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Texas A&M Football and Perception—Why Coaching Matters

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How avoidable is underachieving?

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Colin Cowherd made some strong comments about Texas A&M, specifically in relation to how we think of ourselves in comparison to the rest of our NCAA counterparts.

Specific bullet points:

  • We have an overinflated self worth built mostly on the performance of Johnny Manziel
  • We’ve accomplished very little in our history, and should therefore temper our expectations
  • Other programs; namely Baylor, Oklahoma State, TCU, OU; have accomplished much more
  • Regents should keep their mouths shut and let coaches coach.

I’m not really here to refute any of those thoughts. He’s right...we have managed to turn underacheiving into an art form. Other programs have performed at a higher level. He’s not wrong about any of that.

But what he doesn’t seem to take into consideration is just how much coaching matters. All of that underachieving could change with the right coaching staff in place. His examples of OU and Oklahoma State indicate as much.

My main gripe here is the historical inaccuracy of the 2012 Bama game being all about Johnny. Dont get me wrong....he was 80-85% of the reason we won...and I’d say in a league like the SEC coaching gets you over the top, but talent is the reason you win or lose.

But Cowherd fails to recognize the coaching masterstroke that game was. Mark Snyder used a “2 Robber” scheme with his safeties and put Spencer Nealy heads up on the Alabama center to cause chaos and disrupt. Kliff Kingsbury called the best damn game of his life and pulled out all the stops to leave Alabama off balance...go back and look at the film. We ran the dadgum statue of liberty play, we ran Emory and Henry, we used tempo...we broke from every single tendency we had because the coaches knew they needed to think outside the box to win.

And that’s what marked that 2012 season—a lack of arrogance and constant adjustment. We didnt know how to use Johnny in game 1. We didnt even know how to use Johnny in game 6...we were still using Christine Micheal in wildcat instead of just letting Johnny do his thing. But as that season went on, the coaching staff figured out what to do and they adapted their scheme to suit their talent. It would be intellectually dishonest to not talk about how they walked into a wealth of talent, but it’s equally dishonest to not talk about the specific coaching strategies that got us those wins.

Yes, we have the same head coach as we did in 2012. But here’s my thing...it feels like the creativity and willingness to adapt that got us that 2012 season is gone. Instead it’s been replaced by a stubborn attitude/arrogance that our plan is solid enough to work, and if its not working, then we need to work the plan harder. We don’t adjust. We don’t throw away tendencies. We think our scheme is so good that we can just play our game and beat everyone.

UCLA adjusted on Sunday night. They changed what wasnt working in the second half and switched it up.

We couldn’t match their adjustment. We knew damn well that Kellen Mond was struggling throwing the ball, yet we still ran the exact same scheme and continued to put the game in his hands, and his hands only. We stubbornly thought that we could win the game without managing the clock. We didn’t adapt. We didnt change. We arrogantly thought that playing our game would get us the win, and guess what...we were wrong.

Kevin Sumlin has changed. He’s not the same coach he was in 2012, and our record shows as much. Maybe it was Kingsbury...because in 2013 we basically just relied on letting Johnny be Johnny...but we’ve lost that synergy between talent and coaching where both make each other better.

So in short, Colin Cowherd is right. We haven’t done much in our history. But he’s wrong in underestimating the impact the right coach can have on a program’s trajectory. What happens over the next few months is anyone’s guess.