What to do with Kevin Sumlin

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I hate saying this but I assumed we’d lose to LSU.  They were a major match up problem and Kevin Sumlin has shown he’s not likely to adapt to teams that are a match up problem for us.  He just runs the same thing out there in hopes there will be a different outcome.  No wrinkles or anything new.  We saw that in Tuscaloosa.  Just the same thing that won’t appear to work in hopes it will.  You know, the definition of insanity.  I didn’t expect the LSU game to play out like it did but in most ways it was worse than what I expected.  I thought both teams would score under 20 and LSU would win by fewer than 10 points.  I had no clue an offensive shootout would break out.  It only broke out because our defense got us behind so far that our offense had no choice but to finally go downfield and it worked for the most part.  Still not enough though as our issues on defense continued to rear their ugly head as our offense finally found some momentum.  The same defense that all but shut down Auburn and Arkansas for an entire game and Bama for almost 3 quarters just continued to leak like a sieve against a very suspect LSU offense.  It just makes no sense how it happened but the coaching staff is to blame.

Leading into the LSU game expecting a loss and especially after the loss with how the game played out I’ve kicked around if Kevin Sumlin should be fired or not.  The general consensus is that he’s going to get another season mainly because it would cost too much to let him and his staff go.  So basically we’re in a marriage that isn’t working and doesn’t hold much promise of working but it costs too much to get out.  We’re going to give the problem spouse one more year in hopes they can improve on the issues that have plagued them for 4 years.  Sounds like insanity again but it’s because of money.  Sure, we’re gonna be miserable for a year but it would cost a lot of money to have some kind of hope moving forward.  Which means we’re gonna stick out being miserable for a year because we can’t afford the attorneys and need a little more equity in the house before we sell it.  Sounds like a lovely 12 months in front of us.

We’re in this situation because of three things that we had in 2012:

  1. Johnny Manziel – Seems like so long ago. Do you remember him?
  2. An offensive line where all five starters took snaps in the NFL with three of the starters being first round draft picks.
  3. Senior leaders that were pissed they were getting no respect heading into the SEC. I think this element of that team is very underrated and these are the guys that really made Sumlin a lot of money with that big contract after the season.  Guys like Ryan Swope, Sean Porter, Jonathan Stewart, Spencer Nealy, Pat Lewis, and EZ Nwachukwu drove that team.  They hated all the collapses from the previous season and then the dissing by the media they wouldn’t be able to compete and it put a solid chip on their shoulders that drove that team.

Kevin Sumlin just happened to wear a headset with the best collection of talent and leaders on an A&M roster since 1998 if not longer.  We thought Sumlin had the secret sauce.  Outside of picking Manziel to start which he deserves major credit for Sumlin just has regular old ketchup, mustard, and mayo.  We gave him a contract though for those three things above because we thought he had the secret sauce.  Turns out his sauce is the same as we can get anywhere.

Do I think Sumlin should be fired?  I’ve thought about this since the Ole Miss game and yes I think he should be fired.  The ONLY reason he should stay is he appears to have a pretty good recruiting class enrolling at the mid-term so if he can hold Kellen Mond along with adding Jarret Stidham and Anthony Hines at the mid-term then maybe he deserves another year.  I say that because I don’t know who our leadership would get.  Our school president and athletic director hired Chris Petersen at Washington from Boise St. so we have the two people that should have intimate knowledge if Petersen would ever come to Texas A&M.  If he would you fire Sumlin tomorrow and bring in Petersen.  I’m assuming that’s not possible so Petersen is not an option.

Outside of Petersen I’m kind of clueless on realistic candidates.  I think there’s little doubt Chad Morris or Larry Fedora would take the job in a heartbeat.  When you look at their careers objectively I’m not sure they’re really better than Sumlin long term but they’re probably just as good.  Maybe 1-2 wins a season but I’m not sure they’re locks to be great coaches.  I think Morris holds some upside but I honestly don’t know what he would do at A&M.  He seems like the kind of recruiter that would have to sell winning above all else so if he doesn’t win he’s totally hosed.  And let’s face it the college game is mostly about recruiting so that’s kind of chicken and egg taking a guy that needs wins to sell recruits when next year’s talent and schedule has questions.

There’s P.J. Fleck who’s like the Johnny Manziel of college coaching right now looking to take that leap to the next level.  He’s pretty damn intense and seems to have a lot of motivational gimmicks but would it carry over to the SEC?  I don’t know.  Would I roll the dice on him?  Yeah he’s the kind of guy I would roll the dice on assuming he had some kind of plan to recruit Texas and hire a staff that had big school experience.  I just don’t know how that would work because of his intensity and gimmicks where he currently is.  I honestly think he holds more promise than Tom Herman but he could also be a flaming disaster.  With Nick Saban in the SEC West why not roll the dice on someone that’s so crazy it just might work.

I’m intrigued by Lane Kiffin mainly because he’s an outstanding offensive coach.  He wasn’t the disaster he’s been made out to be as a head coach.  He left Tennessee in a slightly bad way but he was offered the USC job after a year at Tennessee which happens in college football.  Coaches leave for a perceived better opportunity at weird times.  He wasn’t actually terrible at USC amongst a host of restrictions on scholarships and post season.  I think there’s a strong chance he goes to LSU as offensive coordinator for next season so let’s see what he does there.  If he has success beating Alabama next season then he’s going to be head coach of an SEC team if that’s what he wants.

