Week 8, What's Up With The Longhorns?

Slideshow_1001689352_brs_ut_ucla_016_mediumThis Saturday, Baylor is coming to Austin with a stronger passing game than Texas, but the Texas defense, if they will come out and play instead of whining, has the ability of a number 2 defense, which should effectively shut down Baylor's passing game.  Which leaves the game up to the Texas Offensive. Oh No!  What will the Texas Offensive do, or be able to do.  I say the game is up in the air, Baylor at 6 - 2, Texas at 4 - 3.  We'll just have to see, I'm making no predictions.  This is one season where Texas predictions just aren't winding up the way people hope or want.

There's been lots of commentary on how the Texas season has gone so far.  I'd like to take a little different angle, and suggest some possibilities, another way of looking at things.

I have refrained from adding to the over-blogged opinions on my beloved Longhorns since the UCLA game, where I did pretty much what everyone else did, outlined play by play all the mistakes made by the team.  I even attempted an alternate score possibility if all the mistakes would not have been made, but now that we are approaching Week 8, playing Baylor at our own University of Texas Stadium, the mistakes and alternate possibilities are part of history.

Everyone can see where mistakes are being made. It's all in high definition.  The coaches see it, the players see it.  Coaches and players alike know what is happening to help create the undesired and even unexpected losses ( 4 - 3 ) going into week 8.  Every blogger has their run down on the details of why, and I've read quite a few of them, so I will try not to be redundant.

The University of Texas is a prestigious, World Class University, with an outstanding, if not World Class Athletic program. We have an especially prestigious football program that has enjoyed Top AP 25 status for 161 consecutive weeks of football games.  We've been blessed during the past 7 years to have some very talented players, mostly quarter backs, and other's like Shipley, Lawrence, the Acho Brothers, Ultalaski, Earl Thomas for 2 years, and other dedicated players, which took us to two National Championships, with one win in 2005, and a would be win in 2010 had we not lost McCoy 4 minutes into the game.  We have enjoyed some fantastic football from this team.  The Longhorns have a long a prestigious history.  One bad season cannot diminish that.


So, first off, back off my Longhorns.  Especially in bad taste is any Booing from the stadium, cause a Longhorn player didn't exactly meet your need for entertainment.  They are out there playing rough football, and even in a down season, they keep showing up, trying mostly to play their best game.  You get down there and do what they're doing, then you have the right to Boo.  If you're a weenie, who never exercises, and overweight, stuff a hot dog in your mouth and shut up.  You wanna see them give up on the game, just start Booing from the stands and you'll create a powerful psychological sense of losing.

This season, we have a brand new team, and no one really knew what to except going into the season.  I'm not carried away by wishful thinking, and tend to be a realist, and so, my biggest hope for the Longhorns this season was that they get 10 wins, which would set a school record of 10 consecutive wins of 10 or more games.  With our third loss to Iowa State, that possibility fell apart, but so what. 9 consecutive years of 10 or more wins is world class football.  So, we dropped off of the AP Top 25 for the First Time in 161 consecutive weeks of football games, 161 consecutive AP top 25 rankings is a serious accomplishment.

I'm saying it's time to stop all the criticism and pressure towards a completely re-organized team, with some players that have not quite made it to "playmaker" status yet.  The team has to do the work of maturing and perfecting their playability together, blaming the players is not the way to go.  What they need most is the trainers and coaches that can hep them get there.

And so, I'm gonna start with where the coaches are making big mistakes, then get more into what exactly the players need, since the coaches seem to be missing a big part of the relevant issues.  The responsibility for coaching, training, and teaching, some of the best recruits around how to win games, is the primary job of the coaches, not the players.  The coaches are the trainers.  They are the ones that must see what is really happening, and come up with correct interventions to help the players achieve their full potential.  This is true with everything from motivation, moral, playmaking, psychology, sportsmanship.  This is what coaches do.  This is what coaches are hired for.  They're not in a coaching job so they can profit by getting a $5 million dollar raise, when several breakthrough players like Vince Young and Colt McCoy take the Longhorns all the way.  They get paid to do the nitty gritty work of making a football team losers or winners.  That's why they are coaches, otherwise we wouldn't need them, we'd just hire coordinators and organizers.


