"It is what it is" -Kenny Vaccaro
In the early years of the Mack Brown Era, my cousin (a UNC alum) used to warn me about how frustrated we would become with Mack Brown as our head coach. As he recalled it, Mack Brown was the one who lost the 1994 Sun Bowl to Texas with a ten point lead and six minutes to go. I didn't have a sample of my own to draw conclusions about Mack Brown but I think yesterday's loss to Oklahoma brought me back to the question of "How good is Mack Brown?" and ultimately to the question "Is this the beginning of the end?"
There used to be a website called www.firemackbrown.com and before Texas won the national championship in 2006, it was full of statistics making a case that he simply isn't that good of a coach. For a long stretch, Texas was winning 10 games a year and it was hard to look at the possibility of firing a coach who'd fallen just short of the season-ending BCS; If he is winning 10 games a year then the group of replacements who would upgrade the coaching position must be extremely small. I could not help but think about Nebraska and how they'd fired Frank Solich only to fall into mediocrity under his successors until Bo Pelini came along. One could argue that Notre Dame took years to recover from the successors to Lou Holtz who "retired" (there is some debate about the circumstances).
Then Vincent Young happened. A transcendent player who carried the Texas program over the top despite Mack Brown and despite Greg Davis. I was one of the many in attendance at that championship game and I defy you to find anyone who doesn't believe that Vince Young dominated that game. We didn't win that because of Mack's coaching. We won it because USC underestimated us. Their players kept making boneheaded gaffes (a lateral Reggie? Really?) and Vince Young kept getting the football.
After this, you figure you can't fire Mack Brown but that doesn't make the flaws go away. They're just easier to hide; until now.
When the offense or defense isn't working, Mack will simply hire a new assistant. When the team is down, he'll be a great cheerleader on the sidelines. Let's look at what he isn't doing though:
1) He isn't really developing offensive talent any more. Colt McCoy developed as a player but I think that a lot of that is simply Colt's work ethic. Some of that is Colt's drive to be the best. I could be wrong. Since 2006, what other offensive player has he developed who was much better when he left than when he got to the 40 Acres? Offensive line prospects seem to come here to disappear. Should a top prospect like Malcolm Brown be dominating college football at this point of his collegiate career? We haven't had a legitimate tight end since Jermichael Finley in 2007 and I know a few people who'd argue he was a great underachiever. Do we even get started about the "next great WR" prospect?
2) Top defenses that play down to their opponents. If you look at the top SEC and Big 10 schools the difference between them and the rest of the country is the size and speed of their defensive fronts. Those teams destroy people with suffocating and punishing defense. Don't get me wrong. Mack Brown HAS that kind of ability on his roster yet we can't seem to play to that level. How many defensive players are in the NFL from Texas? Answer: as of preseason 2012 there were at least 27 former Longhorn defenders in training camps. TWENTY-SEVEN. Some of those guys are better pros than they ever were in college (e.g., Henry Melton, Aaron Williams).
3) ZERO accountability. Mack has a history of overlooking poor performance. At what point during Garrett Gilbert's six interception performance against Kansas State in front of a home crowd was he going to simply give the kid (and the fans) a break? Was Blake Gideon really a starting safety for four years at Texas? I could go back to the Chris Simms/Major Applewhite fiasco but I think you get my point. To be fair, in recent years, Mack has let younger and younger kids play but we make it a point to lose with the same personnel. Yesterday, I stopped counting the number of embarrassments that Myke Thompson was involved in. That guy isn't ready to play defensive back in college football.
4) Lack of insight. Why is it that we carry problems in personnel over from one year to the next?
Jay Finley, with about 4:50 in the third, struck like lightning for a 59-yard TD. With Texas safeties playing undisciplined football, a huge opening was left for Baylor who shocked them with the sudden score.
That quote was from this 2010 game recap. Why is it that two years later we are still plagued by undisciplined safety play? Why is the offensive line still unable to generate push against better opponents? WHY CAN'T WE TACKLE!? In college football things turn around quickly. Why are we different? I will admit that perhaps this isn't so simple.
5) Marginalized players. Why does it take until the third quarter for Daje Johnson or DJ Monroe to touch the ball? Did DJ even get a touch yesterday?
6) Undisciplined play. Why is it that we can't look at Bell, who's run in twice already from the one and think that he's going to do it to us again? Why is it that we consistently allow the same guy to ram the football down our throat? Gee, Millard is getting the ball in the pass game, do you THINK we might want to
call execute a defense that accounts for him? I am not saying that Texas cannot have a "down year" or two but for a team with this much athletic talent to consistently give up 60 points to a team that is comprised of the players they DIDN'T recruit speaks to coaching or lack thereof. It also brings into question the true quality of their prospect evaluation process. At a basic, game-day level, they simply aren't ready to play. Is there ever a reason why we should give up over 100 points in a two-week span? Because that just happened.
7) Constantly making up for falling behind. In the Mack Brown Era, we have won the conference only twice (once with Vince Young and once with Colt McCoy on a last-second field goal). We consistently follow one of two patterns:
a) We come out beating up the early schedule only to lose to Oklahoma. We then spend the rest of the season hoping someone will lose because we don't control our own destiny.
b) We somehow beat Oklahoma because of a transcendent player or effort (typically because Stoops mismanages the game) and then drop a game to a lesser opponent putting us back into the "backdoor" scenario as in 'a'.
Mack Brown will take to the airwaves in either of these scenarios begging for votes and we will, as a fanbase, be embarrassed that we have our own network that no one can see and a team that's so over-rated that isn't worthy of it.
Over Mack's fifteen years at Texas, multiple coaches have won national championships within TWO YEARS of taking over programs. Urban Meyer won two as has Nick Saban. As much as we hate Oklahoma, their coach is very much like the CEO that Mack is supposed to be. Stoops has his own flaws but Mack is turning into that snake-oil salesman who has us convinced that the smoke and mirrors aren't real. Perhaps I am too negative. Is it time for Mack to go? I don't know but the questions are still the same, just older.