Spoiler alert for the words and paragraphs that are about to follow: coaches are real people, and (some of them) actually possess something close to human feelings and emotions. Bo Pelini is a robot sent to destroy things, and therefore none of the above applies to him, but he is the exception that generally proves the rule.
Additionally, most coaches have families, complicated interpersonal relationships, crazy family dynamics, and generally all the same shit your office and home has; they just happen to have the luck - or wild misfortune - of seeing their TPS reports judged in front of 75,000 screaming fans each weekend. Good times! This is generally where anonymous internet commentator screams, "but they're paid so handsomely rabblerabble!" True, but has your boss ever looked remotely this depressed after a big meeting went south?
Combine the above with the axiom that MANAGEMENT DECISIONS ARE DIFFICULT (you just received a Harvard MBA), and it is no wonder certain coaches stick around years after their expiration dates, be promoted far beyond their level of competence, or generally fall from the sky out of nowhere, because, comfort.
So what does this all mean with the recent news that Kevin Sumlin has demoted Clarence McKinney back to running back's coach and elevated 28 year-old Jake Spavital to sole play caller?
First, it is a tacit admission that Sumlin feels the offensive playcalling this year was less than optimal. "But wait!", cries the human that understands nothing of game management or advanced analytics, "We finished fourth in the country in total offense!?!!" Yes. Yes A&M did.
And, given an offensive line where all five starters will collect an NFL paycheck including two first-round tackles, a first-round wide receiver, four above-average collegiate running backs and a Heisman-winning ninja at quarterback, you too could lead an NCAA team to a top five offensive finish. Congratulations!
Just as important as the internal self-scouting actually taking place, Sumlin had the intestinal fortitude to take someone he hand-picked out of the high school ranks, had been on his staff ever since he became a head coach, sat him down and said: you are not getting the job done. You will remain on this staff, recruit your ass off and coach the hell out of the running backs.
For anyone that has ever been in a similar position, that discussion is tough. But also impressive, more so coming mere days after a $30 million contract extension that, if anything, would give many CEO's the latitude to put off difficult management decisions, at least for another 12 months.
And what to make of McKinney's successor, the beguiling Jake Spavital? For a guy whose coaching career goes all the way back to 2008, he has managed to be on staff with Gus Malzahn, Dana Holgerson, Todd Graham, Mike Gundy, Kliff Kingsbury, and Kevin Sumlin. Which means the guy knows just about every permutation of the modern Air Raid, and probably really likes to party.
There is a bit of disenchantment from a segment of the A&M fanbase that can be summed up as, "We sucked running the ball, and now we're promoting an Air Raid guy who coordinated the passing game to call plays? WTF?" This is a false binary, primarily because one's coaching tree does not equal how an individual will call plays when live bullets are flying. It certainly might give an indication, but there are a million examples of coaches that, when given the opportunity, have adapted their own unique style. (See: Briles, Art. See: Frost, Scott. Please do not look at Holgerson, Dana.)
Bottom line: I find it hard to believe that Spavital could have a worse inherent rhythm to his in-game playcalling than McKinney, although personally I will miss his incredibly frustrating press conferences.
The flip side to this decision might not be one that A&M fans want to talk about, but the reality is that 2014 is going to be a struggle. The Aggies are most likely losing three first-round NFL talents on the offensive side of the ball, breaking in several new offensive linemen, and will now be doing all of this under a somewhat new scheme. Defensively, the line is still a year away, and the linebackers remain a mess. Serious help is on the way, but with a schedule that includes trips to South Carolina, Alabama, and Auburn along with home dates against Missouri and LSU, it's easy to wonder if Sumlin views next year as a reset, both on the field and in the booth with a young playcaller that hopefully proves his mettle quickly.
Should Aggie fans be excited? Very much so. Your coach is a CEO that evaluates his program honestly, and isn't afraid to make bold moves. Your offensive coordinator is considered one of the brightest young coaching minds in the game. At least until the first time he goes empty set on First and Goal from the 4. Then criticize accordingly.