Before we get started we want to make one thing very, very clear. Like, as transparent as we possible can be: THIS IS NOT A LIST OF CANDIDATES PURDUE AD MIKE BOBINSKI IS USING TO FIND THE NEW HEAD COACH. This is just who we believe Purdue would be smart to contact and would make a great hire for the football program. Some of these choices are realistic and others seem to be a shot in the dark. Either way, these are the guys that would have a lot of success at Purdue if given the chance. With that being said, let’s get into it!
*Note: This is a Drew and Jed collaboration. Jed did all the leg work, I’m providing my response to each coach. - Drew
Former Houston/Texas A&M/Arizona HC - Kevin Sumlin
The former Purdue linebacker and wide receiver coach under Joe Tiller has experienced the the peaks and valleys of major college football coaching at Houston, Texas A&M, and Arizona. Sumlin has compiled a record of 95-63 over his 13 years as a head coach but struggled at Arizona, going 9-20 over 3 seasons. He will get a call and will likely be vetted. He is one of the most successful former Boilermaker player/assistant coaching today. He is currently the head coach and acting general manager of the USFL’s Houston Gamblers.
Reservations with Sumlin shouldn’t be his time at A&M but rather his time at Arizona. He frequently skilpped press conferences and struggled to ingratiate himself with the Tuscon community. There definite red flags that need to be considerd by AD Mike Bobinski.
If Purdue is looking for a guy that is willing to hang around longer than 3-4 seasons, look no farther than Kevin Sumlin. If Purdue rescues him from football coaching purgatory, he will owe them his eternal coaching soul. If you cut his head coaching resume in half...well...he wouldn’t be unemployed. In his 4 years at Houston, he put up a 10 win season and a 12-1 season. His 2011, 12-1 Houston team boasted the highest scoring offense in the nation at 49.3 points a game, and the defense was a more than respectable 35th.
After moving to A&M to help guide the Aggies into the SEC in 2012, it looked like he was on his way to multiple national championships in College Station. The Aggies went 11-2, finishing 5th in the AP poll. Redshirt Freshman Johnny Manziel won the Heisman and they knocked off #1 ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. I was living in College Station at the time, and he was the toast of the town.
He followed that up with a respectable 9-4 year, but was stuck having to defend (make excuses for?) his star quarterback all season. They still had the 5th rated offense in the nation, but the good vibes from the 2012 season started to turn into something else.
Things started falling apart in 2014, despite going 8-5. Quarterback Kenny Hill started the season hot, but was deposed by 5* quarterback Kyle Allen after Hill was found passed out in a bush outside a bar. Once against controversy and lack of discipline (on and off the field) at quarterback hampered a team that still finished 28th in the nation in total offense. The defense struggled, finishing 78th.
2015 saw the addition of 5* Texas high school football legend, and son of a former A&M quarterback Kyler Murray join the fold. Normally that would be considered a good thing, but in this case, it added more chaos to A&M roster. Kyle Allen, another 5*, was coming off a promising freshman campaign, started the season, but the pressure to start Murray was immense. Allen and A&M got off to a hot start, winning their first 5 games, including wins over 15th ranked Arizona State and 21st ranking Mississippi.
A loss to Alabama at home halted Sumlin’s momentum in its tracks. A road loss to Ole Miss followed the next week, and Coach Sumlin made the call to start Kyler Murray. He played well against South Carolina, winning his starting debut, but was putrid the following week, in a loss to Auburn that featured Murray throwing for 105 yards, 3 interceptions and no touchdowns. In their next FBS game against Vandy, Allen returned from the bench and played O.K. in 22-10 A&M win. Unfortunately for Sumlin those 22 points consisted of 6 field goals and one touchdown. It did nothing the quell the quarterback controversy.
They played LSU next (a game I attended btw), Allen started, wasn’t good (15/28 1 td, 1 int), and A&M lost 19-7. The grumbles from the fan base turned to howls, and whatever good will Sumlin earned early in his tenure was exhausted. The fans desperately wanted Murray, despite the fact that he often looked lost, and couldn’t run the offense, there was behind the scenes drama with Kyler’s father Kevin making threats about Kyler transferring through the media, and everything was terrible. Sumlin once again found himself embroiled in quarterback drama, but he wouldn’t survive it this time.
