Kevin Sumlin’s firing will make me sad.
Maybe it’s because he’s from Alabama? Maybe it’s because he’s genuinely a nice guy and abidingly gracious? Maybe it’s because he’s one of the few coaches in the league that speaks his mind? Maybe it’s because he brought in a style of play that shook things up in a staid SEC-West? Maybe I wanted to see the Aggies vindicated when they left the Big 12? Maybe I wanted our pals in #EMFTX to toss some deserved shade Texas’ way? Maybe it’s the shared history the two programs share? Maybe I really just wanted to see a black guy do well in the Cotton Belt?
Whatever it is, and it’s probably some combination of all these things and more, I will be sad to see Kevin Sumlin fired. And, fired he shall be — win or lose, after a final trip to Baton Rouge.
COLLEGE STATION - Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin will be fired following the Aggies' regular-season finale at LSU on Saturday night, multiple people with knowledge of the situation said.
Sumlin is expected to be dismissed in the day or days following the A&M game against the Tigers. The Aggies are a double-digit underdog to the Tigers, and an A&M victory wouldn't save his job at this point, the sources said.
On paper, you can’t fault the Ags. Per my pal at GBH, Lucas Jackson, Sumlin’s Aggies have beaten just six teams that finished the season ranked in the Top 25. Four of those came in his first two seasons, under a Johnny Manziel who was so transcendentally good that he disguised the serious systemic issues in College Station. Among those ranked teams? Duke, Vanderbilt, Tennessee — hardly a murderer’s row.
And, there were systemic issues in College Station, make no mistake. They were Whack-a-Mole concerns too. No sooner did Sumlin get one or two under control, than another two or three would manifest: Discipline issues, head case quarterbacks and transfers. WHACK. Inability to develop what defensive talent was brought in, overpaying for terrible results from the coordinators. WHACK. A decided lack of strength and conditioning, lax management of play calls combined with a stubbornness that very much cost the Ags games, inexplicable inconsistent efforts between and within games?
Now he’s whacked.
Sumlin is a good coach that coached poorly. Worse, he ran the program poorly. You can survive in the SEC with gaffes in the Xs and Os or occasional bad prep -- lord knows, Dan Mullen has made a few and is still a hot commodity; Nick Saban has screwed up a few and is arguably the best ever. But, like Jim McElwain in Gainesville and Butch in Knoxville, what you cannot survive is running a program poorly.
While Sumlin is not the right coach to take the Aggies forward, he was the right man for the job at the time; to lead the transition to the SEC, to brashly contest the established powers, to upgrade the talent, and to put the Aggies on the map in the conference. Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M resulted in a rethink of the defense and recruiting that was as good for the Tide in the long-run as it was for the Aggies in the short-run. And, he probably deserved better than a de facto termination via social media, and his players absolutely deserve better -- no matter how blindingly obvious the decision is or how long it was telegraphed.
Going forward, it seems the Aggies will open up one of the nation’s deepest wallets to grab Jimbo Fisher out of FSU. For Alabama, this represents a substantive recruiting threat in the division and likely a more physical conference game. For A&M, I’m not so sure that there’s that much of an upgrade. The inconsistent efforts, the inexplicable losses, the defense and offense alternatively disappearing, the end result of runner-up or worse finish, the stubbornness of playcalling, the loyalty to underperforming assistants, discipline issues? So many of the things that drove Aggie fans nuts about Sumlin are very much in play with Fisher.
The Aggies may become a more physical team, a tougher team, probably a more talented team. But, I’m not sure they become a better team.
As for Coach Sumlin, perhaps there’s a redemption on the horizon for him. Ed Orgeron is hardly a rocket scientist, but the lessons he learned by failing at Ole Miss have been mitigated greatly his second go ‘round.
Very few of Sumlin’s players may have shown much heart or character when it mattered. We’ll see how he fares.
And, because I like him, I hope he succeeds.