Kevin Sumlin and the Texans: Buyer Beware

Categories: Football, Sports

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Is Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin the right choice to lead the Texans?
Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin may one day be a great NFL coach. He's a strong leader with an innovative offense, glowing personality and enormous local buzz -- all at only 49 years old.

It's easy to see where the hype comes from. There's also the concern, however, that Sumlin isn't even among the current elites of college football. Is theoretical upside enough for an NFL team to turn over the keys of its franchise to an unproven commodity?

That's what owner Bob McNair and the Texans have to weigh out over the next six weeks or so. Sumlin and the Texans have long been a potential match, and chatter has increased of late with the almost-certain dismissal of Gary Kubiak after this year's awful season.

In many ways, the timing is problematic for the Texans. In an ideal world, they would have let Kubiak remain in place through the end of his contract in 2014 while continuing to watch the development of Sumlin's program at A&M. But given this debacle of a season still in progress for the Texans, that's not a luxury they can afford.

They have to make a move now, and with regards to Sumlin, it's a tough call to make in December 2013 and January 2014.

Sumlin's defense, or lack thereof

Most of the concerns start with the defensive side of the ball. Through this past Saturday, the Aggies statistically rank 107th out of 123 Division I teams in yards allowed per game (460.1) -- a mark that ranks dead last in the SEC. They're only a shade better in scoring defense, where they're 88th in the country at 31.2 points allowed (13th out of 14 SEC teams, leading only perennial doormat Kentucky).

It's also not a matter of the dynamic Johnny Manziel-led offense working too quickly and skewing the volume. The Aggies come in at 6.0 yards/play allowed, No. 102 in the nation.

Of particular concern is that Sumlin's defense doesn't seem to be improving as the season progresses. LSU trucked the Aggies on Saturday, scoring 34 points on 517 total yards (including a whopping 324 on the ground). Even in a win two weeks earlier against Mississippi State, the Bulldogs -- a team with a losing record that ranks No. 76 nationally in scoring offense -- put up 41 points and 556 yards, in College Station!

A&M's defensive struggles in September were expected, given a handful of new (and young) starters. But the thought was that they'd likely improve throughout the season and become a better unit by November. If anything, they've gotten worse.

It's true that Sumlin has only had one full recruiting cycle to bring in his own players. Nonetheless, the Aggies have no excuse to be this bad. According to recruiting Web site Rivals.com, the last five A&M classes came in at No. 11, No. 15, No. 27, No. 17 and No. 22 nationally. Those included 39 (!) players evaluated as four- or five-star prospects.

Sumlin gets a pass for his lack of defensive development at the University of Houston, where it can be difficult to recruit the necessary talent. That's not the case with the enormous resources of Texas A&M. It remains to be seen what happens with "his players," but as of now -- which is what the Texans have to evaluate -- A&M's actual defensive performance under Sumlin is clearly underachieving for its talent.

It's also not a one-year trend. Even with more veterans, Sumlin's Aggies ranked No. 62 in yards allowed and No. 41 in yards/play in 2012 -- rankings almost identical to the No. 62/No. 35 split in those categories in his final season at UH in 2011.

From a team standpoint, those deficiencies have proven critical. The Aggies, despite having one of the greatest players in NCAA history in Manziel, are only 8-3 and seem likely to finish at 8-4 (their finale is at No. 5 Missouri). They've surrendered an average of 42.7 points/game in those three losses. In 2011, perhaps Sumlin's finest year as a coach, a historic season for UH unraveled at home in the Conference USA title game when Southern Miss steamrolled the Cougars for 49 points (on 486 yards).


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21 comments
Keith Freitag
Keith Freitag

seriously, the extension was made aware of early yesterday, this article can hit the trash can.

Ray Vasquez
Ray Vasquez

Yep.. 6 year deal. Scrap the article

Spencer Aleshire
Spencer Aleshire

He just signed an extension with A&M. He's not coming to Houston.

larrybradley
larrybradley

. @John Hodges Thanks for the comic relief. Wade is and was a terrible hire. He is the "Gary Kubiak of Defense." No wonder Kubiak and McNair wanted him. His defensive calls are predictable, non-innovative and ultimately easily overcome by the opponent, same as Kubiak's offensive coordination. As for Keenum, he needs to be able to succeed in the pro game, not in the college game translated to the NFL. I think he can do that, but we will never know if Sumlin is hired. Sumlin will never win the SEC. What makes anyone think he can win a Super Bowl?

larrybradley
larrybradley

The fundamental, underlying problem is that McNair is clueless when it comes to identifying and hiring talent, but he thinks he is a genius at it. Typical CEO. McNair needs to hire a consultant who knows how to evaluate and hire, preferably a consultant that is not primarily in the football business. Anyone who is adept and savvy at hiring in general would why away from the Sumlin hire. One of the traits, if not the key trait, of the new coach must be the ability to evaluate talent, mainly in the coaching ranks. If you cannot do that well enough to build a good, smart coaching staff and influence the selection of draft picks, you end up, well, like the Texans.

John Hodges
John Hodges

Disagree!!! Pair Sumlin with Wade, and you have a winning team. Provided we don't waste our first pick on "Johnny Football".. We have enough drama already without the empty pads that he would bring to the team. We have a much better QB that has worked in the Sumlin system already. What we NEED to spend our pick on is an O-line, Secondary, and Special teams. Maybe even a RB than can stay healthy, and not resort to a vegan lifestyle that causes him to be injured...

primehou
primehou

Won't win if you don't have some good players. Give credit to Sumlin for starting him. UT didn't want him.

Dylan Osborne
Dylan Osborne

Too soon. The man is no where near experienced enough to jump to the pros. He had one great year at UH, and has had two good years at AM with JFF. Lets see how he does over the next two years at least.

Puller58
Puller58

As the old guard/broadcaster class like Cowher, Billick and Gruden are apparently not interested in returning to the sidelines, you can't count them out.  A rumor that Mike Holmgren is looking around is only mildly interesting given his last stint didn't work out well.  Sumlin?  As good as anyone else out in college football, and don't forget that assistant coaches in the pros haven't done well as HCs lately.  (Mike Singletary, Todd Haley.)

Carlos Huerta
Carlos Huerta

He will have a quarter back to run his type of offense ..

David627
David627

Incredible how one dynamic player can make a coach look like a genius.

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

So ... think Wade would hang around as DC if Sumlin came in as HC ?  Not sold on Smith if he is the one responsible for drafts and free agent signings.

primehou
primehou

I think he's worth a shot. As a UH fan, I was ticked that he left. Oh yeah, Art Briles too....sigh. Sumlin will get the most out of his players. Something I don't think the current regime is getting. True, his defenses have been poor at the college level but he will most likely gave a top notch DC in the NFL. On top of that, he will also have more talented defensive players. After all, it's the NFL which stands for "Not For Long" if you're not performing.

Puller58
Puller58

@WestSideBob I think Wade was told by Bum that he'd get the head coach job if and when Kubiak was gone, so I think Wade would opt to leave.

aliberaltexan
aliberaltexan

@villegasx   Nick didn't work out as head coach of the Dolphins.  Sometimes college coaches do not make great NFL coaches.

WestSideBob
WestSideBob topcommenter

@Puller58 @WestSideBob That's a shame.  I really like what he does for the D.  Unfortunately he's got a really spotty record as HC.  Oh well, time will tell.

wcvemail
wcvemail

@aliberaltexan @villegasx Right, just as Pete Carroll failed with 6-10 in his first NFL coaching stint with the Jets, then went back to college ranks. 

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