Texas Tech football: Hoping Matt Wells can follow Matt Rhule’s trajectory

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 16: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Baylor Bears reacts during the game against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 16: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Baylor Bears reacts during the game against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

As the Texas Tech football team prepares to face Baylor this week, Red Raider fans should note the job Matt Rhule has done in Waco and hope that Matt Wells has similar success.

When it comes to Baylor’s head coach, Matt Rhule…I just don’t get it.  And I think a large part of the Texas Tech football fan base doesn’t either.

Not being an interested observer of the goings-on inside the Bears’ program over the last three years, it is hard to understand why the 44-year-old has been able to turn around a disgraced program in such short order.

Currently, Baylor is 5-0 on the season with wins over Iowa State and Kansas State in the last two weeks to rise to No. 22 in the A.P. poll.  That momentum was furthered last week when Rhule was given a contract extension through 2027.

What puzzles so many long-distance observers is how Rhule has had such success in a very short time in spite of taking over a program in the midst of utter chaos after the firing of Art Briles and a season under interim and lame-duck head coach Jim Grobe.

There doesn’t seem to be anything that stands out about the man in charge in Waco.  Lacking the presence of Alabama’s Nick Saban, the charisma of Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, the eccentric genius of Washington State’s Mike Leach, or the panache of a Kliff Kingsbury, there’s nothing that really jumps out at fans when Rhule is on camera or speaking to the media.

Take his trademark ill-fitting green pullover away and replace it with a plain white shirt and most people would assume that the generic-looking Rhule was an associate pastor at the local Church of Christ trying to drum up interest in this Thursday morning’s men’s’ prayer breakfast.  But something he’s doing is working in Waco.

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Somehow, this life-long East Coast native has come to central Texas and taken his program from 1-11 in his first year to 7-6 last year and now 5-0.  That’s an unheard-of reversal of fortunes for a middle-to-lower rung Power 5 school like Baylor.  It took even Briles three seasons before he amassed 7 wins.

Many believe that the soft-spoken coach’s willingness to shun his New York roots and fully embrace everything Texan is at the heart of his success.  When he was hired, he brought in a number of highly-successful head coaches of major Texas high school programs to supplement his staff.  Their main job…recruit.

In 2017, Rhule and his staff put together the No. 5 class in the Big 12 and No. 40 class in the nation after being on the job for less than a half of a year by signing day.  The 2018 class in Waco was ranked 4th in the conference and 29th overall and the most recent class checked in again at No. 4 in the Big 12 and No. 35 in the country.

In other words, it appears that plenty of prospects are buying what Rhule is selling.  Now, Texas Tech fans hope their new head coach can follow the same trajectory as Baylor’s…let that sink in.

There seem to be quite a few similarities between Rhule and Matt Wells.  Both were relative unknowns to fan bases that were not all that thrilled about their arrival following the ousting of popular coaches.

Neither was a flashy hire or a big name.  They are both considered program builders rather than schematic innovators.  That’s something that has become a bit of a knock in the minds of some fans these days.

What’s more, both are rather plain.  In an era when personality seems to carry more significance than ever before, Rhule and Wells are earnest, hard-working lifers who have paid their dues the old-fashioned way.

They don’t garner attention for anything other than how their teams perform.  You won’t find photos of them shirtless online and neither seems to be the type to go on a meme-worth post-game rant.  Neither are 30-something wonder-kids who have risen to their current position in an inordinate amount of time in the profession.  And neither had any significant personal or professional ties to Texas or the university that hired them before they took their current job.

But what they have both done is win.  Wells was part of a massive turnaround at Utah State, first as offensive coordinator and then as head coach for six years where he led a program that had been one of the most downtrodden in the nation to five bowl games.

Rhule somehow managed to post a 28-23 overall record at Temple, which was a program that likely would not have beaten Temple, Texas High School when he took over in 2013.  And in just his third season, he guided the Owls to a remarkable 10-2 season.

Though from afar there seems to be nothing special about Baylor’s head coach, he’s very highly-regarded in football circles.  An assistant offensive line coach with the 2012 New York Giants, Rhule was linked to the New York Jets as a possible head coaching candidate this past offseason.

I don’t get it.  I look at Rhule and I see the most uninspiring head coach in the nation.  He has an outward demeanor that would make William Wallace want to take a nap on the battlefield.  I can’t picture anyone ever wanting to run through a wall for the sleepy-eyed New Yorker who is about as exciting as a Monday morning human resources briefing.

Next. Jordyn Brooks blowing up. dark

But that’s not prevented him from doing what most thought might be unthinkable, saving Baylor football from itself in the wake of the awful Briles scandal that still hangs over the program.  Texas Tech was in far better shape when Wells arrived than Baylor was at the outset of Rhule’s tenure.  So there’s reason for Red Raider fans to believe that he can have similar success.  After all, at least Wells comes across as being at least as edgy as an associate pastor at a church that has a band.