Kyler Murray announced his intention to transfer yesterday. He is the third blue chip quarterback to decide to leave College Station recently following Kenny Hill last year and Kyle Allen last week. And despite having all of those quarterbacks on hand at various times, the A&M offense has been declining ever since Sumlin's first season with the school.
It's too early to suggest that Sumlin's days are numbered at Texas A&M. For one thing, Murray's transfer may be more related to his better pro prospects in baseball than in football, if one media report is to be believed, rather than unpleasantness within the football program.
But beyond that, the Aggie defense improved from 58th to 30th in S&P+ defense in just one year under John Chavis. The Chief's track record suggests that the 30th place finish will be on the low end of the units he coaches up. Plus, Sumlin's buyout would be roughly $20 million after 2016. LSU may have been able to find the cash—though not the political will—to buy out Les Miles at $15 million for him alone, but it's hard to imagine any school digging up $20 million just to replace a single coach.
Still, this gets to the problem that I covered late in the summer. Everyone in the SEC West really wants to win the division. I mean, every school that is in a division would love to win it, but not every school can or is willing to do what it takes. However, everyone in the West is spending money like they are in it to win it.
There was already grumbling about the job Sumlin has been doing before Allen and Murray announced their transfer intentions, and that was after A&M improved its regular season record, SEC record, and finish in the West standings over 2014. He's not alone. Gus Malzahn is the guy who got paid over $4 million to finish last in the division, and that was after a disappointing 2014. Two early non-conference losses to lesser teams meant that Bret Bielema's breakthrough to 5-3 in the SEC only ended up a 7-5 overall record. This was supposed to be Hugh Freeze's big year, but he didn't improve on last year's 9-3 record and lost to Memphis. And Les Miles, of course, barely kept his job.
That means the only coaches in the division not facing any level of disappointment or discontent are Dan Mullen—thanks in no small part to low expectations, and he interviewed for the Miami (FL) job this year—and Nick Saban. The large contracts these guys have are a double edged sword: the big buyouts that come with them are a defense against firing, but the high salaries come with sky high expectations.
There also simply aren't enough wins to go around to fulfill everyone's expectations each year. If we see in five years that the West is no longer the best division in the game, it wouldn't surprise me if rash and ill advised coaching moves were the reason for it. No one has done anything premature or dumb yet, but those buyouts will only get smaller each year.