A&M, Tech need new Johnny Footballs
Kevin Sumlin took a seat and would not announce his starting quarterback, because at that moment — in his first appearance as the coach of the Texas A&M Aggies at SEC media days — he had no idea.
Hard to believe but Johnny’s name never came up during the 2012 media days.
When Sumlin addressed the 2017 SEC media days on Wednesday, there was no need to mention Johnny Manziel’s name, either. Johnny is long gone, and the swath of Johnny Football is complete from College Station to Cleveland to Lubbock, too.
He’s only 24, but Johnny is essentially done with football. Or football is done with Johnny. His legacy will be that win at No. 1 Alabama, the Heisman trophy, the expectations he raised for the coaches who coached him and the people who believed in him, and the staggering sum of money he will have indirectly cost two athletic departments at Texas state schools.
Johnny made two coaches whose behinds reside on two of the hottest seats in Texas, and the nation: Sumlin, and Coach Bro’ in Lubbock.
More eyes are watching Sumlin’s fate and the potential opening of an SEC job, but keep tabs on Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech, too.
With a road game at UCLA to start the season and the normal cast of SEC opponents, buying the Aggies as a winner this season would be a hard sell even to the drunkest maroon and white supporters.
The Texas A&M AD has all but said Sumlin is gone if the Aggies don’t win this season. The Aggies have not finished a season ranked in the AP Top 25 since Johnny fled to the NFL after the 2013 season.
That was still in time for Sumlin to receive a raise from his bosses who feared he was going to run to the NFL. In December 2013, Sumlin signed a six-year, $30 million deal. Unless the Aggies had fired Sumlin before the last game of the 2016 season, with cause, the contract is guaranteed.
If Sumlin does not make it, this price tag will not include the new round of coaches and assistants that come and go with this process.
To give you some idea how expensive this sort of updating can be, to replace Charlie Strong with Tom Herman as the head coach at Texas cost just under $20 million; it should be noted UT required no public funding to make this change.
Texas Tech, however, is in a different spot with Coach Bro, whose reputation as the young star coach was solidified in 2012. That was when he was Johnny Manziel’s position coach.
It helps that Kingsbury is a Texas Tech alum. Unlike his predecessor, Tommy Tuberville, Bro’ understands and likes Lubbock. He was never looking to leave. The people at Texas Tech needed that.
After just one year as the coach, Kingsbury received an extension that will pay him through 2020.
Now all of those Red Raiders who loved their great-looking coach have grown tired of his all-offense, no-defense teams. Because they don’t work. The Red Raiders are 29-33 in his tenure with two blah winning records.
Despite the presence of future NFL first-rounder Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the team was 5-7 each of the past two seasons.
No one in Lubbock wants to see Bro’ bomb, but his four seasons in Lubbock have resulted in a lot of points, followed by even more points allowed. Out of 128 FCS teams, Tech’s defense has ranked 126th, 125th and 128th in each of the last three seasons. The numbers are horrible, but the consistency is commendable.
Nonetheless, to fire their favorite son now would cost an athletic department not exactly flush with cash around $9 million. It has put a good man, Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt, in a bad position where the best he can hope for is to pray his handpicked coach can win now.
Tech and A&M have no one to blame for their positions other than their leaders, who fell for guys who were made by a talented kid who never learned how to grow up.
Men like then-Aggies’ athletic director Eric Hyman and Hocutt could only go on the information they had at the time of their costly decisions. And the information they had was that the men they buried in financial security were propped up by a generational talent.
If Johnny had never played at A&M, the Aggies’ quarterback likely would have been Jameill Showers. It’s a good bet the Aggies do not flourish in their first two years in the SEC, Kingsbury doesn’t look like a genius, and those crippling extensions are never awarded.
Despite these large sums of money, there is virtually no path Texas A&M or Texas Tech can take to retain their head ball coaches if they put up a bad season. There are tickets to sell, recruits to bag and boosters to satiate.
Both men just need to find a new Johnny to make it all better.