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Dr. Saturday

Six degrees of coaching separation: Kevin Sumlin’s offensive background comes from Mike Price

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

There's an interesting book if you're a fan of football history called "Blood, Sweat and Chalk" which traces the history of various formations and famous plays from Pop Warner through the Wishbone triple option to the modern day spread offenses. A theme throughout the book is that it's almost impossible to figure out the true origin of any Xs and Os innovation because every coach borrows at least part of their schemes from someone else.

So when Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin gets credit for his offensive brilliance (which he should), just know that he had to steal some of his ideas from another coach. That's how it has gone throughout football history.

And in Sumlin's case, it seems his offensive lineage started with Mike Price.

Price, who unfortunately is probably better known for the fiasco that led to him being fired at Alabama before he ever coached a game, was in the middle of a great run at Washington State when Sumlin learned the offensive foundation he uses today. Sumlin, who played linebacker in college, wanted a defensive coaching job but Price thought he should be on the offensive side of the ball.

The San Antonio Express-News talked to Sumlin about it, and this is what he said Price told him:

“First thing I want you to do is move to offense, and we're a little bit different than a lot of people on that side of the ball. We'll have one back and no backs and motion and all kinds of stuff that a lot of people don't really do, and a lot of them don't understand. But it gives us a chance to win. If you learn what we're doing and you want to coach, you'll have a job forever.”

Sumlin's ascent to coaching stardom is interesting because he's known for dynamic offenses even though he played on defense ("What position did Tony Dungy play in college?" Sumlin said in an interview this month, waiting to hear that defensive genius Dungy played quarterback in college). It turns out Sumlin owes plenty to Price, who probably picked up his philosophy from another coach who can't remember which coach he took it from.

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