There is no one in the Texas Tech football program to whom the 2020 season is more important than Matt Wells. Let’s look at why.
Sports are all about what a person has done recently. That’s not good for Texas Tech football head coach Matt Wells.
Though it might be too soon to put the second-year head coach on the hot seat in Lubbock, even after a 4-8 debut campaign, the truth is that his overall reputation as a head coach is starting to lose its shine. That’s because he has had just one winning season in his last five, something that doesn’t instill much confidence in Red Raider fans.
There was a time when Wells was one of the rising stars of the coaching profession. That was when he went a combined 19-9 in his first two seasons as a head coach 2013-14 at Utah State.
But when you put those years in context, one might be inclined to lessen the amount of credit due to Wells. That’s because he didn’t build the Utah State program into a winner as head coach. That was the job of Gary Andersen, who took over a program that had not had a winning season since 1997 and built a winner in just two years.
Now, Wells was on staff at Utah State as OC while Andersen built the program so he did have a significant hand in the revitalization of his alma mater. But he was not the architect of the Aggies’ reconstruction.
In the coaching world, we typically give a coach two years before we say that his fingerprints are all over the program. But that should apply regardless of if the coach brings the program to a new level or oversees it as it regresses.
The latter was the case with Wells after his second season. Following a 9-win and 10-win season respectively in his first two seasons, USU struggled to a 6-7 and 3-9 record in years three and four. Then, in year five, he did take them back to a bowl game (as he did in his third season) only to fall short like he did in 2015 for another losing record.
However, he rebounded nicely in 2018 with a 10-2 regular season thanks to the presence of future first-round NFL pick Jordan Love at QB. Of course, he parlayed that into his current job with the Red Raiders.
That was one of the biggest reasons Texas Tech fans met his hiring with raised eyebrows. We wondered if Wells really was capable of building a winning program.
The question is whether or not 2018 was merely a flash in the pan, a lucky streak of lightning across an otherwise desolate sky in the career of a coach that now finds himself in charge of a program competing at the highest level of the sport. That’s a question Wells needs to begin answering in 2020.
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But to answer it in the affirmative is going to take a monumental task. That’s because this year will be a season like any other.
There will be only one gimmie on Tech’s schedule, rather than two as was originally thought. We assumed for months that Wells’ team would easily capture victories against UTEP and Alabama State to jump a third of the way towards bowl eligibility. But now, Tech has only one non-conference layup, the opener against Houston Baptist.
That means Wells will have to find four Big 12 wins to get to a winning record. That would be double his total from last year and the most his program has had since 2015 when a guy named Pat Mahomes was leading the offense.
Matt Wells has an identity problem when it comes to the fan base. We don’t know if he is a winner or not because he’s yet to prove to be one over a sustained period of time.
While there is no way he can completely change the way Tech fans see him in 2020 unless he miraculously makes a run to the Big 12 Championship Game, he can start to turn the growing tide that is building against him. He needs to give Red Raider fans some reason to believe that he could be the answer that this program needs, the one who could finally bring Texas Tech football back to national respectability and relevance.
If he does, he could be in for a lengthy ride in West Texas. However, if 2020 doesn’t go his way, he will enter the 2021 season on the hot seat and Tech football will be on the brink of yet another coaching change. What’s more, Wells’ star as a head coach will be perilously close to burning out.