What's the saying? If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait a minute I think that's how it goes.
We have had some sunny days as a fan base. 10 years of blue sky, bright sunshine, and bathing in successful CFB program glory.
But after a losing blue norther of a season, the dark clouds of change are roaring overhead.
Speculation is rampant. Who will Mack hire for the open staff positions? Will he hire for scheme or will he hire for pedigree?
There are many unnamed sourced assessments on this front. At this point I don't believe anyone truly has an inside straight on who the ultimate hires will be.
I am not going to spend your valuable time discussing the "lists". You can get that elsewhere.
What I think interesting are the "clues" of Mack Brown's actual words that will provide us with some indication of what he desires and where he will focus.
And, what did Will Muschamp reveal in his Introductory press conference earlier this week that provides insight into the possible differences in his vision that ultimately served as a catalyst to leave, pay raise aside.
I encourage each of you to read the transcript of Will Muschamp's press conference. I found it refreshing how much it reads exactly like Coach Brown.
We're going to worry about the guys we sign, not the ones that go someplace else, all right. We're going to worry about the guys that want to play at Florida. We've got to worry about those guys 365 days a year. The ones we go somewhere else, we worry about them once, okay, so we're going to take care of our guys and make sure we understand that the players that want to come to Florida and want to play at Florida, that's important to me.
Refreshing because it only further entrenches my admiration for Coach Brown's influence and teaching ability.
Muschamp states that he learned from many a great head coach over his years, but I personally think the last three years provided the polish for him to take the next step.
Further, the more I read his comments the more I have come to believe that we lost the big fish in the pond. I was not necessarily in that camp but now comfortably on that side.
So what did these two coaching icons say that provide insight into the future of Longhorn football?
Let's go back in time to February 25 of this year when we heard from Mack Brown for the first time his statements of the 2010 MNC loss, Colt's injury, and his 2011 spring practice thoughts.
Here, Mack provides us with statements concerning what he is looking for offensively and defensively having come so close in the previous 3 out of 4 years to winning it all only to fall just short of another national championship to cement his legacy.
This is the second year in a row now we haven't had a staff change. The good of that is the continuity because of only losing two games over the last two years; the negative is you'd like to have some new ideas. That's what the change would be as you look at it. We're currently looking across the country at a lot of different people. We bring in pro guys. We go to different places, people come to visit us. For instance, the Boise State offensive staff is here this morning and they're going to stay through Friday. We've got great respect for Chris Petersen and what they've done on both sides of the ball, so we're constantly trying to share new ideas with them. Our staffs visit with people a lot.
Had Mack blamed the lack of closing the deal in '06, '08, and '09 on Greg? Was Greg on probation?
Here are Greg's marching orders. This is the 2010 offensive strategy that Mack the "CEO" made perfectly clear for all to see. After years of recruiting for and fine-tuning a zone-read spread attack, Mack points to Greg and says, "The path we have followed is no longer going to work as defenses have caught on. Greg, you will now have to innovate differently. And by innovate I mean go back to the playbook of several seasons back. Those young defensive coach whippersnappers will not be able to dust off enough film to catch on and you, and I, will have them back on their heels."
Even though 45 percent of the NFL now is in the shotgun, we do feel like that we want to keep our shotgun runs, but limit them and not have a package where the zone-read was huge for Garrett because it never was great for Colt. He did it in some games but it was great for Vince. We also found out that more of our explosive plays under the last two years have been with the quarterback under the center, the percentage of explosive plays has been better. We'll move our backs around some. We will have our quarterback under the center more. We'll use more play-action pass with our running game, but we also do not want to get in a position where we throw out our passing game. It has been so good. We'll still have our three and four wideouts. We will still try to go up-tempo and no huddle, so there will not be changes from those standpoints. We just want to run the ball more and run the ball better. In 2005, we averaged 250 yards rushing and 250 yards passing. That's what we would like to do every game. You'd like to be 50-50 and then if there are too many around the line of scrimmage you'd like to be able to throw it 60 percent and if they're giving you the run you'd like to be able to run it 60 percent. That's what we're working back towards.
So why the change, Coach Brown?
It is hard to criticize your offense when you are scoring 42 points or more each game, and we have scored between 39 and 50 points since we have been here. Those things are good. We do not want to go back and score 24. "Oh boy, we are running better. We've lost eight games, but we are proud of our running game. It's gotten better." We do not want that to happen. With Colt, we just went to spread passing offense, and then we just quit running it. I was furious at the Colorado game that we walked out of there against a defense, which had not played great, and we could not make a third-and-two. That is what we have to get back to. We have to get back to having more balance.
