Hello darkness my old friend. Houston’s total and complete whoopin’ on Saturday night in Dallas shook the Coog fanbase to the core, re-triggering our PTSD that had been well hidden since the disastrous Levine era. The scoreboard read 38-16 at the end but it wasn’t even that close as SMU was up a convincing 28-7 at the half.
Not to be outdone by the meltdown on the field, many Coog fans have had themselves a near total meltdown on social media during and in the days following Saturday’s collapse. Multiple Coog fans have been gripped with a zest for conspiracy theories, rumor mongering, and general fear of the apocalypse not seen since, well, this current election season. Blame has been cast in many directions: At Coog assistants like offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, special teams and cornerbacks coach Jason Washington, and offensive line coach Derek Warehime who seemed to bear the brunt of the wrath of angry fans looking for a scapegoat. Nevermind that these coaches, and the units they coach, have had heavy losses since last season to graduation and this year to injuries, Coog fans have been calling for blood. I’m actually shocked that coach Warehime was able to keep the Coogs offensive line together for this long, considering how many injuries the unit suffered last season. I didn’t expect he’d be able to keep things duct-taped together enough last year for Ward and company to roll through the AAC title and on to a Peach Bowl win. Honestly, I thought Memphis and Cincinnati were going to beat us and Herman would have a nice nine or ten win debut season. The Jack Boys secondary lost Trevon Stewart, Adrian McDonald, and William Jackson III in the offseason so nobody should be surprised that the new unit will take time to play at the same level as last season’s squad.
In addition to blaming random assistant coaches, many Coog fans have been spewing conspiracies that the players aren’t motivated because Tom Herman has already accepted a job at UT or LSU, whichever Twitter rumor you prefer. The rumor goes: The Coogs have looked bad since Navy (or Cincinnati, again depending on the rumor) and it’s because the players know Herman is already out the door. Coaches don’t typically interview for jobs in late September or October so this rumor seems especially silly. This idea that the University of Texas has already decided to fire their head coach in October and already has an agreement with their next coach is completely batshit crazy. This is Texas for goodness sakes: Should there be an opening, the Longhorns will likely take their time and interview multiple candidates. I’d be shocked if UT doesn’t talk to David Shaw, Chris Petersen, Mike Gundy, Gary Patterson, and former UT assistant Bryan Harsin. In fact, looking at that list, Herman isn’t and shouldn’t be at the top of UT’s wish list. Just look at coaching salaries: Charlie Strong is #6 and Chris Petersen is #25. Why not offer to double Petersen’s salary? That’d be a hell of a hire for UT and his resume blows Herman’s out the water.
Also, consider if Herman wanted to leave Houston for another job, why in the hell would he make that decision in October? He’d most likely have his agent field multiple offers from all over the country towards the end of the season once there are actual job openings. The only opening now of that caliber is LSU, the UT job isn’t even open yet and we don’t know which other programs will have openings. What if the Oregon or USC jobs come open and offer a lot more money than UT? There’s nothing to gain by him making a decision now, especially when he needs to focus on keeping the Coogs from having a total collapse to the season. If the Coogs can’t get out of this tailspin then his leverage goes out the door, again if he wanted to leave.
Comparisons are being made to the Kevin Sumlin exit in 2011, but Sumlin was in discussions with Texas A&M in late November near the end of Houston’s 2011 season. Also, Sumlin interviewing was reported by actual journalists from reputable news organizations, not random Twitter accounts who don’t even cover college football and have less than 100 followers. If a journalist who gets paid a salary to write about college football, like Joseph Duarte, doesn’t report on it, then it’s probably bullshit and not worth worrying about.
The strangest part of all of the blame-gaming is the fact that Herman has been largely spared from any criticism. Herman seems to be held in some deity-level status that absolves him of any criticism or blame. If those assistant coaches are at fault for the Coogs’ collapse, then why not the man who hired them? Why is nobody wondering why in the world did Herman needlessly tape SMU jersey’s to the floor last year and then openly mock them to the media earlier this Spring? SMU coach Chad Morris is a hell of a coach who cut his teeth in Texas before running Clemson’s high-flying offense. Morris will likely be a very good Big 12 coach before the decade is out and Herman gave him and the Mustangs players some bulletin board material before Saturday night’s matchup. The moment you don’t take an opponent seriously is how Texas State smacks you down 30-13 in your own stadium. Herman decided to let his mouth write a check his team couldn’t cash and the ‘Stangs had extra motivation to embarrass the Coogs and did so.
Herman won a conference title and the Peach Bowl last year with Tony Levine’s players and has done a great job recruiting since taking the job on Cullen Boulevard. The blowout up in Dallas last weekend should never have happened and makes me wonder how good of a coach Herman actually is. The guy who is considered to be the next Urban Meyer or Nick Saban barely beat Tulsa, got whooped by SM freakin’ U, and couldn’t figure out how to slow down the Navy triple option. Herman may very well be the next Meyer but he also could just as easily be the next Brady Hoke or Charlie Weiss, both who had strong first seasons before ultimately getting fired. Herman has still only been on Cullen Boulevard for a season and a half and we don’t have a big enough of a sample size to really know how good of a coach he is.
Truthfully, I think Herman is potentially a fantastic coach, but I’d be more comfortable believing that after watching him coach successfully at UH for five seasons or more. I believe the reason the Coogs have lost their swagger on the field the past few weeks is due to injuries and losing several key playmakers in the offseason. Herman simply hasn’t had time to recruit enough depth at key positions. The SMU game showed that Houston has depth issues at multiple positions and will need another recruiting cycle or two to get back to championship level football. I can’t wait to see what the Coogs will look like after Herman has three or four full recruiting cycles under his belt and hopefully Herman stays long enough for us to do so.