A&M, Tech need new Johnny Foot­balls

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE - MAC EN­GEL

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.

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