...and a competent AD would have ascertained, correctly, that the program was ascending in his first 3 years. Butch wasn't doing special things, like Heupel did last year, but from 2013-16 the program was not stagnating or regressing.
No it wasn't "ascending". Jones brought in some talent. You can say it fell in his lap in the form of homers like Hurd and legacies or you can believe he was some kind of wunder-recruiter who forgot how to recruit after two classes. Either way, UT had more talent in years 3 and 4 relative to competition than they had had in many years. At least 2005 if not before.
In the end, even the recruiting was an illusion. He had a disproportionate number of underachievers and outright busts.
Just like he did with his first two rosters, he underperformed that talent. An executive, CEO, AD, or anyone at that level of leadership has to be able to see what things happen because of someone like Jones... and what things happen in spite of him.
Butch inherited a mess from Dooley and made incremental, measured improvements over 3 years.
Incremental improvements? How do you convince yourself of those kinds of myths? He was carried by talent... partly Dooley's talent... and then collapsed. Dooley was a lazy recruiter. But what he left Jones was far from a "mess". He had an OL with 5 NFL caliber starters. He had two future NFL CBs. He had a future NFL DT. He had two NFL caliber LBs. Plus a bunch of other guys with talent to fill in between. He didn't leave the empty cupboard that he left Pruitt or that Pruitt left Heupel.
He shouldn't have blown leads to OU, UF, and Arkansas in year 3 but we were only favored in one of those games (Arky, I think). OU went on to win the Big 12 and make the CFP that year. UF went on to have a decent year and win the SEC East. None of those losses were to bad teams. No AD was going to fire him after his performance during his first 3 seasons.
Again I have to ask why you are so vested in defending his incompetence?
The trajectory of the program under Butch did not start to reverse until the 2016 South Carolina loss, and IMO he sealed his eventual fate after losing to Vandy later that year. So you didn't like him from the beginning - good for you - but no AD anywhere was going to cut him loose after that third season.
Well, yes. As Wisconsin just demonstrated with a short hook. There are ADs with the intelligence and wisdom to see the trajectory and issues within a program before they start resulting in more losses.
Jones was a boob. He never should have been hired and even a 2nd level deep look at his "record" would have revealed that. But you can lay the primary responsibility at the feet of the AD and the powers that came together to first hire him and then keep him.
If you think I am wrong then genuinely ask yourself where UT football would have been had someone like Heupel been hired after Jones' 3rd year with these guys coming back- Dobbs, Hurd, Kamara, Kongbo, Tuttle, Malone, Kelly, Gaulden, Martin, Barnett, Callaway, Mosley, Jennings, Croom, Warrior, Taylor, Reeves-Maybin, Sutton, BerryX2, and a boat load of other talent that Jones squandered.