The Vanderbilt football program was flying high at one point in time. James Franklin had them going to a bowl game every year and people were genuinely happy with the program the direction it was going in. But after Franklin left, there were many that wondered where the program would head next. Who would they bring in to try and keep the level of success where it was at Vandy? After conducting a search, Vandy eventually found their man. He was none other than Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason. And although some had some trepidation about him, there were some thoughts to him doing well and keeping up the success eventually. Well, after two years and a this year's home opener, the success that some thought would come with him has yet to be seen. True, he has had some issues with health of players and the recruits that decommited from Vandy when Franklin left hurt as well. But at this point, there is a pattern that is forming under Mason. And the pattern that is forming is one that not many would like to see.
The Vanderbilt football team is a very tough bunch. They play well defensively and they have been good at staying right in games and even getting leads. With those kind of characteristics, you would think there is a way that Vandy would pull out some of those wins when in a great situation. Well, that is not exactly what happens. Mason gets a lead in the football game and that is when he begins to get ultra-conservative offensively. Instead of trying a few things, they start playing it safe. The premise with this style is that you limit the ability for your team to make a mistake and help the opponent win. And when doing that, Mason puts more pressure on his defense. As the game goes on and Vandy's defense is on the field more and more, they eventually wear down and the opponent makes something happen in the fourth quarter. This scenario has played out like a predictable horror movie over the last two seasons. And it played out in the first game of the season as well, as Vandy lost a ten point lead in the second half of the game. At this point in time, it seems enough is enough.
Mason, whether he wants to believe it or not, has to realize that Vandy is an underdog is almost every game they play in the SEC. They may have talent, but they do not have the depth that other teams have. So in knowing that you are undermanned, why not let it all hang out? Mason needs to take more chances with his team. Maybe by doing all that he can to move the chains, he can help his defense get more rest. And with a fresher defense down the stretch, that could help the Commodores in the fourth quarter. And also with pushing more buttons, he will instill confidence in his team. As the game went on Thursday night versus the South Carolina Gamecocks, it looked like the offense lost confidence. And along with the inexplicable quarterback swap that killed momentum, the conservative play-calling has killed this team time and time again.
Mason was never a head coach before this job and is still learning. But after two seasons of the same type of game, there need to be some changes. Gone should be the days where the Commodores try and match some in the SEC in their style. A new style of playing free, easy and allowing your players to make plays needs to be adopted. Because if they stay down the path they are on, then it could be curtains for Mason and the search will be on for someone that is the antithesis of who Mason is as a coach. Maybe Mason will get it together. But as of right now and after one game, it looks to be more of the same from him.