Say it with me now: Kevin Sumlin is a good hire. Kevin Sumlin is a good hire. Kevin Sumlin is a good hire. While you read this, keep saying it to yourself. If you are anything like me, you need to be talked into this one.
The Aggies formally introduced Kevin Sumlin as the 28th football coach in Texas A&M history on Monday with a press conference at the Bright Complex. While impressed by what Sumlin had to say today, I still need a little prodding to be fully on board with his hiring.
It has been a wild ride for supporters of the maroon and white ever since Mike Sherman was fired almost two weeks ago. Instead of boring you with the details of the coaching search, I will simply recall the names that were rumored to be connected to the Aggies. Kevin Sumlin. Larry Fedora. Kirby Smart. Troy Calhoun. Chip Kelly. Chris Petersen. Mark Richt. That is a pretty sexy list, right? I am not going to beat around the bush – Kevin Sumlin is not in the same class as half of the guys in that list. At least not yet, hopefully. I am not going to speculate on why it took A&M so long to officially hire Sumlin, but it does make me wonder if he was indeed the top choice.
From speaking with fellow Aggies, I know that opinions on Kevin Sumlin range anywhere from somewhat negative to cautiously optimistic. I haven’t talked to two people that feel the same way about him. That is exactly what makes this hire so interesting to me – no one really knows how to feel about it. The general feeling I get is there are too many uncertainties involved with this hire to have a solid sentiment about it, one way or the other.
Let’s take a gander at the various arguments being thrown out there for and against Kevin Sumlin before reaching a verdict:
Experience at Texas A&M – We know this is obviously a huge factor in Sumlin’s favor. After being an assistant coach here about ten years ago, Sumlin understands what our school is about. Aggies everywhere saw how Franchione successfully alienated himself in such a short amount of time. Say what you want about Sherman, but his love for Texas A&M was apparent during the entirety of his tenure. Understanding Aggieland may not help Sumlin win games, but it does help his credibility with the 12th Man.
Coached under R.C. Slocum and Bob Stoops – I am personally hoping Sumlin learned the importance of a passionate, aggressive attitude from Stoops. I think we can all agree that if Sumlin is able to duplicate Slocum’s run at A&M or Stoops’ success at OU, we will be quite happy. The key word in that sentence is “if”. It is a big one.
Knows Texas and recruits well – This can’t be overvalued. With a top-10 recruiting class on its way next fall, Sumlin has his work cut out for him. Signing day is less than three months away. Keeping the class intact (and possibly adding to it) would be a huge boost to the program as it heads into the SEC next fall.
Lacks big-time experience as head coach – Every head coach has to start somewhere, right? Going from Houston to College Station is a large jump. Sumlin will no doubt feel the pressure of running an SEC program, but I am not buying this one. Big-time programs don’t typically hire a proven commodity (once you have made it at a big school, you rarely leave – unless your name is Nick Saban or Urban Meyer).
Too offensive-minded – This argument carries some weight with me. I would probably be more comfortable if we were hiring a coach with a defensive pedigree. If you look at some of the recently successful head coaches in the SEC though, they come from offensive backgrounds: Les Miles (LSU), Mark Richt (Georgia), Steve Spurrier (South Carolina), Bobby Petrino (Arkansas), and Urban Meyer (formerly at Florida). The key will be Sumlin’s staff. Hiring a good defensive coordinator is crucial.
Case Keenum – Many people want to attribute Houston’s recent success to the play of their quarterback. I understand why this is used against Sumlin. He didn’t recruit quarterback Case Keenum to Houston (Art Briles did) and went 5-7 last season with Keenum injured. I look at it this way though – was Sumlin supposed to not play Keenum since he didn’t recruit him? And how good would any football team be with their starting quarterback out for the year? Heck, the Aggies went 6-6 this year without an injury to their starting quarterback.
I have no other choice; I have to support this. After the mess that was this football season and the firing/hiring circus that ensued, I am at least thankful that Texas A&M has a head coach that can begin to pick up the pieces. We can all feel one way or another about Kevin Sumlin, but the bottom line is we need to circle the wagons and unite around the program. Our collective hearts may not have skipped a beat when we heard Sumlin was hired, and we may still be skeptical, but that is okay. What’s important is believing we will someday look back on our skepticism and laugh. At the very least, let’s just hope we don’t end up having to talk ourselves into another new head coach four years from now.