As we draw near to the end of the Sumlin era let’s look at how things got to where they are. Over the next week or so there will be lots of narratives and agendas being pushed by various people in the local and national media. Some will do it because of existing relationships with Sumlin, some will do it because of their perception of A&M, and some will do it just to draw attention in hopes of propelling their name. Nobody will really be taking an objective look at how things got here because when you look at things objectively it’s actually pretty boring. People like drama which propels attention so narratives and agendas will be pursued.
Before moving forward let’s address a potential elephant in the room. The racist note the Sumlin family received after the UCLA game. Some will want to use that as an example Sumlin was mis-treated and A&M is a racist school. None of that is true. Not one Aggie I’ve spoken with in private has any response other than they can’t believe someone sent that. It’s not reflective of the A&M fan base at all. That note was sent by a rogue Aggie “fan.” Based on the writing and return address it’s likely an old white lady with some money. The reality of her situation is she probably has more time and money than most and hits the wine too much. In addition, her husband is probably tired of her nagging him and doesn’t talk to her anymore just like her kids. He’d divorce her but it would cost too much so he just ignores her which means she needs an outlet to get attention. One night the week after the UCLA game she had a little too much wine and wrote the Sumlin’s a note using the only address she knew that wasn’t her home. She’s a pathetic human being and not reflective of the Aggie fan base at all. If someone wants to use that to paint the entire Aggie fan base they’re just as pathetic with a feeble brain that can’t apply logic to a situation and also pushing an agenda. It’s a terrible thing that happened but it means nothing the grand scheme if you have half a brain.
Dismiss anyone that wants to bring up that issue as a factor in anything related to Sumlin. In fact, send them to this link which proves it’s a non-story as it pertains to the A&M fan base as a whole. Mrs. Sumlin makes it pretty clear she sees it as a poor pathetic person acting as an individual and not a representative of the fan base – https://twitter.com/courshel/status/906988595696820224/photo/1
Another item to think about with people with an agenda against A&M is how the Sumlin situation was handled this week. A&M is no different than any other major program. Think about LSU two years ago. Think about Texas last year when it was made aware Charlie Strong would not survive his last game against TCU no matter the outcome after three seasons in Austin. Any Longhorn fans that talks trash about A&M in this situation just ask them about how Charlie Strong was handled. It likely won’t shut them up because a lot of them are morons but it might. It was handled almost the same way heading into the last game. Think about Florida earlier this year when reports surfaced that McElwain’s agent had met with the Florida administration on a buyout. The Florida AD denied that report and two days later fired McElwain.
Hell, think about how firings are handled in your workplace. Sometimes they’re known before they happen as well. I’m not saying people don’t deserve better but to say the Sumlin situation has been handled this week is different than how MULTIPLE other situations have is foolish. Do I wish A&M could have handled it differently? Sure. Is it possible to handle it differently? Based on other programs in similar situations it sure doesn’t seem like it. You never know who is leaking this stuff as it could be the coach’s agent to get the word out there his coach is available. Terminating an employee is rarely clean and quick no matter the level or industry. Kevin Sumlin was not treated any differently than countless other coaches. At least he’s not getting fired on the tarmac after landing from a road loss. Coaches also leave on their own in less than desirable circumstances. Sadly it’s the nature of the beast in the industry. Don’t let anyone act like A&M is any worse than anyone else.
What I think is interesting about these changes is that it’s really a life lesson for the players. At some point in their professional career someone they report to will move on which will change their professional outlook. They also might be moved intercompany and have to report to someone they’ve never reported to before. At that point an individual can either realize they themselves have more effect on their professional career than anyone else or they can wallow in self-pity they have a different boss they didn’t choose. Winners go on and win while losers look for blame. It’s not an easy lesson but believe it or not it can be a beneficial one. We live in a world where things change. I do believe a player should have 12 months to transfer to any school without sitting out once a school makes a change at head coach. That’s my only real issue in changes like this. Other than that it’s just a reality of life despite what the talking heads say. They work for companies that lay people off or their bosses leave for greener pastures all the time. They themselves have all left for greener pastures at some point but they fail to mention that when they become holier than thou in a coaching change. It’s not perfect and never will be perfect. It’s called life.
With that out of the way let’s talk about what Kevin Sumlin was given during his tenure at Texas A&M:
- The greatest offensive line in A&M history, a senior laden defense, and Johnny Football in his first season as coach. He capitalized on it in his first season but he walked into a near perfect situation for a first year coach. Most coaches don’t inherit the loaded team he inherited.
- The nicest on campus football stadium in the country.
