I wonder if Ole Miss hired Cutcliffe for the sole reason that they knew that it was a good chance he could land Eli Manning? After all, Cutcliffe recruited and coached brother Peyton at Tennessee, and Peyton does think highly of Cutcliffe. Now, when Peyton was recruited he signaled he would not sign with Ole Miss since his father Archie played there and Peyton did not want the extra pressure of playing where Pop did. However, if Eli had any such reservations, I did not hear about them. In fact, I think Eli was probably more reluctant to follow Peyton’s footsteps at Tennessee. So what does Ole Miss do? They lure away Cutcliffe from Tennessee as a way to show Eli that Ole Miss’s program was going to take a direction that could land him in the pros just like his brother. Ole Miss needed a coach at the time, so why not hire a man who could land one of the most sought after recruits in the country? Apparently it worked. Eli has a God-like stature at Ole Miss, and he is now a multimillionaire playing for the New York Giants. Coach Cutcliffe delivered the goods, but in the eyes of Ole Miss he outlived his usefullness.
I certainly think the Eli situation was a factor that helped Cutcliffe win the job, but I’m not sure it explains the firing so much as Pete Boone’s apparent antipathy toward Cutcliffe and his desire to get his “own guy” in the job. Plus, anyone who’s followed the last six years of Ole Miss football has to wonder about the annual November slump and inexplicable losses to middling teams over the past few years, like unidimensional Texas Tech, limited-talent Memphis, and whatever the hell happened to the team at Wyoming, not to mention the Music City Bowl fiasco against West Virginia. Inexplicably, my dubbing of Cutcliffe as the “master of the prevent offense” never seemed to catch on, but it certainly characterized much of the play under every QB.
(All that said, I still am not at all convinced the firing made a lot of sense, unless there’s stuff we don’t know coming down the pike, as Kornheiser mentioned yesterday as a possible caveat before he and Wilbon went on a tear insulting the decision by Boone and Robert Khayat.)
Mark also reminds me why I wasn’t all that broken up when the whole Petrino thing was going down at Auburn. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy… (The annoying part is that I think the AP will give Tubby half the national title just because the sportswriters like complaining about the BCS—and what better way to show it’s broken than to put their thumb on the scale a bit?)