Big 12 media week is upon us, and Mack Brown took the podium today to answer some reporters' questions. I'll walk you through the highlights (edited for length and clarity), with added commentary as needed. We'll take each issue in an individual post, to keep it at a manageable length.
Mack Brown: I thought Vince would come back, very honestly. I might have been the only one in America that did.... [But] I think he made the right decision, as you look back at it...
So what we've got is two really talented young quarterbacks who have not played in the ball game... Both of those young guys exceeded our expectations in the spring... but we will not know who they are in practice. We'll have to wait until we put them in a pressure situation, in a ball game, to learn more about them.
So we'd have to play both guys if [the season started] today... and we'll have to do a great job of evaluating who they are and what task difficulty they can handle as the season goes on....
If someone asked you if you'd rather have one or two [quarterbacks], you would rather have one, and another one behind him with a lot of experience. There's no question about that. But you want two that can play in a ball game, because at a place like the University of Texas, your quarterback getting hurt doesn't give you a right to lose the rest of the games. So depth is really, really important at our place, and we've got it at every other position except quarterback right now.
So what we'll do is work really, really hard to try to separate the two at some point, but understanding that because [there is no hitting] the quarterbacks during practice, it will probably take some game experience before we'll all know which one will lead the team more readily.
Lots to digest in here, but overall, I think it's what I wanted to hear.
Most importantly, it's good to hear Mack emphasizing the staff's desire to separate the two as fast as is reasonably possible. A segment of the Texas fans will likely be irrational about this process at times, but we have to let this sort out on its own. There's simply no magic solution here, and no way to know who's best suited to start for this team until we get into season play. It would take a dramatic turn of events during fall practice to resolve itself completely before the season begins.
What makes this so tricky for Mack Brown and Texas is that we're defending a 20-game winning streak and a national title. The hunger to win every game is overwhelming, and the sting of our first defeat will nearly be unbearable. It's a small price to pay, considering the success that we've enjoyed. But it's just so important that Texas fans try, as best they can, to be positive and rational about this process.
One of the things I'm most concerned about is a potential "A-Rod" effect developing in Austin. Take a moment to read about the nastiness that's plaguing Yankee Stadium right now. It's not unlike the nastiness that plagued DKR-Memorial Stadium during the Chris Simms era. This is a different situation, but if there's one thing that these two young quarterbacks will need, it is encouragement and confidence. It's infinitely easier to perform at your best level when your mind isn't clouded by excessive criticism.
Fans have every right to demand excellence from this football program, but we ought to take every precaution that we root for our team, players, and program in a constructive way. The young quarterbacks will inevitably make critical - perhaps even game-losing - mistakes. The temptation to rally behind the guy on the bench will undoubtedly dominate the emotions of the "grass is always greener" crowd. Let us note that these are many of the same folks that called for Mack Brown to be fired, and many will undoubtedly poison the radio airwaves with irrational negativity the first time Texas loses.
If nothing else, Burnt Orange Nation will be a sanctuary from that kind of short-sighted vitriol. It will be our mission to foster an environment for constructive analysis and debate about the team, without getting carried away with premature crucifixions of players and coaches.
The 2006 season holds tremendous promise, but we're all well aware just how much of our hopes ride on the shoulders of these two young men. Let it be our mission to take the good with the bad, the painful with the glorious, as we cheer for all our players to do our best. We will have ample opportunity to dissect the relative strengths and weaknesses of each player - not least among them the quarterbacks - but let us resolve to do it in a manner that fosters the kind of support from the fans that these players and coaches deserve.
If nothing else, this kind of positive fandom puts the players and team we love in the best position to succeed.
We'll get into more of Mack's quotes from the media day tomorrow.