Who’s The Better Fit: Charlie Strong or Kevin Sumlin?

Texas and Texas A&M used to have one of the best rivalries in college football. Since they have been in separate conferences for the past four years, it has turned into more of a “hashtag rivalry.” Since there’s no game being played between the two, both sides are forced to trade jabs on social media to keep the fire burning.

Can we just get these teams playing against each other again?

That’s a whole separate discussion; because the reality is that we won’t see them play each other on the field in the foreseeable future.

Both programs have their issues right now, but which head coach is the better fit at their respective school? Let’s start with Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin is an offensive guru that has worked his way up the ranks and has turned average programs into good ones. A&M is no exception. The Aggies were an average team in the Big XII, but since leaving for the SEC in 2011, they have hit resurgence.

Sumlin’s offense has redefined SEC football in some ways. They caught the entire conference off guard with their high-flying offense in year one 1Having a certain Johnny Football at quarterback didn’t hurt either.

He forced teams to adapt defensively to his style, and the good teams did exactly that. It seems like Sumlin has realized that he won’t be able to win the SEC with offense alone. Defense wins championships in the SEC.

A&M is not far away from contending for a national championship. John Chavis was an outstanding hire for Defensive Coordinator this offseason, and Sumlin had to hit a homerun with that one. With the recruiting talent that Sumlin is bringing in, don’t be surprised if A&M flirts with the College Football Playoff in the next couple seasons.

Switching gears now to Charlie Strong. Strong is a defensive-minded head coach in a conference that is loaded with offense. Like Sumlin’s offense, Strong surprised some teams with how well his defense played in year one with the Longhorns. The only difference is that it didn’t translate to wins.

Through almost two seasons with Texas, their offense still hasn’t been able to give the defense any support. Hence, Texas has been losing, and losing bad at times.

Questions are circulating about whether Strong is the right fit for Texas. His track record indicates that he is a solid head coach, but that doesn’t mean that he is the perfect fit for any particular program.

Strong is doing some great things at Texas by building a foundation to succeed. However, his tenure at Texas may be short-lived if he doesn’t change his coaching philosophy to adapt to the conference that he chose to be in.

He is in a similar situation as Gary Patterson at TCU was when that program entered the Big XII. Patterson hired two outstanding offensive coordinators that made TCU successful virtually overnight. He had to swallow his pride and realize that his philosophy had to change in order to succeed, and Strong may have to do the same before it’s too late.

Texas and Texas A&M are proud programs that will succeed on a national level eventually. However, it seems like the head coaches will only be recognized as legends if they have the right coordinators with them. Sumlin has his offense and Strong has his defense. Sumlin is a little bit ahead of Strong right now, but it took him a few years to find what seems to be a great fit in College Station at Defensive Coordinator.

At this point in time, A&M is clearly in a better position than Texas because they have had the momentum in recruiting and have the talent to be coached up. Texas is getting to that point, but it is clear that they are still a couple of years away from being relevant again.

If Strong and Sumlin are both able to turn their respective programs around and get some national respect, then we could see a big shift in getting the two teams back on the field against each other. Right now, though, we will have to suffer through the bickering back-and-forth between the fan bases over social media that never really has any substance2Unless, of course, we can get these two teams together for a bowl game, which it seems at least one conference is trying to avoid.

Strong and Sumlin are good coaches, but they will only go as far as their coordinators take them. Sumlin looks like he took that step forward. Now Strong must do the same.

It may be the only chance we have to see the two programs square off against each other on the field in the near future3In the College Football Playoff. We assume it doesn’t happen any other way.

   [ + ]

1. Having a certain Johnny Football at quarterback didn’t hurt either
2. Unless, of course, we can get these two teams together for a bowl game, which it seems at least one conference is trying to avoid
3. In the College Football Playoff. We assume it doesn’t happen any other way