One of the tougher things for us because of the Mike Leach, the Vince Young, all of the spread offenses is that now all of the high schools are in spread. It is harder to find the big back. It is harder to find the tight end. It is harder to find the fullback. It is not just that we have changed; it is that the world out there is changing. When you see the Miami Dolphins running the wildcat, you know things are changing, and people are looking at different things. What we have to do is go back and still score the same number of points we are scoring, but I would like to see us be more physical and take more control of the game, not force the quarterback to make great throws, have perfect protection the whole game, and then play some field position. If the defense can continue to knock balls loose and intercept balls like they did this year, then it helps put your offense in shorter fields.
Okay. So, Coach Brown, what will you focus on to achieve the balance you desire, both in terms of the offensive plays run and ensuring the fan base is appeased?
That is simple. The first thing would be to run the ball better out of the fullback, h-back and develop a play-action pass off of all of your best runs because to me that is what the best teams do, and we got away from play-action last year for sure because we were a drop back team. Secondly, on defense, learn to stop the run better in a two-back situation. Our league does not have very many of them, but if you go back to the two biggest games that we have played in the last two years, both of them were two-back I teams - Ohio State and Alabama. For us to continue to be in the national picture and win the National Championship, we are going to play a team, most likely, that may have two backs and run it back down your throat. That philosophy hurts you as a team.
One of the things that I look at is the history of this school. This school was built on running the ball, playing man-to-man defense, stoning everybody, and having a great kicking game. It gets tough for our fans sometimes, and I understand, when we throw it and do not run it because that is not what they were raised with.
Let me see if I understand correctly. The lack of winning the "Big Game" is due to a) lack of a physical running game, b) more offensive balance, and c) a two-back scheme so your defense will be prepared to face that type of attack for "one game"?
Jackie Sherrill told me one time after we beat them in the Cotton Bowl, he walked over and said, "You've ruined yourself for the rest of your life." I said, "What do you mean?" and he said, "You'll be looking for Ricky Williams the rest of your life and you'll never find him." Then you find Selvin [Young], you find Cedric Benson, you find Jamaal [Charles]. We've had pretty good backs, but he is right, our expectations around here of that back is really important to us.
Contrast Coach Browns's offensive philosophy with Muschamp's.
Offensively I want to be balanced. I think in the SEC, the SEC is the line of scrimmage league. The difference between the SEC and all of the other leagues are simply this, the defensive linemen. Top to bottom you've got to keep them off balance because they're too good top to bottom to just have one or two good defensive lines through the season. You're facing a bunch of good ones, all right, so we've got to have balance on offense. We've got to be able to run the ball, we've got to run the ball to kill the game at the end, run the ball in the red zone, and run the ball to develop toughness on your football team. You've got to stop the run in the SEC, and you can't just hope it happens on Saturday afternoon. You've got to practice against it every single day, whether it's from one back or two back in my opinion really doesn't matter. But you've also got to be able to throw it, you've got to be able to make the defense defend the field 53 and a third yards wide and 120 yards deep. You've got to stretch the field vertically and make them defend it.
Wow. Pretty much the same thing, right?
So was Will Muschamp put on notice as well? What were Coach Brown's thoughts defensively?
Defensively, we felt like we need to do a better job in the red zone. That's a thing we did really well two years ago and we didn't do near as well this year. We want to continue and be a big-play defense, score on defense and force the turnovers that we did this year. For whatever reason, it was so much better than last year. We need to do a better job defensively of defending two-back running teams and we feel like the fact that we will have a two-back running game now will really help our defense in the fact that they have to line up and stop it every day as well.
We feel like you can learn more on defense from pro teams because pro defenses are so far ahead of the college defenses in my estimation, because they're running a lot of pressure schemes and they have to disguise so well because pro quarterbacks are so good at what they do.
Coach Brown challenged Will Muschamp to dig a little deeper on scheme. As we all recall, Will started slow with his teachings and turned up the dial in each season. Had Coach Brown hurt Muschamp's ability to prepare for the spread attack each week after changing what the defense saw in practice from day 1 of spring practice?
And given Coach Brown's focus on the professional level, it's no wonder we see in the recently published job descriptions mention of NFL experience.
So Coach Brown, would you say the Iowa State loss was the tipping point this season? Had you reached your limit yet on staff not executing your 2010 strategy?
