Sunday, December 11, 2011

Obvious coaching hire is obvious

Since Mike Leach got yoinked off the unemployment line by Washington State about 1.6 seconds after Paul Wulff got canned, Kevin Sumlin was THE GUY (all caps) in the world of coaching vacancies for the last two weeks. Women wanted him, men wanted to be him, etc. Unbeaten seasons tend to do that.

ASU nearly had him locked up until the untimely (or timely, maybe) firing of Mike Sherman by Texas A&M made the most obvious hire of the offseason extremely ... umm ... obvious. I wrote this the night of Sherman's pink-slip-by-text-message awkwardness:
I'll be surprised if Sumlin isn't sitting at a podium by Tuesday.
That was last Tuesday; I dunno what took so long. There were rumors that A&M was looking at Chris Petersen (lol no), Mark Richt (intriguing but no) and Charlie Strong (meh), but my guess is is that Sumlin was the back-pocket guy the whole time. It's easy to go for broke when there's a swell fallback plan awaiting the job offer he's allegedly always wanted.

Here's some more from that Sherman post (I could easily copy and paste about 500 Sumlin-related words since I was already totally convinced he was getting the job):
If you're Bill Byrne and you're putting together an ideal resume for an A&M head coach, it probably looks a lot like Sumlin's. A hypothetical choice between a 47-year-old Sumlin and a 57-year-old Sherman would probably be a pretty easy one. That scenario assumes Sumlin wants the A&M job, but that seems like a safe assumption ...
So ... the resume. He has it. Two years as O-coordinator and assistant head coach at A&M in 2001 and '02, two years as Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator (2006 and '07) and a 35-17 record in four years as head coach at Houston (and that number would be even better if not for a 5-7 finish last year after Case Keenum and backup Cotton Turner both suffered season-ending injuries in the third game of the season). Solid. He also worked under Dennis Erickson and then Mike Price at Wazzu, was receivers coach under Joe Tiller at Purdue and then spent five years with Bob Stoops, who's had a pretty ridiculous string of offensive coordinators. It's that assistant-y stuff that should assuage any fears about him being an overrated flash-in-the-crappy-conference-pan coach. Again:
If you're Bill Byrne and you're putting together an ideal resume for an A&M head coach, it probably looks a lot like Sumlin's.
There's also some consistency to that resume in a stylistic sense, by which I mean Sumlin is probably going to throw it a billion times. His seven years as a playcaller have produced the following passing offenses: 79th, 21st, 70th (first year at Oklahoma), 36th, second (first year at Houston), first, fifth, first. In case you were wondering, that first year at Oklahoma was the year Adrian Peterson went ham before breaking his collarbone and Paul Thompson was the starting quarterback because of Rhett Bomar's NCAA shenanigans. That team went to the Fiesta Bowl. A&M's offenses will be fine.

As for the program as a whole ... ummm ... ahh, screw it. Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V time:
There was a poll -- I think it was done by ESPN the Magazine or ESPN Insider or whatever -- last offseason that asked college coaches to rank the most underachieving (or something like that) programs in the country. A&M was the runaway winner. There were a whole bunch of anonymous comments about money and the Texas recruiting base and the fan support and blah blah blah. It's clearly a desirable job when other coaches are gazing longingly and saying, "man, that's a school that should be winning a lot." Also, Dennis Franchione left Alabama to take over at A&M, which shows what's happened to those two programs in the last decade.

I don't see the SEC West being beneficial in that regard; finishing any better than third on a regular basis is gonna be pretty tough. Still, expecting to be significantly better than .500 on a regular basis isn't unreasonable (what's the difference between A&M and Arkansas?). Sherman got four years and couldn't quite do it, although I don't think he was far off. Maybe Sumlin can.
There's really no reason A&M can't win. The only inherent disadvantage is the division, which is gonna be utterly loaded for as long as Nick Saban and Les Miles are alive. But what's the difference between A&M and Arkansas (other than A&M having a more significant recruiting presence in Texas)? That's the upside for Sumlin's A&M: Bobby Petrino's Arkansas. That's a reasonable expectation, especially under a guy with a very Petrino-esque track record who's been mining southeast Texas for the last decade at schools that have been winning a lot more than A&M.

I'm not sure exactly what the downside is; Sumlin's floor seems relatively high except for the whole "eek SEC West" thing. He's like the anti-Weis in that there's not a single thing I can point to as an obvious reason the guy shouldn't succeed. Actually doing it is the tricky part.


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