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FOW Roundtable: The staff reacts to Gary Patterson and TCU Football parting ways

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We gathered some thoughts from our staff on the news that broke Sunday night.

TCU v Kansas State Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

Emotions were mixed Sunday afternoon as news broke that Gary Patterson and TCU Athletics had... mutually (?) parted ways. The Frogs ‘ War staff certainly had thoughts, and we gathered them here.

What was your immediate reaction when you heard Gary Patterson was stepping away from the program immediately?

Melissa: I couldn’t believe how it happened, when it happened, and THAT it happened. The fact that Jeremiah Donati went to Patterson to make this move has to be the most unexpected thing of all. And that Patterson decided to walk away immediately, as opposed to finishing out the season, was somehow both shocking and par for the course. And really, I was sad. I hate that this is how it ended and I hope that a few years from now, we will be solely focused on the good — neigh great — things that Patterson did for TCU Football and TCU and this moment will be a barely remember blip in history.

Russ: I was very surprised to see the news, but mainly because of the timing and not necessarily the justification. Saturday’s loss against Kansas State was the breaking point for this program and something had to be done if there was any hope of salvaging what’s left of the season. I had a hunch that this would be Gary Patterson’s last season and I don’t blame him for wanting to leave right away rather than be a lame duck coach, but I was surprised nevertheless.

Christian: It was a stunning announcement. I thought that at the very most, there would be a retirement announcement and we could send off GP in style against Kansas. In retrospect, it shouldn’t be a huge shock that Gary would want to go out on his terms; the shock is that Donati and ViBo made a move at all at this point in the season.

Colin: It was surreal, to say the least. To be honest, I was busy when it happened, and the news took my breath away. GP is all I’ve ever known, as a journalist and a fan, of TCU football. As a 19-22 year old, I got to know and interact with one of the all time legends of college football. He pushed me to be a better journalist through his consistent refusal to put up with nothing but the best. That came across as arrogant and rude at times, but in the end, I know he just wanted nothing but the best for TCU and Fort Worth. In a way, I’ll always be thankful for GP and the way he helped my career. I’ll sincerely miss him a lot.

Ryan: Those above me hit the nail on the head. It’s hard to put into words what emotions I was feeling when the announcement first broke, and I’m sure everyone can agree that it was just… weird. I have grown up bleeding purple and attending TCU games since I was one of those tiny babies wearing noise-cancelling headphones. Gary Patterson has been the face of not only this football program, but this university we all love dearly, for quite literally the entirety of my life. GMFP Forever.

Anthony: Sadness. I immediately thought of all the amazing times I’ve spent with TCU Football - the moments with my Dad, my wife, my sons, my closest friends - all essentially manifested from the work of Gary Patterson. Like losing a long-time family pet, we all knew this day would come eventually, but we didn’t expect it right now or like this. We’ll learn to move on and love again, but today, this sucks

What is the most surprising thing about the announcement?

Melissa: The timing. We play Baylor next week and we don’t have a head coach — after having the same head coaching for 20+ years. These are truly unprecedented times for the Horned Frogs. Also I hate the phrase “unprecedented times” more than anything after the last 19 months.

Russ: As I mentioned previously, the timing was surprising to me, but I was also surprised that JD wanted Gary to coach until the end of the season and then take a lesser role next year. Gary has been around a long time and has accomplished so many great things, and it would make sense for TCU to want Gary around the program, but essentially making him a lame duck for the rest of the year would send a poor message to the players and potentially hinder progress in hiring a replacement and getting on the recruiting trail.

Christian: Echoing the above, the timing is really what surprised me. No final showdown in the Revivalry, no home send off at the Carter.

Colin: I echo the above sentiments, but it’s crazy also that he turned down a role in 2022. I always thought Gary would be walking the halls of the football facility until he couldn’t breathe any more. Now, he’s just gone. Completely gone.

Ryan: Mostly the fact that it happened mid-season. After that K-State loss, things felt off, almost as if everyone knew it was a real possibility we could be moving on from Gary in the near future. That being said, I don’t think anyone expected it to be two days later and to go down the way it did. You always hope for the storybook ending to a storybook career, but sometimes the magic runs out before the final chapter.

Anthony: That TCU leadership would ever broach this subject, much less in the middle of a season. Any time in the past when there was concern we’d need to have “the talk,” the consensus was always that Gary could name the date of his departure and regardless of performance he’d get to go out on his terms. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get to ride off into the sunset, and it’s surprising (if not unwarranted) that the university took this step.

What is your favorite TCU Football moment with Gary Patterson at the helm?

Melissa: The Rose Bowl feels almost too obvious because of how unbelievable it was. But I think the Peach Bowl — and the eff everyone attitude that came with it — really symbolized what TCU was all about throughout the Gary Patterson years. You won’t respect us until we force you to, so we will just come out and kick your ass.

Russ: I was a student and was at the game when TCU scored 82 points against Texas Tech. I’ve seen a lot of shootouts but that win was one of the most satisfying wins under Gary Patterson that I saw.

Christian: The Rose Bowl was great, but having been in the Alamodome for the 31-0 comeback against Oregon in 2015, that was a true highlight. Purple shirt worked!

Colin: The above ones are all amazing, but mine, in my time here, was the 2019 win over Texas. That was the loudest the Carter has been in my time, and I was walking onto the field when it was stormed by the students. Everyone was ecstatic, as the win showed that national recognition never trumped the TCU will to win. Duggan balled out more than he should have been able to, and GP was ecstatic. It was the most joy I think TCU football has felt since 2017.