The Greg Davis issue has been batted around with impunity, and as much as I like to be the nice guy, I must unequivocally declare myself a member of that faction.  There is just no way Greg Davis is going to create a break through in Offensive Strategy.  I didn't start out thinking that way, but have arrived at that solid conclusion over the last 3 games.  Through the UCLA, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Iowa State games, I have seen perhaps a handful of well executed offensive plays called by Davis.  The best we have seen of Davis was in the 1st half against Nebraska, there appeared to be some well thought out Offensive Strategy, and a few very well-executed offensive plays.  The touchdown pass where Gilbert runs into the right, while the Nebraska defense is chasing left, was very well-executed.  It was a Red Zone play, required some creative thinking, and a risk.  Thank God, at least it was something different than send Cody Johnson up the middle. Outside of that, I have not seen anything that looks close to a dedicated, passionate, or creative Offensive Strategy, or that suggested a weeks worth of hard work had gone into studying the opponent, and customizing Offensive Strategy to suit.

Also, someone has missed the boat in the offensive coaching departments.  They're folding under the pressure, and going the wrong direction, thinking that we need to come up with more chalkboard plays, learn more patterns, drill more drills, memorize more plays, so the runners, receivers, and quarter back can have the play down that is called.  They've got the players freaked out, thinking their job is to execute the play exactly as it was drilled and practiced, and the receivers, runners, and quarter back are doing just exactly that, executing the play as it was called, drilled, practiced, and memorized.  Big, Big, mistake, coaches.

What you're going to get out of that is a whole bunch of plays that were executed exactly as practiced.  The problem with that is you have probably a 20% chance that the play as exactly drilled and executed will produce anything, because of the element of the other team doing something unpredictable.  You can't run a rote memorized play and expect the tackles, the receiver coverage, to do what your mock up team did at practice.


The touchdown interception Gilbert threw with Nebraska was the result of the receiver and quarter back playing out the very exact play that was drawn on the chalkboard, drilled exactly at practice, and called by Davis.  It was a potential touchdown pass for Texas, the receiver hit the end zone, then cut left (what he was drilled to do), only thing is, when he cut left he cut right in front of his coverage, and Gilbert, ready to throw the pass as drilled, threw it perfectly into the hands of the Texas receiver who had cut left.  What Gilbert missed, was that someone was in front of the Texas receiver. Interception.  Texas, Zero points.  Shipley would have cut to the right quickly, seeing the coverage, McCoy would have made the quick adjustment to the play, and threw high to Shipley's new position, which would have been completely different than what the play called for.

That, right there, is where the coaches are messing up. Teach the play, but equally teach improvisation.  If the play doesn't unravel as planned, then play football, find a spot, improvise, switch something up in a split second, and find an opportunity on the field that is different than the play called.  The quarterback will adjust, and see the new position.

Coaches, you must teach these players to play smart, and sometimes to play with the gut, and intuition, to learn to trust some of that intuition.  Shipley was probably the most covered receiver in the NCAA last season, yet fifty percent of the time he managed to shake his coverage just enough for McCoy to see what was unraveling, and shoot the ball accurately into a new position than what the original play called for.

Coaches, you've got plenty of plays, you're drilling enough, what you have to do is teach these players how to improvise.  If you don't know how to do that, then dammit, hire someone who does, a consultant.  Runners, Receivers, and quarter backs need to know at least half as much how to switch up a play, improvise, than they need to know what play to run.  Improvising is an internal mental process that happens, you don't get it by drills, you get it by making a breakthrough in your own performance, some of it is confidence in you intuition, some of it is just acting quickly with skill, and not knowing where that came from.


So, here's the bottom line on the coaches.  The buck stops with you, not the players.  If someone can do the job better, then it's the University you serve, not your personal alliances.  If Mack Brown can't fire Davis, then someone a little higher needs to step in and fire Mack Brown.  Muschamp can step in, who still holds some credibility, and take the job seriously of finding an offensive and defensive coordinator.  It's football folks, it's not golf.  If you don't have skilled coaches, you will not have winning teams.

As for the players, I continue to have the upmost respect.  I understand why the offense is not up to potency, so I won't be harsh with that, but I am going to be harsh with the defense.  This is a top notch defense, one of the best in the country, and fortunate to be coached by one of the best defensive coordinators in the NCAA.  Attitudes not allowed.  You stop a hot shot Nebraska quarter back to 23 yards, when he's been averaging over 100 running, and 100 passing, yet you can't stop Iowa from putting 23 points on the board.  If the strongest part of our team this season is our defense, then we play strong, no room for cry babies about having to do all the work, when the offense looses anyway.  We are counting on you to give us your very, most excellent, best.


