The fact that a young coach whose career is still on an upward trajectory, would wade into the grease fire known as the Texas Tech defense speaks to Gibbs’ confidence and to his courage.
It is not unknown for rising stars in the coaching world to hit a brick wall in a new position, and to have their glorious future derailed in the process. Coaches know this, and for that reason, are reluctant to walk into a new job in which they are all but ordained to fail.
To some folks, and particularly those well acquainted with Texas Tech football over the last 15 years or so, Defensive Coordinator in Lubbock might seem like such a doomsday position. Mike Leach, hired in 2000, ushered in an era of wild, wooly and productive offensive football on the High Plains, but along with it came a penchant for piddle poor defense.
By and large, the fiery offensive football remains in place to this day. Alas, the defensive ineptitude, if anything, seems to be worsening.
So that is what confronts David Gibbs. He will attempt to rejuvenate the Red Raider defense where Lyle Setencich, James Willis, Chad Glasgow and Matt Wallerstedt failed utterly. (Greg McMackin, Ruffin McNeill and Art Kaufman managed to elevate Tech’s defense from atrocious to subpar.)
But can Gibbs succeed? And what makes him confident enough about his ability to do so that he puts his career directly at hazard?
The fact of the matter is Gibbs’ last salvage job at the University of Houston is not unlike the one he has taken on at Texas Tech.
Many pages have already been written on this site and in many other media organs, about Gibbs’ unqualified success with the Cougars. That being the case, I won’t deluge the readers with yet another litany of his accomplishments coordinating UH’s defense the last two seasons. Suffice it to say that Gibbs transformed the Houston defense, and that is why Kingbury hired him to helm the Red Raider stop unit.
I will, however, offer some comparative statistical data attesting to the similarity of the Houston defense prior to 2013, the year Gibbs took it over, and the Tech defense right now.
|CATEGORY||Houston (2012)||Texas Tech (2014)|
|TOTAL DEFENSE||483 YPG (115th)||512.7 YPG (122nd)|
|SCORING DEFENSE||36 PPG (107th)||41.3PPG (123rd)|
|RUSH DEFENSE||192.75 YPG (92nd)||259.5 YPG (121st)|
|PASS DEFENSE||290.25 YPG (115th)||253.2 YPG (96th)|
|INTERCEPTIONS||19 (t9th)||6 (110th)|
|FUMBLE RECOVERIES||12 (t35th)||9 (59th)|
|TURNOVERS GAINED||31 (t14th)||15 (103rd)|
|*National Rank in Parenthesis|
If we examine the Houston defense via seven major indices—scoring defense, total defense, sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, 3rd down defense, red zone TD percentage defense—over the course of the five seasons prior to Gibbs’ arrival, we will see that the Coog defense was a bloody mess.
In only one area, interceptions, were the Cougars good. Their average national rank in that category over five seasons was 36th. In sacks and fumble recoveries, the Cougars were mid-pack, finishing 49th and 48th, respectively. But in all other areas Houston was just plain bad. They were 76th in red zone touchdown defense, 86th in scoring defense, 91st in 3rd down defense, and 99th in total defense.
In other words, Gibbs had his work cut out for him, not simply in rebuilding the defense, but in shoring up confidence and creating an identity for great defensive football.
He faces a very similar task at Tech.
Looking at the Red Raider defense all the way back through the 2008 season, we find that Tech was good in no single area. Tech’s best stat is in fumbles recovered, where the Red Raiders had an average finish of 52nd. Next best is sacks, at No.63. Then 3rd down defense at No. 66. Like the Cougars, the Red Raiders averaged 76th place in red zone touchdown defense. In interceptions, Tech has been No. 77; in total defense, No. 86, and in scoring defense, No. 90.
And for the record, 2014 was without question Tech’s worst defensive performance of the years examined.
So David Gibbs has a real challenge on his hands. But he’s very aware of that, and he’s undaunted. After all, he’s done it before. No reason he can’t do it again.