Ryan: I know this is the basic option, but I’ve got to go with the Rose Bowl win. Words can’t describe the long-term impact that single game had on our program. I was at the game, and I’ll never forget that feeling leaving the stadium after the clock hit 0:00 with TCU on top 21-19. Random Frog fans were running up to me left and right in complete disbelief saying things like “Dude, we just won the Rose Bowl,” or simply “Can you believe it?”

Anthony: Okay, the Rose Bowl was probably a top 5 day of my life. But my answer here is the Baylor game in 2015. My first child had just been born a couple weeks earlier and I was going to the game with my Dad, who was having heart surgery a few weeks later. I was operating on no sleep, a heightened emotional state, and a year of pure hatred for that Baylor team. Add a freezing rain thunderstorm, long delays, double overtime and a defensive stop that lead to a field storming. It was the greatest emotional release for a moment at a TCU game - it meant so much to every person there and you knew how important it was for Coach Patterson to take that win.

How much of a hit do you expect TCU Football to take in 2022 and beyond after losing such a long tenured head coach?

Melissa: This hire is so important. Captain Obvious, right? But if you hire the right person, TCU isn’t down all that bad and should bounce back quickly. Keep the roster mostly intact and it’s a super talented group, one that we expected to contend in 2021 and could absolutely do so a season from now. A fresh voice, some new energy, and a new outlook could get TCU right back in the thick of things just as the Big 12 becomes a far more balanced and competitive conference. I don’t see this as a full rebuild: this is like Dave Aranda coming in post Matt Rhule. The foundation is great, just don’t eff up the hire.

Russ: 4. I am very interested to see how many current recruits will decommit and how many current players will transfer. I think it’s reasonable to believe TCU’s will take somewhat of a hit, but the pain will definitely be lessened if a hire can be made quickly and the right candidate can be found.

Christian: Impossible to say before we hire someone. College football can change on a dime, the right hire can put you on the fast track to the top (see: Michigan St) while the wrong hire can have you sputtering for years, if not a decade plus (see: Texas). However, it’s hard to see how it gets worse from this season, where 4-8 is a real possibility. TCU has all the resources to be a top team in the Big 12, especially with the void OU is leaving behind. Gotta nail this hire.

Colin: The talent, including at QB, is there. If the hire is hit well and recruits stay, TCU should be just fine. Will the program have the same edge of respect from the nation, though? I say not for a little while. That’s okay. This is how these things go. We knew it wouldn’t be easy.

Ryan: Of course there will be somewhat of a hit, but in the grand scheme of things the Horned Frogs will be fine, thanks to Gary Patterson. GP built TCU Football into the respected program it is today and as those above me said, if we don’t eff up the hire, we’ll be a-okay. I do expect a few players to potentially transfer and maybe a couple recruits to de-commit, but nothing major. If we’re going to take a hit, I’d rather it be these next couple years instead of when the “new and improved” Big 12 emerges.

Anthony: There is strength in stability, but there is also opportunity in change. If the new coach comes in with some existing clout and the ability to pick up the remaining pieces to build on this foundation, he could begin his own legacy and perhaps become the perennial power of the New Big 12.

Who is your top choice to replace him and why?

Melissa: Can I just say not Justin Fuente? Though I loved Fuente as a OC, he’s been very average at Virginia Tech and is just another member of the family tree that wouldn’t be willing to take off the purple-colored glasses. I love Billy Napier or Jeff Traylor, and wouldn’t be mad about Sonny Dykes. You don’t need another program-builder — Gary Patterson brought us out of the dark ages already. What you need now is an A+ recruiter and motivator and someone who can bring in the right voices to maximize all that TCU and TCU Football have to offer recruits.

Russ: I’ve seen a few names floated out there but I don’t have a real favorite at this point. Whoever TCU hires will have to be a strong recruiter, especially in the state of Texas, and someone who will bring more energy and a new voice and leadership.

Christian: My preference among realistic hires is Jeff Traylor. Strong recruiting ties to the state, big culture guy who is built for the era of NIL/transfer portal. Jamey Chadwell, Billy Napier, or perhaps Dan Lanning would all be top of my list as well. I could talk myself into Sonny Dykes, but he’d be below all those guys on my big board.

Colin: See above^ I certainly want a coach who will push to give players promotion and bring some swag back to TCU football. If you’re going to let GP go, you have to find a coach who does what he struggled

Ryan: It’s hard to narrow it down to just one name, but I’m going to give you a completely unrealistic top 3 because a man can dream: 1. Lane Kiffin; give the man $10 million a year, whatever it takes. 2. Ed Orgeron; hell would freeze over before TCU actually considered Coach O with his recent antics, but how fun would it be to hear him say “Geaux Freauxgs.” 3. Sonny Dykes; this is my realistic choice. Dykes has done a fantastic job at SMU, has Texas recruiting ties, he would bring a unique offensive mindset to fit the modern game, and he would be a slap in the face to our little brothers in Dallas - what more could you ask for?

Anthony: Are we setting our sights too low? I do think some of the names mentioned would be good choices that could take the Frogs into the future, but why does TCU need to be the stepping stone out of the G5 or coordinator ranks? At least here among friends, with the resources and location, we consider TCU to be in the top 20-50 jobs in the sport. The way Michigan State could pull Mel Tucker from Colorado and very quickly jumped into the top 5, why couldn’t TCU pull someone from the P5? Could Dave Clawson or Dave Doeren or Jeff Hafley leave the ACC; could Mike Locksley or Jeff Brohm leave the B1G; could Jonathan Smith or Justin Wilcox leave the Pac 12? Ok...after going through all that, probably need to do whatever necessary to bring Billy Napier to Fort Worth.