- Football facilities that are on par with anyone in the country.
- Money to hire any assistant/football staff he asked for.
- The Swagcopter.
- 30,000 seat student section which is the largest and best location for intimidating the opponent.
- A passionate fan base of former students that ranked in the Top 5 of attendance during his tenure.
- A large contract increase after his second year when there appeared to be potential suitors in the NFL and USC . This put him in the Top 5 of coaches salary wise and he would always be in the Top 7 of coaches in during his remaining tenure.
- SIX seasons at Texas A&M which seems to be lost on people claiming he needs more time and stability. He had SIX seasons of stability coupled with everything else listed above. Kevin Sumlin had PLENTY of time as head coach of A&M to establish as a perennial Top 25 program.
Now let’s list out what Kevin Sumlin didn’t do:
- Place higher than 3rd in the SEC West even in his first year when he went 10-2 in the regular season. He never placed higher than 4th after the 2012 season.
- Win more than 8 games in the regular season beyond his first season in 2012.
- Finish in the Top 25 in his final 4 seasons. He finished at #5 and #18 in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
- Have a winning SEC record outside of 2012. Most seasons he was 4-4 in SEC games.
- Win SEC games in November after the 2012 season. Heading into his final game against LSU he is 4-10 in November games against the SEC from 2013 on.
- Win SEC games at Kyle Field. In his six seasons Sumlin was 8-14 against SEC opponents and 3-12 against SEC West opponents at Kyle Field. What was once a major home field advantage in college football Sumlin never could utilize.
- Have a winning record against the Mississippi SEC schools. Sumlin is 3-3 against both Mississippi SEC schools. While respectable programs A&M should have a winning record against those programs based on resources.
- Beat LSU ever. Heading into this weekend’s game Kevin Sumlin has never beat LSU in five tries. That trend will likely continue.
- Keep a consistent string of starting quarterbacks. We all know about the Kyler Murray/Kyle Allen situation but where Sumlin really screwed up was not recruiting Jarret Stidham twice. I can understand the first time as he was completely enamored with Kyler Murray as where a lot of people. However, the second time he had the opportunity to recruit Stidham he had no veteran quarterback on the roster and passed. He should have learned with Trevor Knight what a talented transfer quarterback can mean to a football team that has a depleted quarterback situation. If he signs Stidham in the last recruiting class he’s likely secure as A&M’s head coach right now. He didn’t learn his lesson which is a trend with him.
- Keep his offensive line stocked with talent. What was a strength during his first season fell off dramatically due mainly to a bad string of offensive line coaching hires in identifying talent. Jim Turner appears to be too little too late at this point.
- Change his ways of coaching when coaching for his job in 2017. There were no visible changes for how Sumlin handled in game situations in 2017. His handling of the clock based on awareness of the game situation was no different than previous seasons. The preparedness of his team before certain games and coming off bye weeks seemed no different than previous seasons. He never adjusted to winning SEC games at Kyle or November. For a coach that alluded to doing different things in 2017 because of the perceived “hot seat” the results were the EXACT same as the previous 4 seasons. His stubbornness or lack of awareness didn’t change one bit when it needed to.
- Establish Texas A&M as the definitive SEC program West of the Mississippi. I’ve always felt one thing Sumlin should have done was establish A&M as the Western outpost of the SEC. He was well on his way securing major commitments out of Arizona and Nevada but his lack of wins never allowed him to establish what should be a key component in A&M’s recruiting.
- Hire a competent offensive coordinator after Kliff Kingsbury. Clarence McKinney, Jake Spavital, and Noel Mazzone were not successful offensive coordinators. They scored points and gained yards but their offenses were wildly inconsistent disappearing and not sustaining drives in games when they mattered most. Sumlin chose to hire people he had a relationship with rather than hiring the most competent offensive coordinator he could find. His hiring of Jake Spavital and not demoting him fast enough also lead to the firing of B.J. Anderson and hiring Dave Christensen to coach the offensive line which was a complete disaster. He did a nice job hiring Jim Turner but it seems too little too late. Speaking of Dave Christensen ask the Christensen family how they felt after Christensen was let go after one year. Sometimes the college coaching profession is a messy business and neither side is perfect.
- Win without Johnny Manziel. Sumlin was 20-6 (77%) with Johnny Manziel and 31-19 (62%) without. It’s not a stark difference but it’s a difference that contributed to his dismissal. Most of the difference is tied to his SEC record.
Let’s talk about some of the things Kevin Sumlin did do:
- Had the guts to start a redshirt freshman by the name of Johnny Manziel that would win A&M’s second Heisman and lead A&M to a Top 5 finish that season.
