We're halfway through the regular season, with a 4-2 record. Our Big 12 title hopes are only mathematically alive. Now's a good time to evaluate who's done what so far, along with what adjustments need to be made, and towards which goals.
As not to overwhelm, we'll go through each position separately.
There's been a discernable gulf between Colt McCoy's 2007 on-field performance and the way Texas fans have been willing to talk about those performances. For the most part, fans have tiptoed around his mediocre season by thinking nostalgically about his strong freshman campaign. Whether that's been optimism that he'd turn things around or hesitancy to disparage such a likable kid I don't know.
Now, though, Texas has lost four straight conference games. That hasn't happened since John Mackovic's final disastrous season at the helm in 1997. Moreover, there's a mountain of evidence that Texas' offensive coordinator is ill-suited to succeed consistently with a quarterback like McCoy. It's not irrational fanaticism that's driving people to compare the current team with "pre-VY" teams. The comparison is valid. This looks like another good-not-great offensive football team with another good-not-great quarterback.
It's a little bit unfair to McCoy, of course. He's making mistakes on his own, but he's also bound somewhat by his coaches and their system. There are days when I think Greg Davis could make Tom Brady look helpless and lost.
McCoy does have to shoulder the bulk of the blame for his performance, though. He's developed an unseemly habit of locking in on his intended target, to the point where fans watching at home on the television can predict what McCoy's about to do long before he does it. Good defensive coordinators have taught their players McCoy's tendencies, and how to exploit them.
There is also the running to consider. McCoy's not a bad athlete by any stretch, but he's a non-issue in terms of being a runner defenses must account for. This would be less of a problem in a different system, but as is, we're pointlessly running our offense out of the shotgun.
As for John Chiles, the guy's still in the plastic wrapping. We've seen the tantalizing athleticism in small doses, but for the most part, he's been ignored. We'll have to withhold evaluation until we see more from him.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room is the quarterback question. I know a lot of fans don't want to think about it, let alone talk about it. We (myself included) all thought Colt McCoy was a team strength and the key to Texas' offensive proficiency in 2007. That wasn't quite right.
Fair or not, I think we're starting to see why the ceiling for Texas' offense under Colt McCoy just isn't high enough for this team to accomplish its goals. While some of that is due to McCoy's own limitations, I think more of it centers around Greg Davis. We've had a lot of good offensive teams during Davis' years in Austin, but only two truly great ones. I don't have to tell you who quarterbacked those two teams.
This begs the question: should Texas start transitioning to John Chiles? It might work out for the better and it might not, but there are at least two undeniable points:
- It would be criminal for the coaches not to figure out what they have with John Chiles. Starting this year. If they wait too long, or don't take seriously the task of exploring Chiles' abilities, we'll be in the exact same position next year.
- The Texas offense's upside is greater with a mobile quarterback than without. Again, this just isn't that fair to McCoy, but football isn't about fairness and making friends. Everyone talks about the goals of the team being what's most important. Is it just lip service? We'll find out.
Given those two points, when it's all said and done, the biggest potential mistake of the 2007 season wouldn't have anything to do with lackluster performances against Kansas State, or missed opportunities against Oklahoma. It would be failing to explore what this offense can be with John Chiles as its quarterback.
Maybe Chiles isn't as great as some believe. Maybe he gets hurt and the point is moot. But we might just find that Chiles adds a dimension to this offense which brings things up a notch. Or perhaps we stumble into a nice combo package where both McCoy and Chiles are parts of the plan. Whatever might happen, the only thing we know for sure right now is that we don't know enough.
That, and we've lost four straight conference games. Plausible deniability should no longer be tolerated. Fans demand competence. The players deserve competence.
End of story.