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Same Old A&M By T.J. Chapman

Same old Texas A&M

On December 4, 2017, Texas A&M hired Jimbo Fisher to be their head football coach. The Aggies signed Fisher to a record deal of $75 million over 10 years. A&M had just fired coach Kevin Sumlin after he coached the Aggies to a 51-26 record over six seasons. In the four plus seasons under Fisher the Aggies are only 37-18, not much of an improvement over what Sumlin had done in his time in College Station. Fisher was hired by A&M because of his success at Florida State, where the Noles won the National Championship in January of 2014. Fisher was known as an offensive guru and an excellent developer of quarterbacks. In previous stops in his coaching career Fisher was offensive coordinator at Florida State where he coached Christian Ponder and EJ Manuel, both first round NFL draft picks. He also was the offensive coordinator at LSU where his quarterback was Jamarcus Russell, the first overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. His quarterback for the National Championship Florida State team was Jameis Winston, who was another first round NFL Draft pick. However, since that time Fisher has not had success with developing elite quarterbacks. His best quarterback since Jameis Winston was Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Mond wasn’t a bad quarterback, his career passing yards total is 9,661, but Mond wasn’t an elite quarterback. And when A&M spends the amount of money on a coach like Fisher, he needs to develop elite talent to win football games. It’s beginning to look like the hiring of Jimbo Fisher is just another coaching hire misstep by Texas A&M. It’s like they can’t get out of their own way. To understand the depth of the situation let’s take a look back at the last 25 years of Texas A&M football. In 1998, A&M was led by legendary Aggies coach RC Slocum. That season the Aggies went 11-3 but lost the Sugar Bowl to Ohio State 24-14. From 1999 through 2011 Texas A&M was a member of the Big 12 Conference. During that time the Aggies lost at least four games in every season. In 2012 A&M joined the Southeastern Conference and went 11-2, finishing a win in the Cotton Bowl over Oklahoma, 41-13. From 2013 through 2019 A&M, again, lost at least four games in every season. In 2020, the Covid shortened season, the Aggies went 9-1 and defeated North Carolina in the Orange Bowl, 41-27. In 2021, yet again, they dropped four games, finishing with an 8-4 record. And, after an offseason of some of the most ridiculous hype ever, seven games into the 2022 season, Texas A&M has just lost their fourth game of the season. The 2022 Aggie offense is atrocious, ranked #109 in scoring offense with 22.3 points per game and #108 in total offense with 342.3 yards per game. The Aggies cashed in on the new NIL rules as they were able to secure the #1 ranking for their 2022 recruiting class, largely on the promises of NIL deals for their recruits. According to the 247Sports Composite ranking for high school recruits, A&M finished the recruiting season with eight five-star players, 19 four-stars and three-three-stars. It was widely regarded as the highest ranked class since the recruiting services began ranking recruiting classes. However, none of those players had ever played a down in a collegiate football game before the regular season started. So why all the hype? Last season, A&M beat Alabama in the regular season, however, they still lost four games. The quarterback who led the Aggies in that defeat of Alabama, Zach Calzada, transferred to Auburn when it was clear that he would be the backup to last year’s starter, Haynes King. King has struggled this season both with consistency and injuries and has been replaced at times by LSU transfer Max Johnson, who hasn’t fared much better. Fisher’s play calling has been heavily criticized this year and has been said to be one of the main reasons for A&M’s terrible offensive numbers. Junior running back Devon Achane has a lot of talent but he’s being held back by Fisher’s pedestrian offense. The A&M defense has been decent this season, giving up 20.4 points per game and 353.7 yards per game, keeping the Aggies in most of their games this season. But they’re also missing last year’s defensive coordinator, Mike Elko, who took over as head coach at Duke this year. 

