wrong.

  8. Deeznutz
    4:18 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Needs 9 wins to keep his job.

  9. Ridge Runner
    4:20 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I don’t think they just have to quote, “improve”. I think they have to be prepared before the game and show a means of executing a game plan if one exists. That is very “little-league” but to be honest, I didn’t see very much of last year.

    I love the Cats and I don’t hate Joker but the UT win did not make the season or the overall perception that we were bad overall & did not have or understand a game plan.

  10. LHW
    4:24 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Programs don’t gain exposure through statical improvments…they gain it through wins. I don’t see if we finish the season 3-9 but statically better how that can be an improvement.

  11. Chas
    4:24 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Whatever! Let the Joker excuses begin!

  12. bigabes4uk
    4:26 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Dey s’posed to be SEC!! Until we are we will have this conversations every year!

  13. John Wilmhoff
    4:26 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I know losing is frustrating, but I don’t agree with firing a coach when progress is clearly being made. Right now- progress is not being made and if there’s another uncompetitive year like last year, Joker should be gone.

    But lets say they lose 5 games to ranked teams by single digits, get to 5-6 wins with at least one marquee win, and younger guys are developing and getting better…in that case, it would be hard to argue that the team didn’t improve and that Joker wouldn’t deserve at least one more year to see how his own players pan out that he recruited.

  14. jack
    4:27 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    John is exactly right. Joker Phillips/Randy Sanders have presided over some of the best offensive teams UK’s had in my time and that’s considerable (50+ years). Rick Minter did a terrific job at Cincinnati. Settle down and give this thing time. Besides, right now all this constant harping and criticism of Joker et al, is obviously counterproductive to what you purport to want. He is your coach so knock off the crap and support the man. If he fails, bitch after the fact not before the team even goes to camp.

  15. DerbyDemon
    4:28 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    And that type of mind set is what’s wrong with UK football: IF they show improvement. Last year’s team was (gawd, and this so writes itself) such a joke: no offense and the defense (for lack of a better word) just disappeared. Remember all the touting about last year’s O-Line? They were pushed all over the field. Take a look at the team they’ve got this year. I don’t even want to think what some of the SEC teams will do to them. And until the university gets serious (and they haven’t in a good, long time) about hiring an actual COACH, people are going to watch Commonwealth Stadium crowds continue to shrink.

  16. Bigcatinva
    4:28 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Spot on John……VERY Good Points all of them! You need to post more on here. You may have confused some of the LOD with straight facts though, LOL.

  17. UK Wildcat
    4:29 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    What the hell is with all these pro-Joker posts from the worst writers on the site? None of their posts are enjoyable to begin with, so its just terrible writers arguing terrible points.

  18. Shane
    4:29 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    What a hysterical article. Ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!!!! With that type of reasoning Billy Gillispie would still be coach. That type of article can only come from a basketball site writing about football.

  19. Ridge Runner
    4:33 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    John… Unfortunately, there is minimal to do for improvement. Hell, if we went by that…
    Could he consustently…1) have a game plan make the team execute a game plan….3)win 2 more games?

    Even if he did that (which is what he is supposed to do to a degree) -that to me would not signal a 3rd year.

  20. Ridge Runner
    4:33 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    consistently^ –sorry.

  21. UKGrad04
    4:37 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    We were certainly not competitive in every game in 2011 except Florida (which was actually 48-10). We weren’t competitive against LSU (35-7), South Carolina (54-3), or VANDERBILT (38-8). OK, so if you throw out Jax St., WKU, and Central Michigan which are games we should have cruised in, but absolutely didn’t (WKU and CMU went down to the wire), that’s over half our schedule in which the team severely underperformed. So, basically the premise for your entire post is flawed. how could this team *not* improve?? If there is significant improvement, sure, I’m on board. But to just use the word “improved” based on a flawed premise doesn’t make sense.

  22. Yesterdays
    4:37 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I could care less about wins and losses. I just want to be entertained. Football in 2011 was not entertaining. The Tenn game was like a no-hitter- Awesome result but it was one of the worst athletic contests I have ever seen- Bad plays, mistakes, no innovation, excitement, talent, etc.

