Joker Phillips' firing on Sunday came as no surprise to anyone who saw his Kentucky team in 2012: Listless and outclassed on a weekly basis, the Wildcats were among the worst teams in the SEC, and in the third year of Phillips' tenure, with the team falling to 1-9 from 5-7 in 2011, Kentucky's powers that be decided to fire him. This is all well and good for Florida, which is usually unaffected by Kentucky jobs being open (unless it's the basketball head coaching job, in which case Billy Donovan's name is always the first mentioned) — except that offensive coordinator Brent Pease is one of the likely candidates at Kentucky, and one of the most logical.
Pease's name was brought up by Yahoo!'s Pat Forde, and used in close proximity to "believed to be interested in the job:"
Sources tell Yahoo! Sports that the candidate list includes Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes and Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, plus several college offensive coordinators. Among those believed to be interested in the job are Florida's Brent Pease and Texas Tech's Neal Brown, both of whom have ties to UK - Pease as a former assistant and Brown as a player.
There's a really good piece at Kentucky Sports Radio on the Kentucky coaching search pointing out that Forde's sources may not be good enough at Kentucky to be close on a "candidate list," but Forde's connection to Boise State — he was in the press box for the memorable 2007 Fiesta Bowl, and has been driving the metaphorical "bus" for Boise State since — is certainly legit. And "believed to be interested" sounds a lot like "I talked to an agent who suggested interest," which would indicate that Pease, a former Kentucky offensive coordinator, would put feelers out for a job like this, and probably kick the tires on Kentucky if given a chance.
But Pease, who is destined for a head coaching job somewhere at some point, and has already been endorsed by Will Muschamp for one, is certainly savvy enough to realize that winning at Kentucky is nearly impossible and that the job amounts to a dead end. The last coach to leave Kentucky's biggest chair for a "better" job was Guy Morriss, who went to Baylor after leading the 'Cats to a 7-5 record in 2002; prior to that, the only other head coach to do so was a guy you may have heard of — Bear Bryant, who left Kentucky for Texas A&M.
Accepting the role of Kentucky head coach means being given a Sisyphean task (winning in the SEC with the worst raw materials in the conference) with virtually no reward if the ball ends up at the top of the hill. Does Pease strike you as a guy so thirsty to be a head coach that he'd take that lot in life willingly?
I think Pease puts feelers out here to remind everyone that he's got head coaching aspirations, and stays at Florida to cobble together a better offense with better players in 2013, at least, and boost his stock. The last Florida offensive coordinators to leave for head coaching positions, Steve Addazio and Dan Mullen, went to Temple and Mississippi State, a better stepping-stone and better hybrid stepping stone/destination job than Kentucky, respectively. Pease's stock could rival Mullen's if he can turn this moribund Florida offense into one that wins the SEC title in 2013, and he could end up at a job better than Mullen's as a result.
Settling for Kentucky with that option before him just doesn't seem like something Pease would do.