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So Close... So Far Away

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If this article doesn't make your blood boil, then nothing will. For if there was any lingering doubt that Texas football is not a meritocracy... there can be none now.

It gets really old ranting about this kind of stuff, and we're to the point where one can't reasonably escape understanding that one of Mack Brown's deepest flaws is some sort of stubborn pride that ultimately serves as a double-edged sword. Whereas I've no doubt his consistency and ability to stick to his principles serves him well in many of his head coaching duties, it's positively maddening that Mack refuses to part ways with the notion that veterans - because they've put in their time to the program and been a part of its past successes -  cannot be replaced if they are being outplayed by those younger.

Perhaps most frustrating of all, it's such an easily correctable problem. I mean, if there's a finite list of things in which a coach can be strong, and if we assume that every coach has his strengths and his weaknesses, then as a fan you just hope that your coach excels at the difficult stuff and is weak in the areas where he can more easily improve.

For Mack Brown? His most fundamental weakness appears to be one that is at or near the top of "Things A Coach Can Easily Improve." It's not as though he can't identify talent, can't convince the talent to come to Austin, or can't be a first-rate CEO of a gigantic program. He does so many different things right - things which, in the aggregate, have situated Texas permanently in the Top 25 and more often than not in the Top 10. Maddeningly, though, using younger and less experienced players properly is one thing he can't seem to bring himself to do.

Think of it using this rough metaphor: if winning a conference or national championship is a list of ingredients (hoarding talent, putting together the right packages for the talent, some good gameday coaching, some good luck, etc.) and we label those ingredients - each of which is necessary for your team to have a BCS Bowl year - 1 through 10 (or whatever, the list of what you need isn't so formulaic). Mack's got 8 or 9 of those ingredients year in and year out. In 2004 and 2005, Vince Young provided something extra that bumped Mack up to the championship level. But now we're back in that 8-9 range.

Well, if you're Mack Brown and you're evaluating your resume, what would stick out to you? I'd be damn pleased with my consistency. I'd be exceedingly proud that I had everything come together for a magical back-to-back Rose Bowl run. No doubt I would mostly be pleased with what I saw.

The only thing that would stick out to me is the lack of conference championships. And given how integral a part of the team and fan's goals those are, I don't think I could just contentedly look at that big picture and decide that overall things are good enough. I'd ask what things within my control I should think about changing. I'd ask what realistic element of my coaching I could easily improve.

And therein lies the rub. It's just hard to imagine an easier, more justifiable change within Mack Brown's grasp. Play the best on the team, at all times, no matter the age or experience. If you're doing your head coaching job properly, that won't be a problem among the veterans. Everyone will work their hardest, everyone will be bought completely into the idea of Team, and everyone will Do Their Part to ensure the team meets its goals.

As is, a starting job is not decided on the basis of smart play, boneheaded penalties, ability to run sideline to sideline, capability of disrupting plays, or, practically speaking, any other pure evaluative criteria. It's based far, far too much on seniority. Now, I'm not a fool: experience counts and, when in doubt, should be a deciding factor between two otherwise equal players. But when an overwhelming majority of the evidence suggests another player is better?

Make the change.

Make the freaking change. You're not just short-changing the players and fans, Mack. You're short-changing yourself.

--PB--