Before I get going with this column I want to make two things clear:
- At this point there’s a 97% chance Kevin Sumlin will be let go as the A&M coach. Even if he wins the final 3 games he’ll wind up at 8-4 which will be too little too late. I don’t see him beating LSU as I think the LSU defensive line will destroy the Aggie offensive line. If he goes 7-5 he stands no chance of coming back. We’ll be 5th in the West and that’s not going to cut it in Season 6.
- This column isn’t advocating for the hiring of Chad Morris. This column is to simply establish a baseline for those people that believe we won’t be able to hire someone better than Kevin Sumlin. Chad Morris would be our “worst” hire. The attitude that Kevin Sumlin is the best we can do is a terrible one to have. Kevin Sumlin is in over his head at Texas A&M. There are a LOT of coaches that can do what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M. Kevin Sumlin has never won more than 8 games in the regular season other than his first season. Let’s not forget about his struggles in November as well. He’s not a very good coach despite what some think. Texas A&M can absolutely do better and we need to eliminate this defeatist attitude.
I also want to establish two questions those in charge of the hiring decision need to make perfectly clear as they go forward:
- How much are we willing to pay? It can be fluid but I think those making the hiring decision need to know if money is going to be a factor. Don’t go shopping without a budget as that will get you in trouble.
- Are we looking to hire someone that can potentially compete with Nick Saban or do we want to be second in the SEC West? A coach that can compete with Nick Saban doesn’t exist so you have to take a chance on an unproven coach like Matt Campbell or Scott Frost if you’re willing to pay money. Those guys won’t come cheap. If you want to get a “proven” coach that’s not going to compete with Nick Saban but win 9-11 wins every year then go get Chip Kelly or Mike Leach. Both of those guys will win more games than Kevin Sumlin but will be expensive because they’re proven in P5 football.
Where Chad Morris comes in is if we’re not willing to spend money but want to improve over Kevin Sumlin. Chad Morris will win more games than Kevin Sumlin without a doubt. While his head coaching record at SMU is in question it’s still SMU. Nick Saban wouldn’t walk into SMU and win 10 games in 2-3 seasons. Chad Morris is not a horrible head coach once you dig below the surface of the wins and losses at SMU. He’s improved his record each season he’s been there. He went 2-10 his first season at SMU but he inherited a team that was horrible. They didn’t score an offensive touchdown until their 5th game the season before as June Jones quit on that team. Last year he went 5-7 with a blowout over 11th ranked Houston. That’s progress.
This season he’s sitting at 6-3 so he’s already improved last season’s win total with 3 games left. He’s got 2 tough games in Navy and Memphis but he could absolutely beat Tulane improving SMU to 7-5 in his third season. That would be a marked improvement for the program he took over 3 seasons ago. He’s not a coach that inherited a great program like Kevin Sumlin and Tom Herman did at UH. He took over a crappy program that won 1 game with a wretched offense the season he took it over. He only won 2 games the next season but he made immediate improvements to their offense which is his specialty. The SMU defense was horrible.
Digging beyond his time at SMU he was the offensive coordinator at Clemson for 4 seasons. During those 4 seasons the Clemson offense established 127 offensive records and posted the top 3 scoring seasons in Clemson history. While there he was crucial in recruiting and developing Deshaun Watson’s early collegiate career. Clemson would play for the national championship in the two seasons after Morris left with coordinators that served under Morris. If Chad Morris was still the Clemson offensive coordinator and had played in the last two national championship games winning one and maybe two would your perception of him be different? He’d be the hottest name in coaching without a doubt. Instead he’d be an “underwhelming” hire from SMU. He’s still the same coach but now with some collegiate head coaching experience so he’s actually better served to be a head coach at a P5 school.
Before Clemson he served one season as OC at Tulsa where they averaged 41.4 points a game. The dude is a successful collegiate offensive coordinator. Before Tulsa he served as head coach in the Texas high school ranks for schools like Bay City, Stephenville, and Lake Travis. His record as a high school coach is 169-38 winning 3 state titles including two back to back titles at Lake Travis before going to Tulsa. The dude can coach. Art Briles and Billy Gillispie made the jump just fine to winning games at the college level from high school. Let’s leave their personal issues out of it as I think Chad Morris is a fine person based on what I know. We’re just looking at the transition to win from high school to college in Texas. It’s very possible to have it translate.
He’s won pretty much wherever he’s gone but hasn’t won enough for Aggies that are only aware of his record at SMU. He took over a HORRIBLE SMU program and has improved them each year. When you dig under the hood he’s a damn good football coach and I promise you better than Kevin Sumlin. When you dig under Kevin Sumlin’s hood you learn there’s not much there other than being in the right place at the right time. Sumlin’s timing up until this point has been impeccable but his coaching is far from it. Sumlin got rich from A&M and it’s time to move on.
I’m not advocating for the hiring of Chad Morris right now. I want Texas A&M to do an exhaustive search and analysis for the best coach that fits the parameters of the two questions above. Chad Morris is going to leave SMU at some point for a better program. Maybe it’s A&M and maybe it’s not but he will leave SMU for a P5 job sooner than later. I just want Aggies to realize that if we wind up with Chad Morris as our “worst” option it will be MUCH better than Kevin Sumlin because the dude can coach football. I don’t know that he’ll be able to compete with Nick Saban but I do know he’ll be able to do better than what Kevin Sumlin has done here.
I do think if we hire Morris he’ll have to leave many of his SMU assistants behind as his staff isn’t amazing and he’ll need more seasoned SEC guys. If we do hire Morris I’d actually like to keep our defensive staff in place. Our defense has played pretty well in the first half of games but the lack of offense has really hurt our defensive efforts. I think a combination of Morris and Chief would create a staff that could easily win 2 games a season more than Sumlin right away.
What Texas A&M has in Kevin Sumlin is not working. It’s a bad marriage that needs to end. If Chad Morris is our next hire then be pretty damn excited because things will get better without a doubt. We will have hired a coach that’s going to make Texas A&M a better football team from Day 1 over what Kevin Sumlin has offered us the past 5 seasons. Chad Morris is not the “sexiest” hire out there for Texas A&M but he’s a damn good coach that will absolutely make us better. He’ll come at a price that will make the move worth every penny “invested” in what’s owed Kevin Sumlin after this season.
Don’t get caught up in the glitz on the surface. There’s lots of good coaches that can do what Kevin Sumlin has done at Texas A&M. There’s no doubt in my mind Chad Morris will do better than Kevin Sumlin and if he’s the “worst” hire Texas A&M can make then we’ll still be better off. I truly think Chad Morris and John Chavis would win 9 games next season at Texas A&M.
That’s still a far cry from what we really want but it would be a hell of a lot better than what Kevin Sumlin is doing right now. If you can’t get excited about that then I’m not sure what else to tell you as improvement has to start somewhere. Chad Morris would absolutely offer immediate improvement with the right staff.
EDIT: One thing I wanted to make clear but didn’t in the original piece is I don’t care that Chad Morris is an Aggie. It’s a non factor for me. I don’t care about someone with ties to Texas or “gets” Texas A&M. It shouldn’t even be a consideration in this hire. Winners win. Simple as that. Aggie and Texas connections don’t matter to me.
Also an interesting note in doing some light research on Morris is he interviewed for the Tech job when Kingsbury got it. Sounds like Kinsbury was the selection over Morris. Think Tech would like to have that decision back?