I want to preface this article with two things: 1) I really really like Kevin Sumlin. I really want him to be successful. I think he’s a great representative of our program, and I just think he’s a good guy overall 2) I love Aggie Football. Absolutely love it. I love it when we’re winning, and I still love it when we’re losing. It’s never crossed my mind to not wear A&M gear after a loss because a) damn near everything I own has an A&M logo on it and b) I don’t ever want to be that kind of fan.
Rush’s article kind of hit home for me and made me think about whether I am one of those fans who is negative for the sake of being negative—that if somehow I’ve been conditioned to only associate negative feelings with A&M football. This paragraph in particular stuck out to me
You may feel that Kevin Sumlin has done great things at A&M, he just can’t quite seem to “turn the corner.” That it’s time to bring in someone who can. Just snap the fingers, right? Kevin Sumlin is the third-most tenured coach in the SEC now behind Saban and Mullen. Sumlin is the reason we have a steady stream of players the caliber of Myles Garrett and Christian Kirk flowing into the program. If eight wins is his floor, and he hasn’t proven otherwise, do we really want to gamble on throwing that stability out the window? Eight wins is just one win shy of the best seasons ever, respectively, of the two coaches between Slocum and Sumlin. And it’s his worst output.
I get that we’re stable and I dont want to take a risk on that stability, but at the same time, I feel like that 8 win mark deserves some exploration. I feel like it’s incomplete to simply look at 8 wins, and in some sense counter productive to the entire conversation about whether Sumlin is doing a “good” job.
So here’s my justification for being a little impatient. I feel like it’s fair to break down the Sumlin era in to two sections—Johnny years and beyond. We are still chasing that high from the 11-2 year, but I think it’s fair to say that who we’ve been over the past four years is much more indicative of Sumlin’s ability as opposed to who we were with a once in a generation talent. His records against the SEC west in the post-Johnny era are:
I’m limiting this view to the SEC west because those are our peers, but it does bear mentioning that he’s got a really solid record against the East with only one loss in 4 years. But that overall record of 7-13 against the west is pretty unsettling. And then there’s his record against the individual schools in the division in the post JM era
Ole Miss: 0-3
Miss State: 1-2
Over the past four years we are solidly the 5th best team in the SEC. That’s what drives my impatience. If you make a change you might end up with someone worse...but can we be honest? There’s not a lot to lose as far as being competitive in our division goes.
And while we’re at it let’s explore that 8 win total a bit. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect to win 9-10 every single year, but we’ve been so close and I feel like you can make an argument that we’ve underachieved relative to our talent.
2014: Both Missouri and LSU were winnable games...could have had 9-10 wins
2015: Louisville was the one that got a way. This year, of all years, I was ok with 8 wins
2016: Mississippi State, Ole Miss (giving up a 20 point lead in the fourth quarter) and Kansas State were winnable games. At worse we could have been a 9 win team that year...but we were stuck at 8.
It’s fair to say that we are playing a tougher schedule and should temper our expectations accordingly, but based on the past few years I think its equally fair to wonder if we’ve underachieved relative to our talent against that tough schedule. We’re not even having this dang conversation if we manage to beat Ole Miss and Kansas State last year.
Moving forward...here are three things make my feelings towards Sumlin super complex right now.
- This is the best coaching staff Sumlin has had since 2012
I really like Mark Hocke. I really like the combo of Terry Price and David Turner at DL. This is the first time Chief is coaching a lot of his talent, and it’s starting to show. Ron Cooper is a veteran DB coach and knows what it’s like to win in the SEC. We know Jim Turner can put together a solid OL. Clarence McKinney has his group humming. I really really like this coaching staff, and I do kind of what to see what they can do with a little bit of time.
2. The team seems to be getting better every single week
Most of that is from Mond, but our defense has really come on the past few weeks. We’ve got linebackers who know what they’re doing, and defensive tackles who can shed blocks like it’s nobody’s business. It seems like every other year we’ve gotten worse week by week, but the opposite is happening, which is the sign of good coaching.
3. This is not a great year to be looking for a coach.
As Rush put it, the division this year is a dumpster fire that could see up to 4 coaches being replaced. And a plan to hire a coach is central to the plan to firing one. You don’t jump without a net, and if you don’t have a net mayyyyyybe you shouldn’t jump.
So what’s the solution? The hell if I know. I’m really hoping Sumlin manages to shut us all up by winning 9 this year, and then continues forward with what seems like a promising young squad. But at any rate, I think it’s ok to feel a little impatient and discontented with our football program right now. I think the numbers belie a program that might not be performing at full capacity, and the only person we can really blame for that is the person in charge.