  23. Everyone
    4:39 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    John, I’ve never seen you post on here before. Please don’t ever again.

  24. BPM
    4:40 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    If Joker calls for a punt on 4th and 2 with the game on the line in the 4th quarter at any point this season, security needs to escort him off the field never to return. If he refuses to give the ball to our best playmaker with the game on the line in the 4th Quarter with the goaline in sight, then security needs to escort him off the field never to return. Otherwise, if he wins all the non-conference games (including Louisville), is competitive in the SEC games (I will give him leave for one blowout because it always happens), takes a few risks, and the team shows fire and passion as if it is a legitimate football team, then as far as I am concerned Joker can stay for another year.

  25. Ridge Runner
    4:41 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Can he suddenly become a pre game preparation coach and then suddenly a remarkably improved field coach?

    I hope so for our teams sake.

    Do I think it will happen? No.

  26. John Wilmhoff
    4:45 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    21) That is my point. We weren’t competitive at all for most of last season, but we were in 2010. We need to get back to that point before we can ever get to the top of the mountain.

    You’re also right in that it can’t get much worse (in terms of scoring differential and being blown out as badly as they did), but it can definitely get worse from a W-L standpoint. Last year’s team was way worse than a 5 win team and they were lucky to achieve even that.

    It very well could be worse next year and I wouldn’t be surprised if they only win 4 games, and in that case, Joker should definitely be gone. You can make the case though that a 5 win season could be much improved from the year before and the returning players would have potential to build on that to eventually win 7, 8, or more.

  27. jack
    4:47 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    if you want wins, move the football team to different conference, like conference usa, otherwise realize the fact that we are in the SEC and get use to seeing 5-7 and 6-6 seasons.

  28. catGrad7072
    4:47 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    11: Exactly. Here we go again.
    We’re terrible fans if we don’t expect Joker to win games. We are expected to support another crap season. The crap season that the HCIW trick was supposed to save us from.
    Instead of hiring Mile Leach last year, we’re still stuck with Joker.
    Now the drum beat of ‘improvement only’ has started; fire his butt if loses any OOC games. Damn, here we go again.

    I’ll repeat; beating the worst UT team in my lifetime (I’m 63) set our program back by at least 2 years.

  29. BlueVooDoo
    4:49 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    This might be worse than a Corey Nichols post. Minimum requirements to keep his job: bowl appearance. How can you NOT judge the success by wins and losses? I don’t get it.

  30. sdfd
    4:49 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Our schedule definitely gets harder next year. A UK team that would have won 8 games last year would only win 5 next year.

  31. BlueVooDoo
    4:51 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Didnt we get blown out by Vandy last year as well? Or was that a dream?

  32. catGrad7072
    4:56 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Maybe John is Joker’s son?
    Sorry 29, but you are wrong. There’s no ‘might be’ about it; this post makes Corey’s work look like Pulitzer Prize material.

  33. Dutchman
    5:02 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Sounds as though that excuses are already flying! I guess it goes back to, it’s not a matter of winning or losing but how you play the game! That is bs and you know it… 3 wins and the Joke will be on the fans that go to the blood baths…

  34. stfu
    5:05 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Wins don’t matter is what I’m reading. I don’t believe I’ve ever read such a horrible and hopeless article for Kentucky football in my life. Just be competitive and don’t worry about winning? John, don’t quit your dayjob, cause being a sports analist is NOT in your future. This attitude apparently has been the attitude of most UK football fans, settling for mediocrity. I’m sick and tired of giving my money to see such unpreparation for SEC football games.

  35. Fake Joker
    5:15 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I am a lost dog in high weeds! If I would take my eye off the girls I might be able to accomplish something.

  36. MtnCat
    5:23 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Couldn’t we just punt, like last year? We were good at that.

  37. The Joke
    5:26 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Is there some pro-Joker campaign going on on this site? It’s as obvious as a slap to the face that the program has declined both years he’s taken over. But this site continues to drink the kool-aid. First it was MJ’s interviews with Barnhart where Barnhart tells everyone that Frankfort is holding them back in football upgrades and that they believe Joker is their guy. Then Rashawn puts in his two cents that Joker deserves more time. Now fans on this site are being told to not judge Joker on number of wins but by improvement. Fair statement but what in the hell makes anyone think that there will be improvement this year? This is Joker’s most brutal schedule yet and we lost our top defenders. Improvement isn’t happening folks. This ship is sinking because the man can’t coach at this level. We only have one stinking 3 star recruit committed while the rest of the SEC is pretty much done. I doubt recruits expect Joker to be around next year.

