This situation really couldn't have played out any poorer than it has, which is an important reason why even many fervent believers in Mack Brown's capabilities are anxious right now. The root of the problem isn't that Mack Brown had a plan, but that he had already begun acting on it. We were already in transition, at a pace and within a structural framework that was comfortable to Mack Brown.
Will Muschamp's departure blew up that transition, and one of the key questions now is whether Mack Brown still sees himself as nearing the end of his career. If so, that impacts how all this goes down. And if not, it raises the further question of whether Mack Brown is prepared to do all that is now required. This is a big job, and the man in charge of it is a guy who thought he was transitioning into his post-coaching life.
One might fairly wonder whether someone in that position has the requisite energy, drive, and ambition to do it all, and do it right. Some of the available "fixes" will be better than others, some will be more comfortable than others, and they won't always overlap.
At this point, we can only speculate as to whether Mack's fully up for the challenge. His success in restoring Texas to national prominence is a big feather in his cap, but it does not guarantee anything about his ability to master the task at hand. They are different projects, at different times, under different circumstances, at different points in Brown's life and career.
A quick look at the stakes after the jump...
Most of us felt very good about Will Muschamp's potential as a head coach, but he has already established clearly that he is an excellent recruiter. It's easy enough to point at the gobs of talent in the state and dismiss the importance of the task, but as our offensive staff proved in recent years, there's real work that must be done to evaluate that talent and bring together a coherent class that fits a systemic vision of your squad. (The best recent example would be taking Chris Whaley, with no power running game, no coordinator interested in implementing a power running game, and the long-term outlook of Whaley himself.)
Beyond the coordinators, there's Mack himself. Mack had entered something of a cruise-control phase in recruiting, in which we in many ways had recruits come to us. To some extent, that will still be the case, as there are plenty of talented kids who just want to play for Texas (think Jaxson Shipley), but after recent events it's far from certain that the dynamics will be the same. Moreover, even if they are, it hasn't always served us well, because it is inherently limiting in its scope.
We know Mack Brown can get out there and recruit. Does he still have the energy and desire to put in the long, hard hours? Will he maximize? Or is he satisfied with 'good enough'?
Fans loved the fire Will Muschamp brought to the sidelines, but his impact was broader than fiery cheerleader. Muschamp was aggressive and tireless in his recruiting, and diligent in insisting upon high standards of excellence and accountability. Mack Brown has slipped most when things are too comfortable, and hiring friendly faces who won't push him or the program could be a big mistake.
With that said, the program needs some cohesion and stability right now, so it's no doubt necessary that this new staff comes together in a productive way, and quickly. That's an enormously difficult balance, and one of the many reasons why this search isn't as simple as "We're Texas, we can just reload with great coaches." There's a lot more to it than that.
Perhaps the biggest complicating factor in all this are the various timing considerations. First, there is the immediate urgency of getting the program back on solid ground. Fans are anxious, current players are anxious, and recruits are anxious. Muschamp's departure disrupted what was in many ways the foundation of the program - certainly its future - and created a much bigger vaccuum than anyone expected to be dealing with. Getting a staff in place quickly is important. Getting the right staff together is more important. Yet another delicate balance.
Equally important is Mack Brown's timeline? What does this do to his retirement timeline? Does he still have one? Did he ever? Does he need to have one? It's not difficult to see why what Mack Brown wants and intends to do is going to be important to the candidates for staff vacancies. But I think it's most important for Brown himself. The task at hand is much bigger than he had planned to be dealing with at this point in his career. Is he up for doing it all? And for how long? Is his goal going to be to stabilize things? Or dig in to maximize Texas football? The timelines for the two are probably different.
These are just a few of the most important dynamics at stake as all this gets under way. Our train was coasting down one track, and we didn't just crash off the track - the track itself totally disappeared. This is more than a course correction. This is a full reimagination and redesign of the course itself.