I’m also intrigued by Dan Mullen at Miss. St. as I think he’s a really underrated coach.  He’s a pretty damn good coach and I think his personality would actually work well at A&M and in Texas recruiting.  Not sure he’d leave Miss St. for A&M but I think there’s a strong chance.  He’d be a definite upgrade over Kevin Sumlin.  I’d definitely put him on my radar.

Brent Venables comes to mind but then you look at the lack of success that Will Muschamp and Kirby Smart have had as head coaches you wonder if they’re too focused on defense.  Venables is a heck of a defensive coordinator but I have no clue how he’d do as a head coach.

There’s not an obvious choice to replace Sumlin like Texas had with Herman.  I do think we could hire someone as good as Sumlin pretty easily but how much better I’m not sure.  I just don’t know if our leadership is equipped to hire that person.

If I were hiring I’d look for the following:

  1. Extensive coordinating experience with a high level of success. I want to know they called plays on one side of the ball for an extended period and had a strong level of success.  Let’s not forget that best I can tell based on research Kevin Sumlin only ever called plays by himself for half a season and his one claim to fame was beating #1 ranked OU but lost the next week to Mizzou and then Texas that season.  He really doesn’t have the extensive coordinating experience he’s made out to be.  He just happened to be associated with great coordinators and quarterbacks.  I don’t think he actually knew what was going on with all those wins and players he’s associated with.
  2. Head coaching experience that gives you some insight into how they actually operate as a head coach. I wouldn’t be so concerned with their actual wins and losses but did their teams compete, did they adjust in game along with week to week based on opponent, and how did the head coach handle in game situations.  Where they a disaster with clock management, substitutions, recruiting, handling the media, and a lot of things coordinators don’t have to really deal with.  In this day and age you need someone that can be part CEO but not forget how to scheme a gameplan and adapt or adjust during the game and for different opponents.  I want someone that LOVES watching game film before and after games to dissect issues and opportunities.  I think Sumlin would rather watch a concert or big sports event.
  3. What is their recruiting plan for recruiting Texas players? Do they have relationships with Texas coaches?  Will they go out and meet with coaches?  Who will be their recruiting coordinator and what kind of staff is needed?  Texas recruiting is the life blood of Texas A&M and if they can’t succeed at recruiting Texas they won’t be successful coaching at A&M.
  4. Who will they target as their offensive and defensive coordinator along with the rest of their staff? Will they bring the majority of the coaches that have been with them or are they willing to leave most of their staff behind to hire a truly elite SEC level staff?  In this day and age you need a head coach that has the ability and willingness to hire the best and brightest coaching staff with real SEC experience. Cronies and chums who got you where you are might not be the best to bring with you.  You’re gonna be playing sold out arenas so your current fiddle player might not get the crowd cheering when they open up their case.  If you’re gonna coach in Texas you got have a bad ass fiddle in the band.  Your old fiddler may not do it so we’ll give you the money to get the best if you’re willing to get them.  If not, keep playing the smaller venues with your Ford van and packed cargo trailer full of gear.  I think this is the biggest thing that’s not really reviewed in the hiring process.  An experienced and talented staff like in any organization is what will make it great.  I want a coach that demands excellence and if someone won’t or isn’t cutting it then they need to hit the bricks.  Being friends is fine but you have to be objective in your analysis.
  5. Do you hate losing more or winning more? I want someone that really gets pissed off when they lose.  I think the great ones are driven more by a fear of losing than the pursuit of winning.  I think this is what drives the likes of Saban, Meyer, and Harbaugh.  You don’t want a jerk but I want someone that’s a little surly after a loss and not just in front of the media.  I want someone that tells their staff and players to go home because they want to be left alone to watch film.  I think Sumlin goes home after every loss and fixes a glass of scotch while he lights up a stogie to take some pressure off.  I think he copes with losing rather than letting it drive him.  I think that’s why we’ve seen the late season collapses.  He didn’t let losing drive him and his team to get better.  He’d just fire up a stogie and pour some scotch until the pain went away hoping his players and staff could figure it out.  He had no clue.  There is an unhealthy level of hating losing but I want someone that vows to actually do things differently and try to dissect why they weren’t successful.  I actually don’t think a lot of coaches do this.
  6. Do you care more about being a football coach that wins games or being a celebrity? In this day and age big time college head coaches are celebrities.  Some love the attention and some don’t care.  It’s great to be seen as someone cool but at the end of the day you’re a head football coach that’s paid to win games.  I want someone that is willing to embrace the celebrity but they really don’t like it and try to shy away from it because they’re more worried about wins and losses.  I think we all know Sumlin loves being a celebrity and being adored by everyone.  He cares more about his celebrity status than actual wins and losses.

So with all that would I still fire Kevin Sumlin?  Yeah I think I would but I would have done it on Friday after the game.  I kind of feel like we’re so far behind the eight ball because we’re focused on money and not winning I question who we’d get.  We might as well be miserable for another year and get things in order to really be ready to make a great hire.  I kind of feel like our administration is not equipped to make the move right now.  Much like when we fired Mike Sherman and Kevin Sumlin.  Those things kind of jumped up on us and we didn’t really know how to hire a big time coach for a big time program.  Maybe we are best giving Sumlin one more year but that’s not because we should.  It’s because our administration is not equipped to make the move when it needs to be done.  Hopefully they spend the next 12 months preparing for the move and can strike it when it becomes obvious because I have a big feeling there’s going to be an obvious moment next year.

So have fun being miserable for another year as I don’t see how this time next year we’re wondering if Sumlin should be fired or not.  It’ll be clear and he won’t be here.  Who controls the heat on Sumlin’s seat?  He does!  He does!

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