Kevin Sumlin's Absolutely Ridiculous Quarterback Tree
And which guy will burn out first, falling to earth after being exposed as a coach—or player—with a career built on another guy’s talent?
What if we told you that Sumlin has coached three Heisman winners and three first-round NFL picks in his 26 years as a college coach?
Yes, Sumlin’s run as a star-maker started long before he gave Manziel the starting job over Jameill Showers, Matt Joeckel and Matt Davis just days before the start of the 2012 season.
If you’re an Aggie, it should make you sleep better at night to know that the guy who will pick among Joeckel (now a senior), Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen this season is also the guy who worked with these seven quarterbacks.
After playing linebacker at Purdue from 1983-86, Sumlin’s coaching career started as a graduate assistant at Washington State from 1988 to 1990.
Sumlin’s first season at Wazzu coincided with quarterback Timm Rosenbach’s final season for the Cougars.
If you don’t remember Rosenbach, he threw for 3,097 yards in 1988, finished No. 2 nationally in passing efficiency and led Washington State to a 9-3 record and a No. 16 rank in the final AP poll.
This earned Rosenbach a seventh-place finish in the Heisman vote (Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders won) and the No. 2 overall pick in the 1989 NFL supplemental draft.
Rosenbach played three seasons for the Phoenix Cardinals before injuries ended his playing career.
After stints as an offensive coordinator at New Mexico State, Montana and Weber State, Rosenbach was named UNLV’s OC prior to the 2013 season.
He is one of the first branches on Sumlin’s coaching tree.
Sumlin’s final season as a GA at Washington State afforded him the opportunity to work with Drew Bledsoe, who was a first-year starter in 1990.
Bledsoe started for the Cougars for three seasons, finishing No. 8 in the Heisman voting in 1992 (Miami’s Gino Torretta won) and getting selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NFL draft.
Bledsoe was a four-time Pro Bowl pick in his 14 seasons in the NFL and led the league in passing yards with 4,555 yards for New England in 1994.
After serving as an offensive assistant at Wyoming (1991-92) and Minnesota (1993-97), Sumlin landed back at Purdue—his alma mater—in 1998.
Sumlin’s first season on the Boilermakers’ staff was also the year that Drew Brees took over the starting quarterback job.
Brees and Sumlin worked together all three of Brees’ years as the starter, a run that included Purdue’s Rose Bowl season in 2000.
Brees finished fourth in the Heisman vote in 1999 (Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne won) and third in 2000 (Florida State’s Chris Weinke won).
He was selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL draft (No. 32 overall) and in 13 seasons has racked up eight Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring.
Sumlin left Purdue after the 2000 season to take the OC job at Texas A&M under R.C. Slocum. From there, he landed a place on the offensive staff at Oklahoma in 2003.
Sumlin’s first season with the Sooners was also Jason White’s first as the starting quarterback. The two worked together each of White’s two seasons at the helm, a run that included back-to-back appearances in the BCS national title game.
White was a consensus All-American in 2003, the same year he also won the Heisman, edging out Larry Fitzgerald of Pitt. He went on to finish third in the voting in 2004, behind USC’s Matt Leinart and Oklahoma teammate Adrian Peterson.
White went undrafted in 2005 and signed as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans, but never played at the next level.
In 2006, Sumlin was promoted to OC at Oklahoma, setting up his selection of Sam Bradford as the Sooners’ starter in 2007.
Sumlin guided Bradford—a first-year starter—to a nation-leading 176.5 finish in passer efficiency rating and a Big 12 title before taking the head job at Houston in 2008.
Bradford went on to earn consensus All-American honors and the Heisman in 2008. Despite missing most of the 2009 season due to injury, he was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
Bradford picked up AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 and has been the starter for St. Louis for four seasons.
Sumlin’s first year as the head coach at Houston coincided with Case Keenum’s second season with the Cougars.
In 2007—without Sumlin—Keenum threw for 2,259 yards and 14 touchdowns. In 2008—with Sumlin—he threw for 5,020 yards and 44 touchdowns.
This marked the first of three 5,000-plus yard and 40-plus touchdown seasons for the lethal combination of coach and quarterback.
Keenum won the Sammy Baugh trophy in both 2009 and 2011 and finished eighth in the Heisman race in 2009 (Alabama’s Mark Ingram won) and seventh in 2011 (Baylor’s Robert Griffin III won).
Keenum went undrafted in 2012 but started eight games for the Houston Texans in 2013.
After four seasons at Houston, Sumlin took the head job at Texas A&M in 2012 and fortuitously gave Manziel the nod for the starting job just before the season kicked off.
As a freshman, Manziel threw for 3,706 yards and rushed for 1,410 more on his way to an 11-2 finish, consensus All-American honors and the first-ever freshman Heisman.
The Aggies dropped to a 9-4 finish in 2013 and Manziel’s passing yards jumped to 4,114, while his rushing total fell to 759. He finished fifth in the Heisman vote last season.
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