So, does Texas A&M Football have a DJ Durkin Problem?
Before I answer that, a quick word about PFF Grades in college football.
PFF gives out valuable statistics. I actually quoted Carter in a column earlier this week where he referenced a PFF stat about how often Conner Weigman was blitzed and pressured. Those types of numbers are telling; when they chart a binary “yes” or “no” about an occurrence in the game, they are objective and helpful.
What is less helpful, in my opinion, is the PFF grading system for players in college. I can’t really wrap my head around the idea of someone sitting down, watching an individual players’ snaps, and assigning a number grade based on what their impression was of how well that player did what they were supposed to do. Not only is the grade subjective, the one giving the grade does not know what the player is coached to do. They may have an educated guess, yes, but it is a guess all the same. That is why I don’t put a whole lot of stock in PFF’s college football grades—the NFL, with a much more concentrated pool of teams, coaches, and schemes is a different story. But this is why the last section of the article, where it discusses the PFF grades for Durkin’s defenses, is not something I take all that seriously. Philosophically, I don’t put a lot of stock in them.
So, now to conclude.
I want to say here that I don’t disagree with everything Carter says in this article. I think Durkin has a tough time generating a pass rush compared to Elko, because Elko was a genius at simulated pressures and keeping an opposing QB guessing at where the rush was coming from—much like we saw Guidry do to Weigman last Saturday. That’s not the style of defense Durkin plays, but it’s not something many DCs can do to the effect that Elko does it. There are questions about the quality of development when it comes to the edge rushers the Aggies do currently have on their roster. Why haven’t we seen more of them? These are valid questions.
I am not saying, either, that Durkin is an outstanding defensive coordinator, or just as good as Elko. He’s not Elko. He could become an outstanding DC again one day, but I don’t think he is right now. I wouldn’t necessarily say he has earned the title of one of the highest-paid assistants in college football thus far in his tenure with Texas A&M football.
What I am saying, though, is that the idea that he hasn’t coordinated an adequate college defense since 2015 is silly. It’s not serious analysis. It’s self-evidently ridiculous, and the methods used to defend that thesis were more often than not sloppy, and sometimes worded or presented deceptively.
I’m not just saying all this to go after Carter, either. He writes good stuff a lot of the time—like I said, I have enjoyed the information he has presented much of the time. I did not anticipate sitting down and writing 3,000 words on this thing. But the thing is that, way too quickly, fanbases begin to take articles like this as gospel. They way outgrow their normal circle of influence when, say, a reporter for the Athletic quotes and links it uncritically, and then an SEC personality retweets that. That frustrates me. It shapes the narrative, and like it or not, the narrative is what matters in college football because of recruiting. Just yesterday, a Texas A&M football commit reposted something with cherry-picked numbers that purports to “expose” Jimbo at A&M without Elko. This kind of thing matters, if ever so slightly, to the future of the program. I’m not saying what I’m writing here matters, to be clear—I’m just a guy with too much time to write about all this. I’m explaining why it frustrates me.
All that said… Does Texas A&M football have a DJ Durkin problem?
No. I’m not saying they won’t ever. But here, now, on this day in history, he is not their biggest issue.