  38. Whatever
    5:33 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    This is an open post to Mitch:

    Mitch you lost me and many others. We don’t hate what’s going we are something far worse, we just don’t care about your football program anymore.
    We are done with the lack of care and I mean true care go improve we are tired of the excuses which have started early and the yr hasn’t even started. That tells me u know it’s going to be bad this yr.

    So I say whatever I’ve already non renewed my season tickets all six of them and will not be back. I may think about it when you, Mitch, are gone.
    So do whatever u wanna do and watch the games from any seat because you’ll have the pick of the lot cause noone is going to show.

    Maybe I’ll pull for Louisville as they care about actuall improvement not words
    An no I’m not a sell out who wants to pull for crap for fifty yrs???

    It’s entertainment and that value is now gone so I’ll move on.

    Oh and Mitch u do know how much more the fball team could bring in if better…

    But make your excuses


  39. cracksmoocher
    5:38 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Pro-Joker posts probably the trade off for the Mitch Barnhart interviews. Unfortunately, in order to maintain access and privilege to players and staff, you must sacrifice objectivity and lose the true fans’ perspective. KSR doesn’t want to lose the free tix and good seats. With more exposure and popularity, the site has become a cheerleader and athletic dept mouthpiece.

  40. He's right
    6:08 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    John is 100% correct and to think otherwise is foolish. If Joker shows improvement, he most certainly should be retained. It takes time to build a program. When you consider where the program was when he took over, you’ll understand that BCS championships aren’t built overnight.

    Wait, what? He inherited a team coming off 4 straight bowl appearances? Well, he needs time to install his system and recruit his players. That doesn’t happen in 1-2 years.

    Wait, what? He was named HCIW for the expressed purpose of continuity in the program.

    Well then, maybe this post is effin ridiculous.

  41. TC
    6:24 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Here we go…Start the suck-up machine. KSR has already put the Blue colored glasses on. (Usually I wait till early August) We are terrible. We are outmatched and outclassed at every position including our coaches. We have scheduled our way into Bowl games for years – now it looks like we may not be able to beat our cupcakes. Hoping for 4 wins – looking at 3 wins. Don’t give me this Joker is a good guy BS! He’s done

  42. markp
    6:57 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    BS! Get rid of him. He’s not dynamic, he’s boring, no pizazz at all. This is pure apologist crap we get 99 per cent of the time out of the media. Expect better BBN and you will get better. Joker is not the answer.

  43. RuppWorker
    6:59 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Go back and check your years John

  44. winston guy's hair
    7:14 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink


  45. John Wilmhoff
    8:10 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I actually think Joker would be offended by the post and I don’t think I’m being pro Joker or UK by saying that I’m not expecting a great season. Of course he needs to win. What I’m saying, is that you can’t draw a line between two numbers and say he needs to reach an “x” amount of wins. It’s much more complicated than that. To settle for only 5-6 wins is setting the bar too low, but depending on how it all plays out, it may or may not be in the best interest of the program to keep or fire Joker after another 5 win season. You have to look at the whole picture.

  46. steve
    8:12 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I love Joker but a 3rd straight losing season would not be acceptable and it would not be progress in any way.

    I have hope that the Cats will make a bowl game. That will be progress IMHO.

  47. Dutchman
    9:19 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    I gave up my season tickets 2 years ago! Jokers decisions that he made in the Mississippi State and Tennessee game did it for me! Cobb grew up just outside of Knoxville! He took the ball from around the UK 35 and took it down inside the Tennessee 10. Then he never got the ball…..Did that make any sense? The guy took the ball down the field on adrenaline and it should have been his to win…..But no! The same thing happened in the Mississippi State game a few weeks earlier….Wake up Mitch! I’m sure in days of old if a ship was not getting to it’s destination it was the captain not the crew that had to go!

