CBS Sports senior college football columnist Bruce Feldman did an incredible all-access piece after spending the entire week with the Texas A&M Aggies coaching staff leading up to their matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide on Sept. 14. It detailed Kevin Sumlin’s approach to the season’s biggest game to-date–one that was as highly anticipated as any game in the last decade and drew larger TV ratings than any afternoon game since 1990–and outlined how Texas A&M has made such a seamless adjustment to life in the SEC.
However, there was a specific moment in the piece that caught my attention–at least as it pertains to my role as an NFL columnist here at FanSided. See, I also serve as an SEC columnist for SaturdayBlitz.com (a site within the FanSided Network) that made Feldman’s piece essentially required reading, but the NFL columnist inside of me was especially intrigued by Kevin Sumlin’s interest in Chip Kelly’s debut with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Feldman’s passage on Sumlin’s reaction to Chip’s debut goes as follows:
On the TV is Chip Kelly’s NFL debut against the Washington Redskins. The former Oregon coach is having quite a night as the Philadelphia Eagles’ new head coach. The Eagles had a staggering 21 first downs in the first half alone while ripping off 53 plays. Kelly’s success has caught Sumlin’s eye. The Aggies head coach practically bounds into the room and goes right to the grease board on Spavital’s wall. He grabs a blue Sharpie and diagrams up a wrinkle that Kelly has been carving up the Redskins with all night. It is a zone-read play with an option of throwing to the tight end with a bubble to the field. Usually a QB has three options on that play but the tight end free-releasing down the field creates a whole other set of problems for defenses.
Despite the 1-2 start, the Philadelphia Eagles have been impressive offensively and Chip Kelly’s system has opened up the eyes of coaches across the country. Not only can an uptempo version of the spread work in the NFL, it can reinvigorate a franchise.
This is far from foreign in college football. The use of tempo to keep opposing defenses off-balance has been critical at places like Oregon (Chip Kelly’s former digs), Clemson and Texas A&M (by way of Houston) for quite some time, and Kevin Sumlin is a name that has become synonymous with offense in the collegiate ranks.
Having gotten his start as a head coach at Houston, Sumlin put up astronomical numbers with Case Keenum at the helm. In Year One at Texas A&M, Kevin Sumlin led the Aggies to an improbable 11-win season in their first season as a member of the SEC and helped his quarterback Johnny Manziel become the first freshman in history to win the Heisman Trophy.
That offensive track record, even over a short period of time, earned him some consideration for NFL jobs this offseason. He was reportedly considered for the Philadelphia Eagles job that eventually went to Chip Kelly.
However, now, having seen Kelly’s success in the NFL, Kevin Sumlin appears destined to get his shot in the NFL soon.
In the loss to Alabama, Kevin Sumlin’s offense put up over 600 yards of total offense. His electrifying quarterback was responsible for over 560 yards of that total, and it was the most total yards Alabama has given up in its esteemed history.
Yet, with Manziel likely gone after this year it’ll be interesting to see if Kevin Sumlin can overcome the allure of the NFL. If Texas A&M finds themselves in a BCS bowl and they continue upon their prolific offensive path, there’s almost no doubt that the 49-year old will have opportunities to make the leap in 2014.
Then again, Texas A&M’s early loss to Alabama puts them on the outside looking in for the SEC West title. And, with the ultimate goal being competing for an SEC West title, which, in turn, provides the opportunity to compete for an SEC title and then possibly a national championship, will Kevin Sumlin leave before the job is done?
Despite the fact that we assume Johnny Manziel has one foot out the door, the redshirt sophomore does have two remaining years of eligibility (NCAA inquiry notwithstanding), and as long as Kevin Sumlin has Manziel on board, he may take a run at winning a championship. However, when Manziel is gone, is it worth the risk to Sumlin to start over with a new signal-caller?
That’s a question that only Kevin Sumlin can answer definitively, but personally, I’d be amazed if Kevin Sumlin wasn’t patrolling an NFL sideline by 2015. Sumlin himself has been publicly non-committal, and while there’s no doubt that he loves it in College Station, Kevin Sumlin will have an opportunity to be an influencer (one of many) of complete systematic change in the NFL.
That just might be too much to pass up.