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Just How Important Is This Season For Joker Phillips?


Believe it or not, the Kentucky football team has to be pretty care free headed into this season.  In fact, outside of potentially Danny Trevathan, pretty much no one involved with the program has anything to lose this year.  Everything we have heard about Morgan Newton suggests he will be as serviceable as Hartline was, and anything on top of that is gravy.  The defense certainly can’t be worse than last years, and even if it’s not much better, Rick Minter will get at least a one year grace period.  Randy Sanders has been so good for so long, even if the offense sputters out of the gate the blame will shift to who is in the NFL (Cobb, Locke,) and not who is on the sidelines.  So that brings us to the only man that might be feeling some pressure this season – Joker Phillips.

It’s no secret now that Rich Brooks underwent some early tumultuous seasons at Kentucky, before putting the program on the path to where it is now.  If anything, that should have taught us to be patient with new head coaches.  But no matter how you look at it, Joker was under fire from some portions of the fan base towards the end of last year – and for good reason.  I won’t try and spin it, Joker had some stumbles in his first campaign as a head coach.  The type of miscues I would be surprised to see happen in his second year, but mistakes all the same. A number of wins were left on the field – some due to evident lack of preparation early in the game, some due to players fumbling the ball away, but either way there were a few more losses than there could have been.  All that aside, it was a marginally successful first run as a head coach – only a four losses were by more than 7 points, UK beat a key rival, made it to a bowl, and ended one of the streaks (Spurrier/USC.)

Still, the season ended with a quarterback controversy and a poor showing in the bowl game.  So what does this mean for Joker?  Is 2011 a make or break season for the second year head coach?  Well pardon my fence straddling, but it is and it isn’t.

Primarily, Phillips faces a challenge most other head coaches do not, and that is having to coach at the same school as John Calipari. Like it or not, Kentucky is a basketball school.  Basketball is a sport where one great recruiting class (sometimes even one great player – see Sullinger, Carmelo,) can vault you to the top of the polls and instantly create a turnaround in your program.  Simply look at Kentucky’s three years prior to Calipari compared to his two years here to see how quick a turnaround can happen.   This flat out isn’t the case in football.

As we saw with Rich Brooks, it takes time to cultivate a team to your playing style, to your schemes and to your coaching.  As a fan it can be easy to recognize that, but when you have grown up in a culture of basketball fandom, it can be tough to accept that finding success in football is a journey.  It isn’t hard, then, to imagine a scenario where Joker loses a vocal portion of the fans with a mediocre season this year.  While it’s highly unlikely a lackluster season would spell the end for Joker (let me stress highly unlikely,) if enough of the fan base turns on the Joker era it will be a rocky road ahead.

Personally, I am fully confident in the Joker era – even if it takes a year or two to take flight… but I would feel a lot better about that statement if you could go ahead and win the Tennessee game this year.

Just saying.

Article written by Will Lentz

13 Comments for Just How Important Is This Season For Joker Phillips?

  1. Mr Schwump
    8:15 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    Not this year but next.

  2. tonydelksarms
    8:21 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    Randy Sanders so good for so long? wtf? In other news I seen Brent Pease is the OC now at Boise, now that’s really WTF

  3. ebell55
    8:29 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    Turnovers killed us last year fumbles by some of our best players Locke Cobb and Mathews. Our Deffense didn’t fall on four fumbles against Auburn alone. I can’t defend the punt at UT and the bowl game was a disaster. Other than those two things Joker did a good job. He is getting better talent he keep Tee Martin from bolting. UK fans need to be patient and let one of their own build the program! Go Cats!!!!!

  4. Poco Chang
    8:39 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    I wish KSR would stop repeating C-J and LHL story lines.

  5. Iwearmybluesunglassesatnight
    8:56 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    Oregon coach anyone????

  6. To The Cats!
    10:09 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

  7. tyson
    10:44 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    Joker gets this year and next. If we havent won 7 regular season games by then, he is out.

  8. bluetexan
    11:01 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    BS! Free MIKE LEACH! Let’s end this nightmare. Barnfart – you listening?

  9. joker
    11:10 pm August 25, 2011 Permalink

    Seriously? Cmon, everyone knows that I should get 4 years. We are building a program with a lot of negitives, give me at least 4 years.

  10. Jimmy Buffett
    6:27 am August 26, 2011 Permalink


  11. GummyBear
    9:20 am August 26, 2011 Permalink

    8.. Never gonna happen. He comes with more baggage than a Southwest flight to Albequerque.

  12. Big Worm
    9:59 am August 26, 2011 Permalink

    Joker is one of us. He deserves our full support through the next few years. He’s made the adjustments (Randy Sanders is now calling the plays on Offense and a new Defensive Coordinator in Nuclear Minter).

    As fans of Kentucky, let’s not be the reason people say he didn’t make it.

    With us, the sky’s the limit… RISE CATS! Go Big Blue!

  13. catnuts
    4:27 pm August 26, 2011 Permalink

    The only problem I had last year with Joker Phillips was this, we name him as Coach in Waiting to keep the continuity of a progam that had been climbing the ranks of the SEC over the last few years. The first thing he does is fire almost the whole staff that was responsible for our recent success.So much for continuity.