Saturday, December 7, 2013

Brown’s last stand?


As the chances continue to fade that Texas will defeat Baylor this afternoon, the volume rises on the talk that this will be Mack Brown’s final game as the Longhorns head coach. Much of what is reinforcing that talk is that, despite the fact the Horns have registered another 8-win season, and despite the fact they went into this game contending for the Big 12 title when most preseason prognosticators picked them to finish no higher than fourth in the league, the UT administration has just hired a new athletic director and did so without ever consulting Brown about the choice.

I don’t know whether an administration should contact a football coach concerning the hiring of an AD. Perhaps as a courtesy, but certainly not because the coach should have any kind of veto or even approval power.

If Brown is gone it’s because of his performance. And what has Brown’s performance been? Well, he’s in his 15th season as head coach. He’s recorded at least eight wins in 14 of those 15 years. In the previous 15 years before Brown, Texas had eight wins in a season only six times. And in the first 15 years of the legendary Darrell Royal’s coaching career at Texas, he had nine eight-win seasons, five fewer than Brown. (In his entire 20-year career at Texas, Royal had 12 seasons of eight wins or more.) Brown’s winning percentage at Texas is also slightly better than Royal’s – .775 to .763. On those numbers alone, it could be argued that Brown is the best coach in Texas’ history.

What are the major functions of a head coach at the college level? In my opinion, there are two: recruiting and then turning those recruits over to able assistant coaches. In that first function, there are few, if any, better than Brown. His recruiting classes are consistently named the best or near the best in the nation every single year. However, when it comes to Texas’ assistant coaches, it is there I have a definite problem. It seems to me Brown favors loyalty over ability when it comes to hiring his coaching staff. I can not name one single assistant coach on the Texas staff that would be considered a serious candidate for a head coaching position at any other major college program.

Why is Major Applewhite Texas’ offensive coordinator? Because he was an outstanding performer for Brown between 1998 and 2001. Yes, he was the youngest offensive coordinator in the country when Nick Saban named him to that position in 2007, but you didn’t hear Saban object too loudly when Applewhite left. Gregg Davis, to me Brown’s best offensive coordinator, was with Brown at Tulane and then North Carolina before coming with him to Texas. I could go on and on, but I won’t.

Yes, head coaches do make major in-game decisions such as whether to go for one or two points after a touchdown or whether to punt or go for it on fourth down. I don’t know if anyone could find major problems with Brown in those areas.

So why all this talk about Mack Brown’s future? Frankly, it depends on who is doing to the talking. If it’s just your everyday fervent Longhorn fanatic, then no one is really listening. However, if it’s the folks with the deep pockets, than the conversation takes on a far more serious tone.

But wherever it’s coming from, I just can’t see new AD Steve Patterson firing Brown – not after another eight-win season (especially one that featured a win over Oklahoma) and an upcoming bowl appearance.

If Patterson really desires to name his own man as head coach, the proper thing to do would be to reward Brown with a promotion to assistant athletic director.

Then Patterson faces a crucial decision early in his tenure and does he want to make this kind of make-it or break-it decision at this time? If he makes the wrong one, he won’t be around at Texas as long as Brown has been. All the talk I’ve heard about possible Brown successors have centered on Saban, Jumbo Fisher at Florida State or Gus Malzahn at Auburn. Frankly, I can’t see Saban ever leaving Alabama and Malzahn just agreed to a 10-year extension on his contract, and I believe he will honor at least two or three of them. As for Fisher, why would he come to the Big 12 when he’s in a position to dominate the Atlantic Coast Conference for as long as he remains at Florida State?

My top two candidates would be David Shaw of Stanford and Dave Clawson of Bowling Green.

Well, Texas just lost to Baylor and, yes, it appeared the Longhorn defense quit after Case McCoy threw that last interception. So the voices to get rid of Brown might get louder. All I’m saying is: Be very, very careful what you wish for.

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