Charlie Strong: QB coach Shawn Watson will have "final voice" on play calls

Erich Schlegel

There's finally some clarity on the play-calling situation. Sort of.

The back-and-forth of who will call plays for the Texas Longhorns on offense received some further clarification on Tuesday from head coach Charlie Strong during a media availability, though the exact dynamics of how things will work still seems to be a work in progress.

Following the first practice of the spring, Strong said quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson will have the "one, final voice" in play calling over offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline. Watson is expected to coach from the booth, while Wickline will be on the field to interact with his offensive linemen.

However, Strong did say that both of the coaches will make calls, once again complicating matters.

The comment from Strong about Watson having the final say seemingly contradicts the statement that he made in his introductory press conference back in January.

"Joe Wickline will call plays on offense," Strong said at the time. "He is the offensive coordinator, he will call plays but Shawn has been the guy who also -- and Les has called at Mississippi State. So all three will collaborate together but it will be a system when you look at it offensively you have three coordinators there but Joe will call the plays on offense."

Well, the first part of Strong's statement from two months ago contradicts what the Texas head coach said on Tuesday, though he seemed to be qualifying it with the final comments.

During the first availability for Watson and Wickline at the beginning of the month, Watson kind of dodged the question about who would call plays as the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that Wickline said he would be the play caller.

"We will work our way there," said Strong's former offensive coordinator at Louisville nearly two weeks ago. "Right now, we are working together and just putting it all together. We have been the last three weeks really working to put our offense together and the direction of it. Just putting all the pieces in place."

On Tuesday, Strong expressed his comfort level with Watson making those decisions.

"He's been doing it a long time and I'm comfortable with him," said the head coach.

Strong continues to maintain that the staff does not have egos involved, echoing a statement that Wickline made about Watson. Presumably, Wickline doesn't have an ego about the play-calling situation, either.

But while it's nice to talk about collaboration and a lack of egos and an offense by committee with input from the entire group of coaches that includes a significant amount of high-level experience, in practice things may not work out so easily during the season, when adversity increases stress and the need for accountability dictates that someone takes the responsibility for mistakes in the blame game that inevitably follows losses.

Not only that, but since Watson has the final say on play calls, why isn't he the offensive coordinator and Wickline merely the offensive line coach? Was this all just a way of avoiding what may have been a significant buyout for Wickline and to reduce the negative pushback from Texas fans who would have been unhappy with Watson as the play caller, certainly, and likely even more unhappy if he had been named offensive coordinator back in January?

What happens when Wickline, with the title of offensive coordinator next to his name, wants to call a certain play in a critical situation, gets vetoed by the quarterbacks coach/assistant head coach, and the play fails?

On most staff, the clear delineation of a hierarchy reduces the friction in those situations -- the coach suggesting plays understands that the play caller has absolute control over that final decision.

It seems like a convoluted situation and the inability several weeks ago of anyone involved to accurately articulate what exactly is going to happen during games isn't exactly a positive sign.

So if things don't go well early for Texas on offense this fall, the lack of clear leadership and direction offensively is something that is going to quickly come under attack.

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