And by the way, the fans and coaches got way too big headed about the Nebraska win.  It was a fluke.  Texas did not dominate that game.  We had what looked like some solid, well thought out, offensive strategy for the first half, then I didn't see anything during the second half that looked like well planned offensive strategy.  So, we got a jump on the score board, but couldn't go much past that early jump with offense.  Our defense played very well, stopping Martinez running yards, and on paper it looked like Martinez passing yards were stopped as well, but a closer look shows that Martinez's receivers dropped five touchdown passes that I counted.  Two of those passes were well covered, but three of those passes were not covered at all, the ball was just dropped, right through the hands of his receivers.  Those Nebraska mistakes gave us the game, we didn't take it, and we especially didn't dominate it. Without those three dropped touchdown passes, we'd be looking at Nebraska 28 - Texas 20, and that's not counting that overwhelmingly stupid punt call at the end,or the fact that special teams couldn't stop a 95 yard punt return.  Add that up and you get Nebraska 34 - Texas 20.  Then Nebraska blew the hell out of that onside kick, which could have possibly been another 7 points for Nebraska 41 - Texas 20.

Be very clear, Texas did not dominate that game, or make any kind of come back.  Nebraska blew the game, and so we got it.  There was too much false celebration around that one. To their credit, the defense did play furiously against Martinez, otherwise, there would have been no Texas win.

To summarize, the accountability for Texas playing a down season belongs overwhelmingly to the coaches.  I'm calling out the coaches to do a world class job, and that doesn't mean lecturing the team on how poorly they played.  That's not a coach, that's someone who doesn't know how to coach.

A coach is a highly skilled teacher.  You don't tell the players how embarrassed you are and expect them to gain any skill out of that.  A coach that does that is doing it because they don't know how to be a teacher, and so they resort to stupidity.

Coaching occurs on the training field, as with ice skating, it occurs on the ice rink, everyday, where much of it involves rote routines, world class coaching requires an understanding of how to help the skater, or player, break through to the next level.  That is not an easy skill to teach.  It requires an individual understanding of each player, and what might be keeping them from advancing to the next level, and quite often some sophisticated psychology.

With snow skiing, there are very different levels of skill.  The mountain is marked with Green, Blue, and Black trails.  If you are a beginner, you do not go to the Blue trail until you are ready, or you will make lots of mistakes, fall down constantly.  You usually go with a class to the Blue.  Most people ski blue and stay there.  If you want to move onto the Black trails, you take what's called a 10 day "Break Through" class.  The Break Through instructors know that not only is the Black very hard to do and keep your balance, it requires something more than rote practice.  It requires some psychological process, and they have little exercises to help get your mind to the point of making a "break through."  Only after the Break Through, do Black level skiers seem to handle it with far fewer mistakes.


I'm standing by Gilbert.  If Chase McCoy or Conner Wood would have out performed Gilbert at Spring training, then let them step forward and take on Baylor.  Gilbert is one of the most potential playmakers we have, he's just not getting the training he needs to make a "breakthrough." He needs some coaching on how to stop watching for Davis' plays to materialize, and how to make plays happen on the field that he knows.  He knows the football field.

Gilbert needs some coaching and skill building on how to make a Break Through.  He's on a much faster field than he was at High School.  Many of the college football players can ski black, some can ski black very well.  Gilbert is on a Black level course, but hasn't mastered the speed, the chaos, the need to watch for interceptions, and changed up plays.  It is the coaches job to figure out how to help him get there, and it's not by using more chalk on the board Mr. Davis, or not by yelling at them, or telling them they're over confident, or arrogant, or the defense played with no passion.  That stuff doesn't help one bit.

Teach them how to find passion.  Teach Gilbert how to play with more improvising.  Teach the runners to change up the play dammit if the one drawn on the board isn't working.

Stop expecting the players to justify your $5 million dollar paycheck, and begin to see that you are being paid $5 million dollars to know how to teach players to be winners.  Figure it out.  Don't expect them to just automatically know how to ski the Black trails, and fuss at them if they fall down.

First few games of the season, I was watching the game.  Now, I've got my eyes on the coaches.  When the coaches start doing their jobs, you'll see the games start changing.

We have Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and even Texas A&M in our upcoming schedule.  It we win those games it won't be because you came down hard on the players and fussed at them for not playing with enough passion, it will be because the coaches of the Texas Longhorns earned their money, and found the skills, ways, and teaching methods, to help our team play smarter.  You have to teach those skills, fussing at them is a cop out.  It's the easy way out.  It's doing exactly what you're fussing at the players about, not having enough passion.  Get some passion for coaching.  Just Do It.

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