“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.”
Texas A&M had an abysmal football season in 2022. It’s something that nobody within the program or close to it would deny. The Aggies lost six straight games en route to a 5-7 season after starting the year ranked No. 6 in the country and on the heels of signing the top-rated recruiting class of all time. That, of course, was all kicked off in week two with a catastrophic upset at the hands of longtime giant slayer Appalachian State.
In every sense of the word, it was embarrassing.
Were there mitigating factors? Of course. The Aggies played a ton of youth, they had what felt like an inordinate amount of injuries, and were in the first years of new schemes at critical spots (defensive coordinator, offensive line coach). But there were also problems seemingly of the team’s own making, including a stale offensive scheme, and locker room problems that led to multiple incidents requiring players to be suspended.
It was a season in which seemingly everything that could possibly go wrong, did. And it would be tempting to simply gloss over that failure and blindly turn the page to the next season. Because surely the odds of things breaking that badly again are remote, right? I know even as a fan, I wanted the 2023 season to start as soon as the 2022 season ended, just to get the taste of that season out of my proverbial mouth. But as we look toward the future of this football program, the biggest mistake this team could make would be to act like 2022 didn’t happen.
“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”
Rather than run from what happened, the Aggies should confront it. Analyzing what happened, and what can be fixed, is the only way to improve. And hopefully, that process began months ago. Because it’s the only way A&M will be able to rebound in a big way in 2023.
To their credit, Jimbo Fisher and his players have seemed to take ownership of what happened last season. That’s come in the form of sound bites about having “chips on our shoulders” and players referring to how much more unified the locker room is compared to a year ago. It also came in more concrete ways, with Fisher parting ways with OC Darrell Dickey to hire Bobby Petrino, assumedly to inject some life into this offense and call plays.
“We are products of our past, but we don’t have to be prisoners of it.”
-Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?
But at this point, only the people in that room know how much of that is true. While we as Aggies all want to believe again, what’s said in the media is as much about what should be said as it is about truth. But we’ll find out soon enough.
This team has undeniable talent, moreso than almost every single opponent they’ll face. This year, they also have experience, with more returning production than any team Jimbo Fisher has had since arriving in College Station 5+ years ago. And hopefully, that 5-7 season has instilled some of the “grit” that Jimbo Fisher so often preaches about.
5-7 was miserable. It was miserable as a fan and I’m sure was even more difficult to endure as a coach or a player. But it’s what they have done, and continue to do, in response to that misery that will ultimately define this team, and this program. Will they continue to wallow in mediocrity and fail to live up to lofty expectations? Or will the pain of the 2022 season serve as a turning point?
“Believe in your mistakes and grow from them.”
There exists a world where things don’t go quite as wrong last season. Maybe with just a bit more health or maturity from a handful of players, this team manages to win a few more of those close games and finishes 8-4. While nobody would be shouting from the rooftops about that result, I don’t know that we’d be grabbing our torches and pitchforks either. A more successful season might have masked some of the underlying issues on this team, for fans, coaches and players alike. A disappointment, but not a failure. But as it happened, those problems were laid bare for all to see, and the need for significant change was inarguable.
Jimbo had never seen his offense reach this level of ineptitude. These players, the vast majority of whom come through very successful high school programs, likely hadn’t experience this level of team failure. Perhaps that painful experience was a wake up call in a way that a more successful (and less painful) season wouldn’t have been. Maybe bad habits that might have otherwise lingered have now been eradicated.
“Our most beautiful dreams are born from our most unpleasant nightmares.”
Only time will tell whether we see this team rise from the ashes and establish themselves as a contender in the SEC. But if it does happen, it won’t be despite going 5-7 in 2022. It will be because of it. We’ll begin finding that out in just 28 days.