  48. JBR
    9:20 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    There was just a very similar post to this a couple of days ago…so why do we continue to do this? And what I mean by “this” is that here is the bottom line-obviously we are a basketball school, thus our football fanbase is small. The overwhelming majority of UK fans know very little about the sport of football (notice I said majority, not each one). So, we have these debates on Joker, and the only things we discuss are more ethical, fairness, general type issues about coaching. There is no one on this site, or in the comments that I have read that actually talks specifics about why Joker has failed, and why progress is not being made…and exactly what needs to change if you don’t want to judge him by total wins with a tougher schedule. What is “improvement”, and how much is needed?

    I know the average UK football probably can’t discuss these things in depth…but I would think that a sports site as popular as this could get one person that knows the sport. I have seen absolutely NOTHING from Joker that gives me any hope that he will ever improve. You could swap our players this year with Alabama, and Joker would underachieve with them. He does not have the skills or personality to be a natural leader…the guys treat him like a buddy, but don’t respect him as a coach…as does his staff. There is no player development, recruiting was supposed to be his strong suit, but we are now losing the in state kids…and there is absolutely no discipline or innovation from this staff. You want to hang onto him because it is the “right thing to do”, fine, but UK Athletics will take a huge hit in the pocketbook this year because of it. I have been called by them begging to renew my season tix…so I know it is bad.

    So, I would like to hear from someone, what specific positive things has anyone seen on the field or in the locker room that gives you any hope for Joker? I cannot think of one.

  49. Real UK Fan
    9:25 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Since the title of this blog is undoubtedly the most stupid of any title yet it stands to reason that the author must be the most stupid auther ever to come along. Seems to me that someone that stupid is dragging down the average intelligence of the whole human race. Maybe people like this should just be turned into fertilizer so that way at least they could become something useful.

  50. the Big Dog
    9:27 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Is three losing seasons in a row where we want our program to be going? I wish Joker well but we have to start winning games.

  51. Reality_Watch
    9:39 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Word on the street is that the number of fans who refused to renew their season football tickets for 2012 is STAGGERING. If UK loses to Louisville trehe downward spiral will rapidly accelerate and Barnhart will be forced to fire Phillips as he should have done last season. Another year wasted.

  52. UK FAN
    10:37 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Hey look UK scored 63 points in 2 games.. Wait they scored 55 against Western and 8 against Florida… Points dont mean anything. Wins and Loses is what matters.

  53. CatGrad7072
    10:45 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    52: Didn’t UK beat WKU by 14-10 or so?

  54. Todd
    11:43 pm May 17, 2012 Permalink

    Beware anytime someone starts talking about improvement and not wins, sure sign of somebody already makinging excuses

  55. tim
    2:13 am May 18, 2012 Permalink

    i agree with everything you said its just most people dont understand football a sport where you got to build your team it dont happen overnight. if some people would look at the facts of last year they would know we had starting olineman getting hurt most of the season then you had clemons, collins and sanders got injuries. thats half of your offense and most of your playmakers injured and playing a freshman qb know wonder the offense was bad. i would bet this season better as long as we stay healthy

  56. TC
    7:07 am May 18, 2012 Permalink

    Can’t polish a turd!

  57. DerbyDemon
    8:57 am May 18, 2012 Permalink

    #56–On, you CAN–trouble is, you’ve still got a turd…

  58. TheNewOriginal
    9:24 am May 18, 2012 Permalink

    36/ Either that, or recruit Gus the mule.

  59. bluesince66
    9:35 am May 18, 2012 Permalink

    People saying we played with a freshman QB is kinda right. Alot of the problem last year was Joker divided the locker room by running off Mossakowski in favor of Newton. Then he played Newton until he got hurt, which is when we all got to see a freshman. who shock, was better than Newton. It’s crap like that, that makes me wonder if the coaches really know what they’re doing.

  60. Jaosn
    1:36 am May 19, 2012 Permalink

    This was a horribly written and researched post. Not only did you get many if your facts and assumptions wrong, you continually mixed up and confused your seasons. “What was most disappointing about 2012″…I’m sorry Marty McFly, would you care to step away from the Delorian?

    Please don’t ever post again, at least until you learn some basic proofreading and editing skills.