Before their bowl game against Louisville, Allen transferred because he was tired of being the whipping boy for the fanbase obsessed with Murray starting. Murray transferred because he wasn’t starting. A&M went from having one of the best quarterback rooms in the nation, to one of the worst in the span of the week, and Kyler Murray, the undefeated high school legend headed to former hated rival Oklahoma.
Sumlin held on one more year, but things in C-State were nasty. Coach Sumlin’s wife posted a picture of a racist, threatening letter addressed to her husband on social media, A&M blew a 34 point lead in the opener to Cal. Controversial (some may say scummy) A&M regent Tony Buzbee posted an open letter calling for Sumlin to be fired, and it was all over but the shouting on local sports radio. The Aggies limped to 7-5 record, and Sumlin was out the door.
Next comes the biggest mistake in Sumlin’s career. Instead of taking the year off to decompress after a traumatic season at A&M, he jumped back into coaching at Arizona. Things did not go well from the start. He finished 5-7 in his first season in Tuscon, missing a bowl game after losing to hated rival Arizona State, 40-41, in the last game of the season...and that was the highlight of his tenure. He started 2019 season 4-1, but then everything collapsed. The Wildcats dropped their last 7 games (several in blowouts) and Sumlin looked like he wanted to be anywhere but coaching. It was clear he was burnt out, and I think you can trace that back to his final season at A&M.
Coach Sumlin was already a dead man walking, and the 2020 pandemic season finished him off. Arizona went 0-5 in the abbreviated season, bringing their losing streak to 13 straight, and a 7-70 massacre to Arizona State dealt the final blow to his tenure in Arizona.
I’m torn on this one. In the right circumstances, I think Kevin Sumlin can be a successful coach. I also think the A&M job broke him. The guy I saw during the his first few years in College Station was not the same guy I saw at the end of his A&M tenure, or the same guy I saw at Arizona.
Texas A&M is a meat grinder. Much like Texas, they have a cadre of obscenely wealthy donors that run things in the shadow. They have more money than sense, and the morals of a pit viper. Throw in a rabid fanbase hungry to turn their oil money into on field success and some truly vile folks in the fringes and it’s one of the toughest jobs in the nation. Jimbo Fisher is getting ground into hamburger right now, and is so desperate, he’s considering bringing in Bobby Petrino as an offensive coordinator. This would lead the an inevitable scorpion/frog situation, and I’ll laugh until I vomit.
If Purdue is getting a rejuvenated, comfortable Sumlin, free of the A&M demons, this could work. I, however, am not a psychologist, and have no idea if that version of Sumlin is still available. The Arizona vintage of Sumlin would have folks yearning for the glory days of Darrell Hazell. If you’re looking for a high ceiling coach with a floor reaching down into the bowels of hell, Sumlin is your guy.
He’s available, could be had at a discount, and would be loyal to the program. If Bobinski thinks he’s ready to give college coaching another try, I would be intrigued. He’s not on the top of my list, but I wouldn’t hate giving him a run...but I’m an eternal optimist at heart.
Former LSU HC Ed Orgeron
If you are a fan of college football then you know the name Ed Orgeron. The gravelly Cajun from Louisiana was most recently the head coach for the LSU Tigers from 2013-2021 but was also the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-2007. Orgeron has experience in almost every major conference having coached at USC, LSU, and Miami (FL) while also being in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans. Orgeron’s most attractive aspect as a coach is that he has widely been recognized as an elite recruiter during his time as a coach which is something Purdue has not been known for. He was able to attract top flight talent to LSU that lead to their most recent National Championship along with an overall record of 51-20 in his six seasons in LSU. Orgeron continues to be a major name in the college football landscape and would be a huge national story if hired in West Lafayette for his first opportunity in the B1G.
I spent all my words on Kevin Sumlin, because Coach O doesn’t deserve the words I’ve already spent on him.
If Mike Bobinski hires Ed Orgeron to coach the Purdue Boilermakers, I will eat my Drew Brees Rose Bowl jersey on a live stream.