For us to win, we had to play great defense. We have to do that each week. It was a strength of our team coming in this year. To do that, you have to stop the run, you have to put pressure on the quarterback and you have to force turnovers. We did none of the three.
Then you’ve got to score in the red zone on offense. We still are not doing that. You also have to play with passion week-in and week-out. I thought the kids mostly played hard. They did not play with passion and confidence.
Defensively we did not make any of our objectives, which is very unusual for us. The goal is to stop the run, pressure the quarterback, force turnovers, get off the field, [and] on third down stop them in the red zone. We even had situations come up on a third and 18 where we’ve got three guys standing there, and they out jump us for the ball, which was a killer at that time. That led to points. We had another time after the turnover where we have a guy double-covered, and they throw over his head into the end zone to catch the ball. We did not make plays. They were 4-for-4 in the red zone. We still had eight three-and-outs. We only had two sacks. We only forced one turnover.
(Offensively) what would we do differently? In talking to Coach Davis, he said we felt like we should’ve stayed more balanced. We left the running game too soon. We got frantic a little bit and tried to catch up real fast and didn’t play well enough in the passing game to do that. We obviously need to stay more balanced. We’re still not scoring enough in the red zone - too many turnovers. Last week we didn’t have a turnover. It’s just the inconsistency of who shows up to play. We’re still not making enough third downs and the red zone is killing us. There’s opportunity after opportunity to score, and we’re not getting touchdowns.
Little did we know that it was only the beginning of a slide Coach Brown had yet to experience on the 40 Acres.
Coach Brown, in your estimation, did Will Muschamp sign up for this?
I learned something from Steve Spurrier a long time ago. He said, "The older guys don't need to hit much because they've been playing three, four, five years. The younger guys need to hit a lot because they haven't tackled much and they've got to get used to the speed of the game and being physical." You've only got so many great snaps out of your seniors, so if they've done everything right every time they play, be smart with them. You don't have to have them out there looking good every scrimmage and let some other guy step up and earn his stripes.
Had we heard this from Coach Brown before? Was Coach Brown's NFL style fall camp endorsed by Will Muschamp? And, did Will Muschamp buy into this theory of tiered "hitting"? I doubt it, especially when you evaluate his introductory press conference earlier this week and these comments.
But we will be a physically, mentally and tough football team. We will be a physically tough football team. And it's not something you talk about, it's something you live your life with, all right, and it starts with Mickey in the weight room and it starts in January after the Bowl game when our kids come back from camp, and it starts with our off-season program, it starts with spring practice; it goes through the summer; it goes into training camp and every day. We're not dumb tough, we're going to practice the right way, we're going to prepare the right way, we're going to train the right way. But we will be a physically tough football team. And it's not something you talk about, it's something you do all the time.
And in Will Muschamp's eyes, had Coach Brown lost his respect? These comments from Muschamp's presser.
But our program is going to be based in a family atmosphere with three basic things; trust, respect and communication. Those are all two-way streets. It takes two to do it. You're going to earn my trust, you're going earn my respect, and we've got to be able to communicate. Any good organization, any good marriage, any good relationship has great communication, and that's paramount in my opinion.
Coach Brown knows the only thing that will reinvigorate the program is winning. Whether pretty, ugly, or marginally. It is the winning that drives the machine.
Texas fans, in my estimation when we got here in 1998, would have left the Rose Bowl at halftime. If we were down 24-6, they would have been griping, throwing things at me and us, and leaving. They stood and fought and chanted, so we have changed our fan base. Our fan base thinks that we are going to win every week, and we have gone from 35-7 down to win. We have gone from 38-14 down to win. They are afraid to leave. They are afraid that if they get mad and leave, that they're posting less on the Internet at halftime because they cannot get that off, and we can all go back and find that we all ought to be fired, and then they are out there celebrating, hugging us at the bus when we get home.
It is certainly easy to parse words and contextually interpret philosophies incorrectly. But these are the words the men have spoken. Do they provide insight into where we are headed? I contend most certainly they do. We had a great run. Can Coach Brown mount another one or at least build a team that can reverse the most recent set back? Only time will tell but we're dealing with a pretty smart cookie.
I've got my winter gear ready to go. It will be a cold, dark off season. The sooner we hear about the future, the sooner we can focus our thoughts on the brighter days ahead. I know my Texas weather. If you don't like it, just wait a minute. Because it will surely change.