By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer
I’ve been at Baylor all of five months, but I’m fairly certain of one thing: Matt Rhule is the most important coach in the history of the program. And he doesn’t owe us anything else.
Rhule took over an ailing program. After years of success became tainted by one of the most infamous scandals in college sports, the former Temple head coach cleaned up the wreckage and brought Baylor to the forefront of the sport.
His three years in Waco produced one of the most dramatic turnarounds ever seen in the college football world. From 1-11 to 7-6 to 11-3, the coach motivated a team thought to be dead and a town mourning its loss.
He said all the right things to fix what Art Briles left shattered. He made all the right moves to excite Baylor toward football again. And because of that, he earned a promotion to the big leagues. Who can blame him for that?
I’m not here to shame people for being upset that he left. I’m upset he’s gone. But why be angry? Rhule left a lasting blueprint for how to be relevant and even successful at Baylor. The fan base should be thankful for how he turned the program around.
If it weren’t for the culture Rhule instilled, there would be no future. There would be no present. He set Baylor up for success after he’s gone. Charlie Brewer has another year, and I’ll be driving the Jacob Zeno bandwagon after his electric performance in the Big 12 Championship game.
So, if Rhule wants to go coach in the NFL and earn millions and millions of dollars, awesome. I’ll be rooting for him. If he wants to take Phil Snow and whoever else from that staff, cool, no problems here. I still think he injected an amount of adrenaline strong enough to keep the program on its feet.
In the wake of Rhule moving on, the next question is who shall take his spot at the helm. There is much speculation that associate head coach and defensive ends coach Joey McGuire will step into the role, but I’d like to pump the brakes just a little bit.
McGuire is a former state champ at the high school level in Texas but has only three years of college experience after two years as the tight ends coach and his position this past season.
The issue is there aren’t many better options than putting a bandaid on when stitches are needed. Rhule leaving for the NFL places Baylor firmly last in looking for a new head coach. The good coaches in an already barren coaching cycle have been hired away, leaving the Bears to search through the scraps.
I’d love to see athletic director Mack Rhoades shoot as high as he did just a few years ago. Maybe make a run at a defensive coordinator like Clemson’s Brent Venables who consistently runs one of the best defenses in the country and is due for a promotion. A head coach like Kentucky’s Mark Stoops could make a jump to a program with a more realistic path to the College Football Playoff. Baylor could even make a run at the XFL Dallas Renegade’s head coach, and Mark’s older brother, Bob Stoops.