TCU coach Gary Patterson would love to see his coaching tree spring new branches every offseason.
The best way to land those prestigious jobs?
“What I’ve found is that people want them more if you win,” Patterson said. “So our whole goal is to win enough.”
Winning is an apt description for co-offensive coordinator and play-caller Sonny Cumbie. Since he joined the staff for the 2014 season, the Horned Frogs have become a high-powered offense and won 40 games in four seasons.
Cumbie, who turns 37 this week, seems to be on track to land a head job in the near future. He turned down the offensive coordinator position when Texas offered it to him in after the 2015 season, and he wasn’t linked to any jobs this offseason.
But Cumbie should be on the short lists of schools across the country if TCU has another successful season with a third different quarterback during Cumbie’s tenure. He’s gotten the most out of Trevone Boykin and Kenny Hill, and is now looking to do the same with Shawn Robinson or Michael Collins.
Cumbie is taken aback when thinking he’s entering Year 5 with TCU – the same number of years he spent in a coaching capacity at Texas Tech, rising from graduate assistant (2009-10) to wide receivers coach (2011-12) to co-offensive coordinator (2013).
“It’s hard to believe it is Year 5,” Cumbie said during TCU’s media day last week. “It’s flown by. We’ve had a lot of success, learned a lot and still have a lot to learn. But it’s been fun.
“Winning football games is really hard. We found that out two years ago [when TCU went 6-7 in 2016]. We’ve got to do the best that we can this year to see how many we can win.”
Scoring points, of course, is the key to wins and Cumbie’s offenses have scored plenty with his version of the “Air Raid” offense.
The Frogs were the nation’s most improved offense in Cumbie’s first season. The yards per game increased by 188.2 yards, and the points per game went up by more than three touchdowns (21.4).
In 2015, Cumbie’s offense set single-season school records in several major categories, including yards per game (562.8) and points per game (42.1).
After a down year in 2016, TCU rebounded last season. Quarterback Kenny Hill set a school record for completion percentage (67.2) and third-down completion percentage (67.3).
Cumbie reflected on his season as a play-caller and came away pleased. After all, the Frogs went 11-3 and were ranked No. 9 in the country.
“Our No. 1 offensive goal is to win,” Cumbie said. “Everybody would love to lead the country in every offensive category, but you’ve got to win and that’s one thing that coach Patterson is always talking about – how do we win football games and what best gives us a chance to do that?”
Cumbie knows there’s ways to make the offense even more potent going into this season. He talked about using play-action more and finding ways to create more explosive plays down the field.
As Patterson and Cumbie said, all of that should lead to more wins and more wins is what leads to opportunities for assistants to land head coaching gigs.
Justin Fuente spent five years under Patterson at TCU, and is now Virginia Tech’s head coach. David Bailiff was part of Patterson’s first staff at TCU and went on to head coaching jobs at Texas State and Rice.
Cumbie should follow in those footsteps, and Patterson also feels co-offensive coordinator Curtis Luper and defensive coordinator Chad Glasgow have the ability to become head coaches in the future.
Those are the higher-profile names, but Patterson takes pride in having several of his former players on staff such as cornerbacks coach Jeremy Modkins, defensive line coach Zarnell Fitch and offensive analyst Tony Savino.
There’s a number of former Patterson players coaching in the high school ranks, too, including Stephen Hodge (Marlin), David Porter (DeSoto), Curtis Clay (Lake Travis) and Joseph Turner (Fort Worth Northside).
“We’ve got a lot of guys out there that are doing things,” Patterson said. “It’s fun watching them become successful and wanting to go into this profession because it’s not an easy profession.”
Patterson would know. He’s had just four fully free weekends in the past year.