Texas Tech football: Joey McGuire is worth the gamble as head coach

In the world of college football, there is no such thing as a sure-fire head coaching hire, especially for a mid-rung Power 5 program like the Texas Tech football program is.  Thus, whomever the Red Raiders hired to replace the recently fired Matt Wells was going to come with some uncertainties.

Now, the Red Raiders have settled on Baylor associate head coach and linebackers coach Joey McGuire (as reported by Carlos Silva of the Avalanche-Journal) as their choice and though he comes with some questions, he’s worth the gamble.

The questions are obvious.  Can a man who has never even been a coordinator at the collegiate level of the sport now find success as the leader of a program that has been on a downward spiral for 12 years?  Only time will tell.

But the potential is there.  That’s because McGuire is something that this program desperately needs, an elite people person.

No, I’ve never met the man.  Nor do I personally know anyone who has.  But I’ve read enough from people who know him to believe that McGuire’s best skill is his ability to interact with people. In fact, Zach Barnett of FootballScoop.com compares McGuire’s magnetism to that of Mack Brown of Pete Carroll.

That’s something that’s been missing from this program’s recent head coaches.  Tommy Tuberville was a miserable curmudgeon who openly hated Lubbock from almost the moment he first drove the Loop.  Meanwhile, Kliff Kingsbury was so reclusive that he became Lubbock’s version of Big Foot.  And Matt Wells was apparently so unfond of Lubbock that he couldn’t even come up with a fake answer about what he liked about the community he was hired to recruit to.

In fact, you would have to go all the way back to Spike Dykes to find a Texas Tech football head coach with as much charisma and interpersonal skills as McGuire supposedly has.  And now, Texas Tech football is as unpopular in West Texas as it has been in almost 40 years as droves of fans have turned away from what not so long ago was the hottest ticket in Texas.

That’s why Tech needed a head coach that the entire fan base can rally around and who will openly embrace the public figure aspect of his position.  That’s certainly Joey McGuire.

Hopefully, that will pay dividends in a number of areas.  First of all, McGuire’s personality needs to be the driving force behind a recruiting renaissance on the South Plains.  That’s where this program’s turnaround has to start given that Tech has signed only one top-50 recruiting class since 2018.

Secondly, he must recruit the players already on his roster.  In the era of the transfer portal, it is easier than ever for players to leave at the first sign of trepidation, and ensuring that the handful of difference-makers he has already in the fold remain committed to Texas Tech is going to be perhaps his first task.

But most of all, McGuire needs to make everyone in scarlet and black feel good about Texas Tech football once again.  Sure, the primary way to do that is to win games.  But he won’t get that opportunity until next September.

In the meantime though, he will have an opportunity to do what he does best, build a relationship with the people of Raiderland.  He must not only win the introductory press conference but he must also win over a fan base that now considers his program a source of embarrassment and constant disappointment.

The good news is that McGuire is the most well-suited of all the candidates Tech reportedly vetted and interviewed to mend the fences with his new constituency.  The controversial Art Briles is a proven winner but his checkered past while head coach at Baylor would have caused an uncrossable chasm to develop between those in the fan base that supported him and those that were against his hiring.

Mike Leach was rumored to be in play for a while.  But while the Pirate had massive success with Tech in the 2000s, he does not have the type of personality that would reassure and unify the fan base, especially given his acrimonious divorce from Texas Tech in 2009 and the hurt feelings that still exist between Leach and some very prominent Texas Tech power brokers.

Sonny Dykes would have had the luxury of his last name and his father’s lineage to lean on but would that have proven to also be too much of a burden for him to bear had he been hired?

Meanwhile, current Power 5 assistant coaches like Oklahoma’s Alex Grinch would have generated little buzz given their lack of ties to Texas.  And skepticism would have accompanied current Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn back to Lubbock.  Despite being a beloved alum and former Texas Tech running back, he has never coached at the collegiate level which would have had many fans wondering about his qualifications for the job.

Again, McGuire comes with his own set of questions that he will have to answer over time.  The last time he led a program was in 2016 when he wrapped up a 14-year run as head coach of Cedar Hill high school where he won three state titles.  Since then, he’s risen no higher than the rank of a position coach (though his designation as associate head coach does speak to how highly valued he is to the folks in Waco) and it is fair to wonder if he will be capable of doing a job that some believe is one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in the nation.

But for now, he’s won over an important group of new people, Kirby Hocutt, and his hand-picked selection committee and he will soon start to try to do the same with the Red Raider fandom as a whole.  It’s a risky move to put your faith in a first-time head coach but this is a risk worth taking because if what people say about McGuire proves to be true in Lubbock, he has a ceiling that is as high and ornate as that of the Sistine Chapel.  Now, it’s time for McGuire to start painting his masterpiece in the Hub City.