So, Aggie fans have to ask themselves this question, “did we hire the wrong guy, again?” From 1989 through 2002 Texas A&M was coached by RC Slocum, who went 123-47-2 in those 14 years at the helm. In 2003 A&M hired Dennis Franchione as the coach to replace Slocum. As the old saying goes, you don’t want to be the guy who replaces the legendary coach. Unfortunately, Franchione couldn’t live up to the lofty expectations left by his predecessor. Franchione only lasted five years in College Station, leaving with a 32-29 record, 0-3 in bowl games. Mike Sherman was hired to replace Franchione, and he only lasted four years, going 25-25, 0-2 in bowl games. Tim DeRuyter served as interim head coach for Texas A&M at the end of the 2011 season, leading the Aggies to a Meineke Car Care Bowl victory. With the move to the SEC coming in 2012 the A&M brass hired Houston head coach, and offensive mastermind Kevin Sumlin. In the first season under Sumlin the Aggies went 11-2 and quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy. However, Sumlin would only last five more years as the Aggie head coach as he was fired at the end of the 2017 season. Sumlin amassed a 51-26 record, 3-2 in bowl games. Sumlin won early at A&M, but his teams didn’t make much progress in the five years after that 11-2 season, which ultimately cost him his job. Jimbo Fisher was hired to replace Sumlin and was given that monster 10-year, $75 million deal. To recap, Dennis Franchione was hired to replace RC Slocum and averaged a tad over six wins per season, Mike Sherman replaced Franchione and also averaged a tad over six wins per year, Kevin Sumlin replaced Sherman and while he averaged 8 1⁄2 wins it seems he peaked with his first season in College Station. Now Jimbo Fisher is the coach and is sporting that 37-18 record, around eight wins per season. But he’s also averaging four losses per season, which seems to be par for the course for Texas A&M over the last 25 years. So, here’s what I’m having trouble figuring out, why the hell are so many media people in love with the Texas A&M Aggies? At the start of the season the Aggies were ranked #6 in the country in both the AP and Coaches poll. There were so many analysts who were asking if these Aggies could supplant Alabama as the power in the SEC West. I am, by no means, patting myself on the back, but I didn’t fall for it. All I kept hearing was “they have the #1 ranked recruiting class this year! It’s record breaking!” “They beat Alabama last season.” “Their defense is really good!” Ok, I get it, they bought a great recruiting class, LEGALLY in the eyes of the new college football landscape. But they still LOST four games last season. Oh, and that quarterback who beat Alabama last year? Yeah, he’s gone, no longer an Aggie. And then there’s the insanely overblown “spat” between Nick Saban and Jimbo. Seriously some of the analysts would have had you believe these two coaches were ready to fist fight each other over what Saban said to Alabama boosters, and Jimbo’s response. Saban said that A&M bought their players and that’s why they finished with the #1 ranked recruiting class. What gets cut out when the analysts talk about this is right after that, Saban says Alabama will need to change the way they do things with regards to NIL and recruiting so they don’t start getting out recruited by other schools who follow what A&M did. Jimbo didn’t like hearing that he bought his players and responded saying Saban has some skeletons in his closet if people dig far enough. That was it! It was nothing near what most people made it out to be. I get that finding stories during the off season is tough but to completely blow up a small issue between two coaches was a bit much. I really hope that “spat” did not have an influence on why A&M was ranked so high to start the season. 

How can people keep pumping up a program that in the last 25 years has had only three seasons where they didn’t lose at least four games? It’s pathetic to put Texas A&M on such a high pedestal when they’ve proven over and over again that they are NOT an elite program. The Aggies have high dollar boosters, they have direct access to the incredibly talented Texas high school recruits, and they play in the toughest and most highly regarded conference in college football. But they have done very little in the past 25 years to warrant the praise and love from the college football world. There’s no justifying putting A&M in the preseason top 10, as they were this season, entering at #6 in both the AP and Coach’s polls. Fun fact: Texas A&M hasn’t been ranked #1 in the AP Poll since 1957!! So, what’s the draw? What is it about Texas A&M that had everyone out of their minds over the summer and at the start of the fall? I just don’t get it. 

Monday it was reported that three offensive linemen would miss the rest of the 2022 season with injuries. Tuesday it was reported that three freshman players were suspended for the rest of the season following a locker room incident in the aftermath of the Aggies’ loss to South Carolina this past Saturday. This is the second time this season that players from the “greatest recruiting class” have been suspended. Back in September, wide receivers Evan Stewart and Chris Marshall and defensive backs Deyon Bouie and Denver Harris were all suspended for the Miami game for breaking curfew. The season ending suspensions involve Marshall, Harris and offensive lineman PJ Williams. How are the Aggies going to get bowl eligible if A&M is losing player after player for the season, whether to injury or disciplinary reasons? Jimbo is losing control of this team.  His buyout is massive, $85.9 million if fired on or before January 1, 2023, but in the college football world there’s always a way to get the money paid. Especially if you find the right booster who wants the coach gone. But knowing A&M’s track record over the last 4 coaching hires they may be better off riding it out for the next 9 years with Jimbo at the helm. A&M is a decent program, but they’re not elite. So please stop treating them like they are elite. Their money’s elite, their NIL abilities are elite, their fans are elite. But their football program is not elite. And, barring a miracle, they’re not going to be bowl eligible this season. $95 million guaranteed and no bowl game??? I would say you get what you pay for, but A&M paid a king’s ransom and unfortunately are getting court jester results.

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