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The Matt Rhule Era is Over, Long Live the Joey McGuire Era?

With Matt Rhule off to the Carolina Panthers, where does Baylor turn?

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Georgia vs Baylor Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

On December 6, 2016, Matt Rhule was named the head football coach of the Baylor Bears. According to reports summarized in Peter’s post on the main page right now, as of January 7, 2020, he will be leaving us for the Carolina Panthers. I want to wish the best of luck to Coach Rhule in Carolina and thank him for everything he’s done here, but this post is not intended to be a retrospective of his time at Baylor (which was great, don’t get me wrong) or to discuss whether we should be angry at him for leaving us (I do not think so). I will say that there is no doubt we are in a better position now than we were when he got here.

This post is about the future. Baylor Football is now without a head coach on January 7, which is not exactly the best place to be. The hiring season typically happens in December after the college football regular season ends, and the coaching carousel has mostly stopped. I’m trying and failing to come up with a similar situation where a school like Baylor lost a coach to the NFL in January and had to (potentially) replace all or most of its staff.

It’s important as we do this to note that more information will come out, probably very soon, about who is going with Rhule. We don’t know that yet. The biggest name to watch will obviously be Coach Phil Snow, our current defensive coordinator. I think that whether he stays or goes will influence the coaching search greatly, as I will discuss below.

Rather than float names based on pure speculation, the way I thought about approaching this was to talk about what the goals of a coaching search might be. The obvious goal is to set the program up for long-term success—that’s almost too obvious to even say. But how you go about doing that in a situation like this is much less obvious. Do you value consistency above all else to try to keep the current roster intact, or do you go for someone splashy to try to finish out the recruiting cycle with a bang and generate excitement coming off an 11-win season? Is there a way to do both? These are the kinds of questions we will have to answer going forward.

As I said on Twitter a few minutes ago, the odds-on favorite for the position at this point has to be Joey McGuire, the former head coach at Cedar Hill that joined Rhule's staff when he got here in 2016 and is wildly popular in Texas HS coaching circles. McGuire is officially titled the Associate Head Coach and is also apparently responsible for defensive ends. I highlight that first title because it’s relatively new—he was promoted for this season, in fact—and it could be a sign of what some, including myself, have suspected—that McGuire was the heir-apparent and being groomed for the top job. That is speculation on my part, but it seems to have some truth behind it. He’s also extremely popular with the current players, some of whom have taken to Twitter to push for him to get the job. The problem we have is that I don’t think anybody anticipated that the opportunity for him to make the leap would come this early, after just three years coaching college football in any role. Thus you have to decide whether you value the consistency he could bring and the potential that he appears to have over getting someone more established into the role from outside the program. In promoting from within, you could get Dabo Swinney or you could get Matt Luke.

My take on it is that if Mack Rhoades feels like McGuire could be ready for that jump and wants to keep the band together as much as possible, Baylor will likely push hard to keep Phil Snow, who has previously indicated that he did not want to go to the NFL from what I understand, to pair with McGuire and act as the elder statesmen, so to speak. A McGuire-Snow pairing would go a long way toward keeping the best part of this year’s team—the defense—in place and would likely solidify the roster and prevent an exodus of transfers. It would also give us an extremely popular, energetic recruiting machine at head coach that would probably view this as a destination job. What we don’t know at this time is whether Snow will follow Rhule to the NFL—Twitter is all over the place about this issue right now—or if he might be interested in staying here. IF he does I would support a McGuire-Snow pairing with the idea that you could use the money saved from Rhule’s salary (the reports are that Rhule was one of the highest-paid coaches in CFB, and McGuire most certainly would not be) or the buyout you’re going to get from Carolina, to hire an established offensive coordinator. I’ll try to come up with some names for who might fit that bill in subsequent posts.

If Rhoades decides not to go with McGuire, I think you’re looking at more or less a clean sweep of the coaching staff and basically starting over. I don’t mean that to be a bad thing since the coach we eventually hire may be a really impressive candidate, but it seems likely that any such candidate would bring his own staff (or most of it) with him here. Names I’ve seen floated so far are Brent Venables, the Clemson DC that comes up in virtually every coaching search and has said no every time thus far, Luke Fickell, the current head coach at Cincinnati that was once the interim head coach at Ohio State when Urban Meyer got canned, Bill Clark, the coach that has revived the program at UAB, and Willie Fritz, the head coach at Tulane. I would note that if you think we would even consider trying to coax Urban Meyer out of retirement with his baggage, you are insane.

At this point news is coming out virtually every minute, so we should have more information to post soon. Based on what we know right now, though, I would expect that Baylor will look to promote from within with the hope being that you found the next Dabo in McGuire and keep the program mostly stable. But that is probably largely dependent on what Coach Snow does, and we just don’t know yet.

We’ll post more info as we get it.