Texas A&M football is parting ways with six-year head coach Kevin Sumlin. What legacy did the Aggies’ first SEC coach leave in College Station?
Texas A&M has fired Kevin Sumlin. The move came a bit later on Sunday afternoon than expected, but the result was the same. The Aggies will move onward towards their coaching search, but before we get too far down the road, let’s take a moment to reflect on the Kevin Sumlin era at Texas A&M.
The legacy of Texas A&M’s latest head coach can be defined by one person: Johnny Manziel. There’s everything the Aggies did and accomplished under Sumlin in 2012 and 2013 and everything they haven’t since Manziel left for the NFL.
The Johnny Manziel era – 2012-2013
From 2012-2013 the Aggies went 20-6. That span included an 11-2 (6-2) season in the Aggies’ first year in the SEC and a 9-4 (4-4) second season. It included a win on the road in Tuscaloosa over No. 1 Alabama, a Heisman winner for the first time since the 1950s (and the first-ever freshman to win the Heisman), and a Cotton Bowl dismantling of former Big 12 foe Oklahoma. It ended with an incredible 52-48 come from behind victory over Duke in the Chickfila Bowl in Johnny Manziel’s finale.
In those two seasons the A&M offense put up 1,153 points and spent 21 weeks in the AP Top 25. In 2012 they climbed as high as No. 9 and finished the season No. 5 after crushing the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl 41-13. That was the first time the Aggies had finished in the top five since Bear Bryant’s Junction Boys in 1956. In 2013 they went as high as No. 7 and finished No. 18 after their come from behind victory over Duke.
Post-Johnny Manziel – 2014-present
Since 2013, Sumlin’s tenure can be defined by hot starts and an inability to finish. In the first five games of 2014, 2015, and 2016, the Aggies went 15-0. Over the last eight games of the three seasons they finished 8-16. The offense has slowed considerably, nearly equaling their 2012-2013 total in the three years from 2014-2016 with 1,272. In that three-year span they spent 27 weeks in the Top 25.
The Aggies have also gone 1-2 in three bowl games under Sumlin without Johnny Manziel, losing the 2016 Texas Bowl and 2015 Music City Bowl and winning the 2014 Liberty Bowl.
Sumlin was the perfect guy to lead the Aggies into the SEC. The Kyle Field upgrade wouldn’t have happened without the Aggies doing as well as they did in 2012 and 2013, and the Aggies wouldn’t be recruiting the way they are without that success either. Ultimately though Sumlin was a victim of his own success – he set the bar incredibly high in his first few years and hasn’t found a way to exceed or even meet that bar since.
Where to Next?
On Sunday morning Arizona State announced they had fired six-year head coach Todd Graham. On Sunday afternoon Texas A&M announced that they had relieved head coach Kevin Sumlin of his duties after six seasons with the program. Nothing is set in stone as of yet, but Arizona State will be a likely landing spot for Sumlin. The Sun Devils wanted him in 2012, but he ended up at Texas A&M. The Aggies will turn their attention to their coaching search, but Jimbo Fisher is the No. 1 name on their list.