John Chavis’ New Coaching Downgrade Is a Doozy

John Chavis

-Tommy Foltz

In another chapter of “You can’t make this sh…stuff up,” Tennessee outlets report that John Chavis has a new job!!  Woo hoo!!!!  


Arkansas’ not-so-illustrious former defensive coordinator has been hired as an assistant coach at West High School in the Knoxville Area “Middle-School Age” Conference.

If I were John Chavis, “elated” is not the word I would use in taking this gig.  Here’s a man, after all, who has climbed to the top of Rocky Top Mountain.  Then, he navigated the largest bayou in south Louisiana with the greatest of ease.  But then he moved to Texas and got punched in the nose before fleeing to Fayetteville — where he got his head stomped on before he was chased out of town.  

He trails only Bret Bielema in coaches who have lost relevance in the college football world.  


John “The Chief” Chavis began coaching college football as a GA in 1979, but let’s start in 1989 when he went back to Tennessee (his alma mater) to coach the Vols’ d-line and linebackers.

1989 — 1994:  Defensive line and linebackers coach (Tennessee)

1995 — 2008:  Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (Tennessee)

—Led the SEC in defense (1996) — Named outstanding linebacker coach in the SEC (1998) — American Football Association Assistant Coach of the Year (2006) — Defense ranked 3rd nationally and 1st in the SEC (2008) 

2009 — 2014:  Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (LSU)

—Broyles Award winner for best assistant coach (2011)

2015 — 2017:  Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (Texas A&M)

—Defense ranked 51st nationally (2015) —90th nationally (2016) — 78th nationally (2017)

2018 — 2019:  Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach (Arkansas)

—79th in total defense nationally (2018) — 110th in total defense nationally; worst in program history (2019)

Without question, “The Chief” actually acted like one in Knoxville and Baton Rouge.  Then, he acted more like a squaw in College Station and Fayetteville.  It’s as if he spent 15 years climbing to the mountaintop, then jumped off that summit expecting to fly, only to end up careening into the dark abyss of incompentance — all within the span of 5 years.

Now, by going from SEC defensive coordinator to matching wits with middle school coaches, he’s taken this whole plummeting thing to a whole new level:


“One of the most respected defensive coordinators in the country” doesn’t fly anymore.



The story of John Chavis is the story of the band “New Kids on the Block.”  He’s not exactly a one-hit-wonder, but at this point, he’s neither “new” nor any sort of “kid.”  That band used to play in sold-out arenas but is now lucky to get virtual gigs with bars that can accommodate 300 – 400 people on Zoom.

For the record, I would rather drink vinegar from a firehose than listen to New Kids.  Like the New Kids originally with Mark Wahlberg, John Chavis rose like a meteor and returned to Earth with a thud.

When Chad Morris announced Chavis’ arrival two and a half years ago, much of Arkansas’ fanbase would’ve chosen vinegar from a firehose over a man who even then was showing signs of being washed up.  I hate to admit it, but I was not one of those.  I thought his overall “body of work” would show itself when we got the right players.  

Of course, I’m a benefit of the doubt guy.  I’ll like you until you give me a reason not to.  But as the wheels came off, starting early in that first season, the reasons kept piling up against Chavis — to the point that I was calling for his head before Morris’.  It became pretty clear that his time at Texas A&M was not a fluke.  The common denominator between the increasingly cheddar cheese defenses at Texas A&M and Arkansas was Chavis.  

As a result, the 63-year-old Chavis is now coaching at a lower level of competition than Peyton Hillis, Drew Morgan, Ryan Mallet, Ty Storey, Casey Dick and other former Hogs who haven’t yet coached in the college ranks and who did not even sniff a national championship as players.  

If it takes you only five years to fall from the top of the college football world, to SEC laughingstock status, to coaching “middle school” players who don’t include your grandson, you either need to stop calling yourself “The Chief,” or head back to the reservation.


Why Chad Morris hired John Chavis

Because reliving just the good memories is overrated.


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