No matter how you slice it, Texas took a risk in firing Tom Herman and replacing him with Steve Sarkisian.
In Herman, Texas said goodbye to who, for all his faults, produced the best 3-year run since 2007-09: three straight AP Top 25 finishes, never finishing lower than third in the Big 12, zero blowout losses. The fact that those set of facts represents progress for Texas is a conversation unto itself, but the fact is Texas parted ways with Herman for a guy whose career record sits at 47-33 with just two AP Top 25 finishes.
Sarkisian successfully turned Washington around, but never turned the Huskies into a true Pac-12 contender. We all know how his USC tenure ended. Sarkisian was undeniably successful as Alabama's offensive coordinator, but DeVonta Smith, Najee Harris and company aren't following him to Austin.
So what makes Sarkisian so confident this time will be different? To hear him say it, the Steve Sarkisian of 2021 is a different person than the Sark of 2009 or the Sark of 2015.
"I spent seven years at USC and that was a tremendous run we went on, and then I got a chance three of the past five years to be with Nick Saban. In my opinion, two of the best coaches ever in football," Sarkisian told KTCK-FM in Dallas on Tuesday morning.
"The one thing that jumped out at me, they both want the same result but they definitely go about it their own separate ways. That's really a direct reflection of their personalities of what they believe in and how they want their program to look. It took them some time to get to that point. Pete Carroll, (USC) was his third head coaching job. It was Nick Saban's fifth head coaching job by the time he got to Alabama. I'm on now my third head coaching job, so I think I have a much better idea of what I want it to look like. And then it's the consistency. It's the routine, it's the consistency, whether it's recruiting, whether it's scheme, whether it's staff development, whether it's the off-season conditioning program, there's a level of consistency where everybody in the organization knows the personality of the head coach, knows exactly what he wants and what he's looking for. It's that trickle down effect to the players."
Sarkisian's answer there indicates a subtle difference from other Saban-ites that got their own programs. Sarkisian's experience under Saban (and, to be sure, Pete Carroll helps too) taught him not as a reflection of Nick Saban's personality, but as a reflection of his own.
"When you're a first-time head coach at 33, you're kind of trying to find your way," he said. "Well, now at 46 going on 47 here in a couple weeks, I've got a much clearer vision and picture of what I want this to look like and I'm able to convey that to everybody in the organization."