Question: If Texas' offense doesn't come to life on that fateful final drive, and if the Aggies take care of business and get the last laugh in the final chapter of a century-old rivalry, does Mike Sherman return in 2012?
Yes, he does.
The Aggies didn't. Sherman won't.
It's a knee-jerk reaction to a frustrating problem that might work out in the long term. But in the short term, it’s unfair to the man who helped revive a program that began to struggle toward the close of the R.C. Slocum era, which ended in 2002, and through the Dennis Franchione era that followed.
The reason for the firing is obvious: The Aggies had as much or more talent than any other team in the Big 12. They began the season in the top 10 before finishing 6-6.
A&M did it in style, too, leading by double digits in 11 games -- the Aggies were favored to win in 11 games this year -- before losing six times. Five of those losses came with double-digit halftime leads.
That final insult, though, was too much. The program-wide gut punch sealed Sherman's fate, but it shouldn't have. The factors that got Sherman fired were high profile.
A year ago, after the Aggies recovered from a 3-3 start to finish 9-3 and receive a Cotton Bowl bid, the same group was ready to rally behind Sherman on the way to the SEC.
Now, he's fired?
When was the last time Texas A&M was favored to win all but one game in a regular season? That's thanks to Sherman.
Unlike another Big 12 coach, Kansas' Turner Gill, who also saw a pink slip this week, Sherman's 25-25 record doesn't tell the whole story.
He inherited a team short on talent and even shorter on upperclassmen. He infused his depth chart with freshmen and rode them into this season. The 4-8 season in 2008 wasn't much fun, but Texas A&M rapidly ascended to become one of the Big 12's most talented teams.
There's no denying the clear failure in 2011, but Sherman's work everywhere else should have earned him more time to prove himself and lead the Aggies into the SEC.
The A&M decision-makers disagreed.
And one drive ultimately tipped the scales against Sherman.
It outweighed last season's rally. It outweighed Sherman's efforts on the recruiting trail, where he pieced together a 2012 class that likely will rank in the nation's top 10 barring post-firing attrition before February's signing day. It outweighed Sherman's sense to put together a staff stocked with bright, rising college football minds such as defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter and linebackers coach Dat Nguyen.
Sherman deserved better.