"There is no doubt in my mind what can be accomplished here," he said. "I know a lot of coaches would say the same thing. But I know the landscape here. I know the recruiting base. I know what needs to be done."
Those are the words of now former Texas A&M Head Football Coach Mike Sherman in his introductory press conference back in November of 2007. You may remember that a key factor in Bill Byrne’s decision to hire Sherman (more on that later) four years ago was Sherman’s familiarity with the football program. He was an assistant on R.C. Slocum’s coaching staff back in the 1990’s – or as the Aggies know it, the glory days. Apparently, so went the train of thought, hiring a head coach that had seen the “Wrecking Crew” up close and personal for seven years would instantly lead to a second coming of those famed teams that featured such stars as Kevin Smith, Quentin Coryatt, and Jamar Toombs, among others. Slocum could do it then, so why couldn’t one of his assistants do it now, a decade later?
Let’s venture back to 2007, and try to understand the logic of Mike Sherman being the right man for the job. If you really look at his “strengths” to be a great college football head coach, what were they? A career .578 winning percentage as a head coach in the NFL? No? Let’s try again. Three NFC North division titles in six seasons with the Green Bay Packers? Come on, your nephew’s Pop Warner time might have even won that historically weak division. The thing is, Bill Byrne was trying to save his job. Everyone and their mother knew that Coach Dennis Franchione (also a Byrne hire) did not get along with many of the big shots at A&M. Byrne was under pressure to find an A&M guy, and luckily for him, Sherman happened to be a stone’s throw from campus, 90 miles to the southeast in Houston.
What Bill Byrne forgot to realize (or maybe he did, and disregarded it) is that the nature of the game had changed dramatically in a relatively small amount of time. The fact that Mike Sherman understood the fan base and knew the Aggie Honor Code should not have been the deciding factor in his being hired as the head football coach at Texas A&M University. You see, most stud athletes these days don’t come from “Leave it to Beaver” type families. They don’t choose a school based on the potential to become a better man. The stars – the ones A&M has quite spectacularly (aside from Denver Bronco linebacker Von Miller) failed to recruit and/or develop over the past decade – want to play for a coach that gives them, among other things, a legitimate shot at a national title. There was never a legitimate chance for Texas A&M to become a great program under Sherman. He was simply too nice of a guy, too humble, too much of… an Aggie.
Mike Sherman should leave Texas A&M University with his head held high. He at least helped our football program become relevant again, while also laying a solid foundation for sustained growth. Unfortunately for Sherman, head coaches are the individuals held responsible for a team’s performance, good or bad. The real problem here may be higher up in the Athletic Department (don’t worry, Mr. Byrne, your time will come soon) but for now, the blame for this frustrating season falls on the shoulders of the coach.
Sherman acknowledged in his opening press conference that he knew what needed to be done at Texas A&M. Whether he should have been hired or not four years ago will probably be debated for years to come. The fact of the matter is, in 2011, Mike Sherman simply could not get it done (at least in the third quarter).