Earlier today, Jonah Jordan of the Daily Memphian reported that the Memphis Tigers had found their next head coach in Ryan Silverfield, who had served as the deputy head coach, co-offensive coordinator and offensive-line coach for the Tigers. Silverfield had been a key part of Mike Norvell’s staff for the last four years.
Ryan Silverfield will be named the Memphis Tigers head coach later today, according to a source.— Jonah Jordan (@_JonahJordan) December 13, 2019
Make no mistake: Ryan Silverfield is the right man to become the next head coach of the Tigers and continue the legacy of excellence that Mike Norvell leaves behind. To be sure, the Memphis Tigers are arguably the premier program in the Group of Five at the moment and could have their pick of many young hot-shot offensive minds, such as Joe Brady or Chip Long. But in this particular circumstance, keeping the hire in-house was the best decision that new Memphis athletic director Laird Veatch could have made.
For starters, Silverfield is the Tigers’ best bet to maintain the continuity from the Norvell era and keep the proverbial train churning along.
He is by all accounts an excellent offensive mind that has presided over a consistently superb offensive stretch over the last four years and has been the team’s run-game coordinator since 2017. In 2018 the Tigers set school records under his watch with an astonishing 3,919 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns, making him one of the finalists for the Broyles Award given to the country’s best assistant coach. He was also instrumental in the development of redshirt freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell who rushed for 1,425 yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
He is also extremely effective in forming relationships with players, which is an invaluable asset both in the short-term and long-term for the Tigers. Both current and former players love him and have been lobbying for him to get the job, which of course isn’t the most reliable indicator of his ability as a head coach (after all, Ole Miss players loved Matt Luke, and some of them even threatened to transfer when he was fired; they were all universally on the Lane Train less than a week later), but it’s still very encouraging nonetheless.
From a more future-oriented perspective, Silverfield should thrive as an excellent recruiter in the region. He was especially impactful in expanding the Tigers’ influence and creating a pipeline in east Tennessee. Current players like T.J. Carter, who was a four-star defensive back coming out of Nashville, Chris Claybrooks, and Obinna Eze were brought to Memphis with Silverfield as a primary recruiter. As a coach with extensive NFL experience through his time with the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, Silverfield can also sell Memphis as a path to the NFL for potential recruits, a pitch that shouldn’t be particularly difficult since the Tigers have sent several players including Anthony Miller, Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard to the league in recent years.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Silverfield presents the most enticing possibility of all for the Memphis Tigers—stability. If you are to take the man at his word, he truly wants to be in Memphis. He has planned to eventually have this job for years, turning down offers from schools in the ACC, Big 12 and the SEC.
In his opening press conference after he was named the Tigers’ interim coach, he stated:
“This is the job I wanted. This is not one of those where I take the job and I’m looking at other jobs. It’s not a stepping stone for me. This is one of those 20 years from now and I’ll be heading off into retirement. Hopefully, some of the younger folks in the room will be around and say ‘It’s been a fun ride.’
This is not something that Justin Fuente or Mike Norvell ever said during their time at Memphis, and it’s not typically something that a coach with aspirations of a Power Five job says. It presents to Memphis the possibility of something that it has always wanted: To no longer be a stepping-stone and finally be a destination job.
To be sure, there are definitely concerns. Silverfield has never called plays at any level, and there will always be uncertainty when a man who has never truly run a program before is given his first head coaching job.
But for now, those concerns can rest. Because while the future may be a tad uncertain, the Memphis Tigers have made the best possible hire that they could have.