I began this as a comment in response to a recent fanpost by a fellow Aggie making the dubious claim that Jimbo Fisher is Kevin Sumlin pt. 2. I respectfully disagree and submit my humble dissent in the paragraphs that follow. Thank you for reading and contributing your voice to the discourse.
When comparing Kevin Sumlin and Jimbo Fisher's first four years as the Head Ball Coach at Texas A&M, I'm of the mindset that you can almost entirely remove 2012's performance from Sumlin's "pro" department: he had a generational QB, an NFL-made O-Line, and a currently successful NFL head coach as his OC and QB coach. These ingredients were essential to the recipe that made 2012 such a fun and exciting year of Aggie football. It took place under Sumlin's watch, but the foundation laid by Mike Sherman deserves significant credit and recognition.
Now let's look a little further -- I may be alone in this (I'm betting that I'm not), but I have never been more frustrated with an offense than I was watching Spavital run the controls for two years. The amount of screens we threw to the outside only to get blown up by faster and stronger SEC defenders (see LSU and Alabama) would have had the Dalai Lama screaming in anger and disbelief. We were consistently pushed around at the line of scrimmage and the only chance we had at victory was to out-scheme our opponents, a trick that worked every now and then but was utterly unreliable. With Sumlin, we won a few games we probably shouldn't by showing up and surprising the other team. However, with Sumlin, we also had mind-boggling losses and the utterly joyless affair of watching Alabama beat the ever-living daylights out of us. I might add that we were incapable of consistently challenging LSU, much less beating them.
Fisher, on the other hand, has long upheld that there's a process to developing a winning program. He ought to know, by the way, he coached under a HOF college football coach in Bobby Bowden. He promised us the night before the Clemson game in 2018 that we, as fans, would be proud of the way our team showed up and fought the number 2 team in the nation. He has promised that the culture being developed in the locker room is what will be the difference maker in a program that wins consistently and a program that wins rarely. Imagine that, an Aggie Head Football Coach telling our fanbase that a uniquely defining aspect of our campus (that impossible-to-define feeling that we all identify as Aggie Spirit) is something he is attempting to instill in our football program. If nothing else, this sets him apart from countless head coaches we could have chosen. Add to that his energy and successes on the recruiting front, the fact that, win or lose, his team seems to stick together and approach the game with a desire to learn and improve, and that we had a chance to win every single dang game we played this year, and I'd say it's a pretty nice time to be an Aggie fan.
We had some tough losses this year. Danged if I don't know that and feel it deep in my disappointed gut. However, Aggie football is fun to watch, and ultimately, I care more about that than winning every championship from now into perpetuity. The entry of OU and tu football into the SEC scares me much less than playing Alabama and LSU every year, and we seemed to hold our own pretty well this year in that department. Give me a team that fights through adversity, that tackles well in space, that displays the values of teamwork and leadership and grit, and I'll show you the 2021 Texas A&M football team. I'm extremely proud of the effort and performance these 18-22 year old men showed this year and it's been a whole lotta fun to root for Demarvin Leal. I'll be cheering for him, Isaiah Spiller, Jalen, Kenyon, and others as they continue their careers in the pros (albeit hoping all of them decide to come back for one more try). Every game, they put their health and wellbeing, their career-earning potential, and their pride on the line so that armchair quarterbacks around the country can sit back and criticize every misstep they make. To my own discredit, I've often-times been one of the most-outspoken in my frustration and fury.
This brings me to what makes me happiest about Coach Fisher being our head football coach, and why I hope he coaches long into the future: he displays a profound care and heart for his players. Last year, during the LSU game -- T.J. Finley threw a pick-6 to Buddy Johnson and was met by livid, in-your-face, anger from Coach O, televised for the whole world to see. In that moment, the moment of great delight at our touchdown, I felt deep sympathy for Finley and a simultaneous gratitude for the coaching of Jimbo Fisher. When Calzada stepped in and threw a pick-6 against Ole Miss this year, you could see the dismay in his eyes and also Coach Fisher's. Nonetheless, as he came to the sidelines, Jimbo put his arm around Calzada and talked him through the mistake he made in throwing that pass -- a pass that carried significant consequences and cost his team the game, and Coach Fisher used it as a teaching moment.
Jimbo Fisher, in my mind, embodies the Aggie spirit in this way. He challenges his players to be leaders on and off the playing field. He coaches them hard in practice and doesn't let them get by with half-hearted effort. He compels them to perform to the best of their God-given ability and to learn when they encounter mistakes along the way. We should be grateful for such a coach if we didn't win a game all season long. When you consider that we not only had a winning season but that we beat the number 1 team in the land along with another top-15 team, I think that's pretty worthwhile. I've got a feeling of optimism about the A&M program that I never felt during the Sumlin years. The team plays with heart, they play for each other, and they look to only be getting better and better as the high schoolers from around the country (and beyond) desire to play for a coach that will inspire them to greatness.
Someone left a pitcher of kool-aid lying around and obviously I drank it to drown my sorrows at this past weekend's loss. We doubted Coach Fisher all last season and told him he needed to bench Kellen Mond for Zach Calzada. I'm glad we were wrong then and I'm pretty glad that we get to trust a guy who's right there in the midst of things to make better football decisions than I would, especially given my weak playcalling ability on NCAA 14.
Thanks, Gig Em, and BTHO BAS
- Aggie '18