- Beat Arkansas a perfect 6 times. It took 3 of those going to overtime but credit is due where credit is due.
- For the most part ran a really clean program Aggies everywhere can be proud of. There were a couple of problem players early in his tenure and the Kirk Merritt situation wasn’t handled in the best manner but Sumlin ran a program that never shamed A&M relative to other programs. He’s a good person that served A&M admirably as head coach outside of wins and losses.
- Recruited really well. Sumlin was by the far greatest recruiting coach in the last 20 years.
- Hire John Chavis. Despite what some people think John Chavis has been a really solid defensive coordinator. Sumlin might already be fired if it wasn’t for John Chavis. He’s been worth 3-4 more wins in Sumlin’s tenure and could have been worth 3-4 more wins with a competent offense. John Chavis is not perfect but I stand by he’s a Top 10 defensive coordinator in college football. Credit to Sumlin for making this hire as it’s saved his job until now.
- Continued putting players into the NFL but that is trending down at the moment.
- While this area is mostly positives there is one thing Sumlin did that needs to be remembered and referenced earlier. During the 2013 season he flirted with the USC job along with NFL openings. That flirting got him his 6 year/$30 million contract extension. While the talking heads talk about loyalty from the A&M side they need to remember Sumlin was looking out for himself during the 2013 season. I don’t fault him but don’t forget Sumlin has been on the business side of things himself.
When you look at the ledger of what Kevin Sumlin was given, what he didn’t do, and what he did do as coach at Texas A&M it’s hard to say he was treated unfairly by Texas A&M. He was given everything he asked for over six seasons but yet failed to finish in the Top 25 despite being paid as a Top 5-7 coach. He was compensated way higher than what he delivered over the last four seasons. It’s not a knock on him personally but it is a knock on him as a head coach. He simply didn’t deliver to the expectations that were placed on him and Texas A&M has decided to move on. Those in charge of Texas A&M feel that Aggie Football is capable of achieving better results than what Kevin Sumlin has and will likely deliver. It’s nothing personal as a clear pattern of mediocre football has been established under Sumlin’s final five seasons. It’s a business. Sumlin knows this better than anyone. Win enough or else.
Going back to how things were handled this week there are reports Sumlin was made aware of the decision prior to the public report by Brent Zwerneman in the Houston Chronicle. If Sumlin failed to inform his staff that’s on him as he could have given them a heads up to start putting feelers out for other jobs. I’m sure Sumlin’s agent has already got a jump on things reaching out to athletic directors that might be interested in hiring Sumlin. I don’t think Sumlin has been sitting on his hands waiting for the official public announcement from Texas A&M. I doubt his assistants have been sitting on their hands as well despite the article by Bruce Feldman claiming an assistant first hear about it when the Chronicle published Zwerneman’s story. I’d wager every one of Sumlin’s assistants has put some kind of feeler out for employment next year. Employee departures are never easy and clean. Welcome to this thing called life.
Despite all of the noise what’s going to happen is there to be a change in head coach at Texas A&M in the next couple of weeks. A month from now everyone will have moved on from this week’s news of how Kevin Sumlin, his staff, and the players were claimed to be “treated unfairly” by a few people with an agenda or need for attention. At worst if Sumlin, staff, and players found out via the Chronicle story at least he wasn’t in the driveway of a recruit like Mike Sherman. There have been worse coaching termination notifications and there will be worse. It’s never a clean move despite what the “experts” say. It’s all part of the business. Kevin Sumlin will likely have a new head coaching job in a month from now if he really wants one. He’s a fine coach but he’s just not a great coach as the last five years at A&M have shown. Maybe this is the wake-up call he needs to finally make changes to his coaching style. Either way a year from now all of this will mostly be forgotten just like Charlie Strong and Texas last season and countless other coaching changes over the years. This is no different.
It looks like Jimbo Fisher could be the new guy which I’m fully on board with. It’s a MAJOR statement hire by Texas A&M and likely the most sure thing out there. It won’t be cheap but it could absolutely be worth it. A&M made a bold move to the SEC which woke some people up but hasn’t woken everyone up. Some people still don’t have an objective opinion of Texas A&M Football. The hire of Jimbo Fisher will continue to wake people up that Texas A&M has the ability and desire to compete with the top programs in the country. It’s all about coaching and A&M is making a move to see if they can find the right coach to Make Aggie Football Great Again like it was from 1985 to 1995. No more and no less despite what someone may want to portray it as.
Gig ‘Em Aggies!
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