The 2015 season turned out to be one of the best seasons in Houston Cougars history. After the Peach Bowl upset over Florida State, one of my biggest concerns was whether the Coogs’ coaching staff would be gutted as other programs looked to duplicate our 2016 success. Luckily there were no major defections: Tom Herman and both of his coordinators will return in 2016. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando even turned down a chance to coach defense at Wisconsin, his alma mater, to remain in Houston and to continue building on 2015’s impressive performance.
Though the team retained Herman and his coordinators, the Coogs did lose a few promising young assistants: Wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer
left to Rutgers, Adrian Mayes to Texas State, and Dallas Blacklock to Texas Southern.
The Importance of Continuity
By keeping most of the coaching staff in place, Coach Herman is primed to do something not seen on Cullen Boulevard since the Kevin Sumlin era: Have the same coordinators for two years in a row. The last time this happened was 2011 when defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and co-offensive coordinators Kliff Kingsbury and Jason Phillips all returned.
Hiring a good staff and keeping them in-house is very important to keep a team winning on the football field. Just take a look at the instability in Houston over the past few seasons:
(head coach listed first, offensive coordinator next, & defensive coordinator last)
- 2008: Kevin Sumlin – Dana Holgorsen – John Skladany
- 2009: Kevin Sumlin – Dana Holgorsen – John Skladany
- 2010: Kevin Sumlin – Kliff Kingsbury & Jason Phillips – Brian Stewart
- 2011: Kevin Sumlin – Kliff Kingsbury & Jason Phillips – Brian Stewart
- 2012: Tony Levine – Mike Nesbitt* & Travis Bush – Jamie Bryant
- 2013: Tony Levine – Doug Meacham – David Gibbs
- 2014: Tony Levine – Travis Bush – David Gibbs
- 2015: Tom Herman – Major Applewhite – Todd Orlando
- 2016: Tom Herman – Major Applewhite – Todd Orlando
[* Note: Mike Nesbitt was forced out after one game]
Sumlin had a solid first two seasons which led to Holgorsen leaving for Oklahoma State (which is to be expected when a team wins a lot) and Sumlin quickly promoted from within, naming Kliff Kingsbury & Jason Phillips co-offensive coordinators to keep the Coogs rolling. The Coogs had a poor defense so Skladany was replaced by Brian Stewart who did a solid job. When Sumlin left for Texas A&M Kingsbury followed, Phillips left for SMU, and Stewart left for Maryland.
The Levine era was marked by one terrible hire (Nesbitt) who was forced out after one game and running backs coach Travis Bush was promoted to takeover OC duties. After 2012, Bush was demoted for the newly hired Doug Meacham and Jamie Bryant was fired for David Gibbs. Meacham unfortunately left for TCU after one season and Levine (rather infamously) re-promoted Travis Bush. That’s three offensive coordinators and two defensive coordinators in three seasons which is no wonder the Coogs seemed to always play well under their full potential, losing to terrible teams like Texas State, UTSA, and Tulane.
With Applewhite and Orlando being the first time Houston is having both coordinators returning since 2011, let’s hope the Coogs can continue to have the same level of success they did in 2015.