Kevin Sumlin didn’t think Johnny Manziel was good enough to play at Houston

via Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s another quiet weekend without having football on tv. So, I pass the time by digging through old football articles and I came across this interesting nugget from a year ago on Grantland (bold emphasis mine):

He [Manziel] was an award-winning quarterback at Tivy High in Texas, but he was only a three-star recruit, and while he flirted with Chip Kelly and Oregon before ultimately signing with Mike Sherman and Texas A&M, he didn’t get an offer from the University of Houston. Cougars head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury weren’t convinced Manziel was a fit for their system, a version of the vaunted Air Raid offense originally developed by Mike Leach and Hal Mumme and evolved by Sumlin, Kingsbury, and others. Previous Air Raid quarterbacks, including Case Keenum at Houston and Graham Harrell and Kingsbury at Texas Tech, were traditional pocket passers who ran little and threw a lot, often racking up video-game numbers despite not being top-tier NFL talents.

Wow! So Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury, while they were at Houston, didn’t think Manziel’s talent was a good fit for the Cougars’ high octane Air Raid offense. Manziel joined A&M in fall 2011, the same year Sumlin and Kingsbury’s offense led UH to an 12-1 record before leaving to coach at Texas A&M and bringing the same Air Raid offense to the Aggies.

Manziel ironically ended up playing in that same Sumlin/Kingsbury Air Raid attack in 2012 at A&M and lit up the SEC while winning a Heisman trophy along the way. Houston of course wasn’t so lucky: Case Keenum graduated and the Coogs dropped the ball finding Sumlin’s replacement, promoting the special teams coach, Tony Levine, to take over the team (nothing says keep the offensive momentum rolling like promoting the special teams coach, ugh).

No Regrets

Hindsight is of course 20/20, but I’m glad Manziel didn’t go to UH. Before my fellow Cougars come at me with pitchforks, let me explain: If we had Manziel, what would we have done with him? What’s the point of owning a Ferrari if you don’t know how to drive it and just have a learner’s permit? Levine was in completely over his head as head coach and the Cougars offense sputtered. It’s highly unlikely that Manziel would’ve hit his potential under Levine’s tenure. Or who knows, maybe Manziel could’ve led the Cougars to a few more wins and eventually saved Levine’s tenure.

If the Cougars would’ve promoted Kliff Kingsbury to take over as head coach when Sumlin left, it’s also quite possible Manziel might’ve flourished at UH (if he had been recruited in the first place). Of course, it’s also likely Kingsbury would’ve left after one year to take the Texas Tech job.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and there’s not a person on the planet who saw Manziel and the Aggies having the year they did in 2012. It’s still wild to look back and see where UH went wrong and what we could’ve done differently.

2 thoughts on “Kevin Sumlin didn’t think Johnny Manziel was good enough to play at Houston

  1. I wonder if Manziel would have gotten into the same amount of trouble at UH or had the infamous ‘can’t wait to get out of College Station’ incident in Houston.

    Manziel may have saved Levine’s tenure or, at least, postponed the inevitable. His run-and-gun intuitive style is similar to Greg Wards and he was a great fit for for what, eventually, became a very effective system. Part of Levine’s problem may have been pressure from on-high to maintain the air raid offence.

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