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There's bad news and good news about Saturday night's loss to Oklahoma State.
First, the bad news: we're a genuinely crappy football team. The good news? Oklahoma State is a good football team.
Now, the reason it's good news isn't that it mitigates the bad news but because it is illustrative. We can learn something from Oklahoma State's excellent 2010 season; it shows the way forward.
Consider the following:
- Oklahoma State finished 9-4 last season, playing in the Cotton Bowl.
- Despite losing Dez Bryant early in the year to ineligibilty and Zac Robinson late in the year to injury, the offense managed 5.4 yards per play (62nd nationally) and 28.4 points per game (56th nationally).
- Heading into the 2010 season, Oklahoma State returned just 4 offensive starters, and a new QB who had thrown a grand total of 24 passes in 2009.
Relative to Texas's 2010 season, 2009 wasn't even that bad a year for Oklahoma State's offense. But what did they do? Mike Gundy essentially fired himself as offensive coordinator and brought in Dana Holgorsen, a Mike Leach protege and the man responsible for the University of Houston leading the nation in total offense, scoring, and passing yards per game in 2009.
Fast forward to today, and Oklahoma State's offense -- again, featuring seven new starters, including a new QB -- is averaging 46.3 points (#3 nationally) and 549 yards per game (#3), at a fantastic 7.1 yards per play (#7).
There are important, timely lessons in this for Texas.
First, Mack Brown will be making a mistake if he confuses program stability with coordinator continuity. The former is precious, the latter is not.
Second, football-minded excellence is essential at the coordinator position in ways that it is not at the head coach level. That is, it doesn't necessarily matter if a head coach possesses a brilliant football mind, for two reasons: (1) he might bungle the other 80% of the job (see Leach, Mike) or (2) he could master the other 80% of the job and surround himself with great assistants.
In other words, what we have in Oklahoma State is a picture perfect example of why it matters what Mack Brown does with his offensive staff this offseason. Right now, I feel a little bit bad for Mack when watching him out there in front of the cameras, free associating explanations for what's wrong and what they might do to fix it. And as far as this season goes, I'm sure he's trying, trying, trying as hard as he possibly can to get things right. As poignant as all the Greg Davis criticisms are, and have been, it's not hard to understand why Mack rode it out as he has.
But no one will be feeling bad for Mack Brown next season if he declines to act on what could not be more clear a decision, and again we struggle.
Because there are no excuses left. Not after this season. And not after what we just witnessed first-hand from Oklahoma State.
To make a change now is not to concede defeat. Nor must it set the program back on some sort of "rebuilding" timeline. Teams with less talent and experience than Texas will have in 2011 are doing more -- much more -- on offense.
The other dynamic in this, of course, is Will Muschamp, and that's a topic for a post of its own. For now, it is enough to say that (1) if Mack Brown decides to keep coaching, and declines to change offensive coordinators, it won't be a shock to see Muschamp leave, and (2) if Mack sticks around and does decide to replace Davis, it would be preferable if Muschamp's input had a very prominent seat at the table.
In any event, my sense from everything on and off the field is that Mack Brown won't have much of a choice in the matter, but to the extent that he does, let Oklahoma State be a lesson. Mack Brown is right to be wary of reflexive, reactionary change, but he should be equally wary of avoiding change for the wrong reasons.