Let's just cut right to the big issues, set aside the myths and dive into the realities of the situation at Texas.
Myth Texas was a national title contender this season.
Reality It's natural to feel that way after the kind of invincible run we were on with Vince Young, but the expectation was misplaced. Now that all these games have played out, I think it's totally unreasonable to say Texas was going to beat Ohio State. They have a veteran quarterback, elite receivers, and a very solid offensive line. Beating them in game two, or game thirteen, wasn't going to happen this year.
The Lesson We have to measure the team's success in realistic terms. Some years, you're contending. Other years, you're building toward a run in another year. This was a building year. Let's just keep that in mind.
Reality Greg Davis had a bitch of a task this season in replacing a VY-led offense. He did exceptionally well in some regards, and poorly in others. I love analysis and love to get into the nitty gritty of what worked and what didn't. But bring your A-game analysis, BON-ers. Saying "Greg Davis sucks" is hollow. The level of discourse here is higher than that.
The Lesson Davis failed in two important areas: speeding up the adjustment of the offense to an ideal VY-less attack and, more fundamentally, in being too predictable. Let's start with the first criticism: face it, folks - the guy was between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the whole juggernaut was built around the quarterback playing from the gun. That wound up hurting our running game (see: horizontal running plays with no QB threat to run), but helped our passing game flourish. Trust me - if Davis had abandoned that for a more pro-style attack, Colt's effectiveness would have plummeted. He basically had to choose - abandon the gun and risk giving up this aerial prowess or stick with it and watch the running game suffer. I, for one, don't really fault him for choosing the latter.
To the other criticism: his predictability. Davis, like all of us, has blind spots. Close followers of this football team can predict what Davis is going to call, based on down, distance, and game situation. I think Davis has a very good offensive mind, but his self-awareness is limited. More so, I think it's fair to argue, than others. The consequence of that is his strengths are diminished significantly.
Now, the proper lesson is important here. It's not instructive to say "Greg Davis sucks and doesn't know offense." The man -does- know offense. It's more important that we take the more sophisticated analysis - that is, "Greg Davis is not overcoming his blind spots. He would benefit greatly from some fresh perspective to help mix up his play calling." There's a huge difference between the two criticisms, and it's one I insist we make. Calling out Davis' limitations is fine, so long as you're actually citing the right problems. Excessive generalizations about his competence are without merit and useless.
Myth The biggest area of concern is the running game... Well, the running game wasn't all that it could be this season, but I've already discussed the limitations of that critique. Further, we absolutely have to acknowledge that Greg Davis knows how to implement a power running attack. Davis had no trouble picking up yards on the ground when Cedric Benson was the tailback. Davis had to make a choice this year - and a tough one at that. I'm confident that he'll make positive adjustments to get the running game back to where it should be next season.
Reality The biggest concern for this Texas Longhorn football team is at safety. After 27 years watching football, I become more and more convinced that it's the most important position on the entire field - at least on defense. Mike Griffin, who was an oustanding free safety with Michael Huff, failed to convert into an adequate strong safety. His brother Marcus, I'm convinced, isn't gifted enough to play at this level. That leaves a gaping hole at the most vital position on defense. Robert Joseph looks like he'll be a good one, but he's green. Who steps in alongside him? Melton? Jackson? Oduegwu? I think we can all agree that it's a huge question mark heading into 2007.
The Lesson As we acknowledge Greg Davis' blindspots - we must be sure to recognize our own. As frustrating as it was that the running game never developed, that deficiency often blinded us from the real problem this year - which was on defense. Lashing out to point blame at folks is tempting when you don't win all your games, but it pays to think critically about what the team's worst problems were.
Reality Horseshit. Iowa came to play. They got healthy and they played at the level that we expected that team to for most of the season. That's a talented, experienced ball club that's well-coached and battle tested. Records can be deceiving, and you can throw out Iowa's 6-6 record.
The Lesson We took a close look at Iowa at BON and it was clear that a good football team lurked beneath the problems of their 2006 season. Analysis that begins and ends with a team's record is best left for folks that are only casually observing what's going on. Most of us here believe ourselves to be close observers of Texas football. I think that's true. But that brings an added responsibility to avoid the fantasies that beleaguer lesser fans. Texas beat a good football team - one that could have, with a few breaks the other way, gone 10-2 - not 6-6. Don't discredit Iowa or pretend that the win was meaningless. That was a good football game between two very good teams. Texas was a little better on paper, and they won. That's how it was supposed to go. The blowout fantasies were just that - wishful thinking.