With the news that Tyson Summers is out as Georgia Southern’s head coach, Georgia Southern fans are once again facing the question that comes up with every coaching search: To Flex or Not To Flex?
I’m old enough and have followed Georgia Southern football long enough to remember every coaching search. The amazing thing is that this question has dominated the Georgia Southern discussion among college football message boards that Georgia Southern fans patronize since that first real coaching “search” after Tim Stowers’ exit before the 1996 season.
Georgia Southern is young enough that there have always been message boards talking football when Georgia Southern goes coach shopping. The first transition was a hand-off to Erk’s chosen successor, Tim Stowers. Paul Johnson was such an obvious choice before the 1997 season that one could argue that the first real “search” for a new head coach was after Mike Sewak was fired in late 2005.
That 2006 “search” exhibits everything about this argument among Eagle fans, though. AD Sam Baker went with Van Gorder who famously said “there is no option,” and we see where that got us. Georgia Southern has always done its best when it is in some form or variant of an option-based offense.
Which leads us to this new coaching search. It’s going to come up. Indeed, it already has at GSUFans.com. Should the Eagles aim for a flexbone, Paul Johnson Coaching Tree coach? Or, should they go with someone more modern spread-based? Brace yourselves for this to be the topic of discussion until a new coach is named.
Nick has already discussed a list of coaches Georgia Southern could legitimately target. To me, the perfect answer is the one he’s listed as #1. James Madison’s Mike Houston. Houston is a perfect mixture of a history with the triple option as well as running a more “modern” RPO-based offense at James Madison. Where, incidentally, he won the FCS National Championship last season.
The flexbone will always play a huge part in Georgia Southern’s history and mindset. However, for all the talk on Twitter and elsewhere that the fanbase HAS to have an option coach to be happy, the love for Willie Fritz proves that untrue. Georgia Southern fans have a love for winning. It just so happens that most of the success in the school’s history has come while running the flexbone option.
Fritz was embraced by the fanbase while running his own brand of spread that incorporated elements of the triple option in it. That is the type of thing Houston could do, as well. And, as long as he wins – which his history as a head coach says he will wherever he’s coaching – then Georgia Southern fans will embrace him and whatever offense he runs.
Of course, Houston may not be the route that Tom Kleinlein chooses to go. He may decide to go with a more traditional option coach. Or, he may decide to do what he thinks best and hire someone regardless of their offensive philosophy. In the end, whoever he hires, they definitely won’t have any doubts about expectations, though. Summers was fired a year and a half into his tenure. Regardless of what offense you run as a head coach at Georgia Southern, there is one thing you absolutely have to do: win.