Tom Herman: Comfort Hires vs. Alignment

Now that Herman's staff is complete I thought it would be interesting to go over the two competing narratives I've seen on the new staff.

Comfort Hires

This staff is a bunch of Herman "comfort hires." We are Texas and we should be assembling a world class Bama style, "best of the best" staff. Almost everybody on the new staff has worked with Herman before and 5 came with him from UH. How could 5 of the "best of the best" have been on the UH staff already? Tim Beck just stunk it up in the CFP and was basically fired from Ohio State. This is exactly what we just went through with Charlie and 3 years from now we might still be in the wilderness.


In his initial press conference, Herman said he would bring "alignment" to the program. Where every part of the football organization would be in alignment and sending consistent messages to the team and that this was the most important thing he learned under Urban Meyer. Every member of the new staff has either coached with Herman at UH or with Urban Meyer at Ohio State. Alignment achieved. Domination to follow.

My Take

Comfort hire was one of the labels used to describe where Strong went wrong with his staff and it is already being applied to this Herman staff. It appears that there is a strong dose of "comfort" or familiarity in this staff. It is a clear risk with this staff that all come from a small subset of available coaches - the Meyer/Herman tree. It is not a big leap from "alignment" to stale and insular.

While there is much "comfort" in these hires, I also see some clear differences to what Strong did that could plausibly lead to a better outcome.

  • This staff has vastly more overall and more recent experience recruiting the State of Texas than Strong's initial staff did. There was no Traylor or Gilbert on that initial staff. Strong realized this and tried to adjust but the initial misjudgment was a hurdle to overcome.
  • There is no Watson/Wickline "who is in charge" weirdness. This was Strong's most obvious mistake to my eyes. This wasn't rectified until his third season when much of the die was already cast.
  • Strong's comfort hires were more of the grab bag variety. They were from many different programs and coaching trees. Herman's comfort hires seem to be in thrall to a larger purpose, especially on offense. It is crystal clear from the staff assembled that we mean to be a run first spread offense. There was no such clarity on Strong's initial staff with the supposed fusion of Watson pro-style with Wickline spread principles. There was also conflict between Gilbert's up tempo veer and shoot and the way Strong/Bedford were used to coaching defense.
I think these are good reasons to believe the program will improve under Herman. This staff makes much more sense from an overall perspective than Strong's did. I think the floor will be higher under this staff without the obvious conflicts of the previous staff. I do wonder how high the ceiling will be with limited, somewhat insular perspectives within the coaching staff from such a narrow coaching tree.

I also would like to know more of Herman's plan for the non-coaching staff that Bama has leveraged so well. As the richest football program, it seems an obvious strategy to implement to further raise our floor.

The truth of this matter will lie somewhere in between these two narrative extremes. Only time and actual outcomes will let us decide which better represented reality.

Be excellent to each other.

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