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In the Trenches - Mack Brown and the Texas Victory Goats


Dr. Alan Goldberg, famous sports psychologist, is taking his final putt on the seventh hole of a round of Sunday afternoon golf, when, out of the corner of his eye, he sees a herd of goats spilling onto the green from behind. Muttering to himself, "Who let a herd of goats onto the course!" he turns around. Each goat is wearing a white shirt with a burnt orange number on it. Number 7 comes tottering up, "Hey Dr. Goldberg!"
"What now," he thinks, "TALKING goats?"
Figuring that he is in some bad dream, and that he might as well just play it out, the good doctor responds, "Uh what can I do for you?"
"Well," number 7 bleats, "We just won a football game, but, like, as we exited the locker room, we, like, all turned into goats."
A whole new concept in sports - the Texas Longhorns victory goats. You know, players that get criticized severely after wins? Only at the University of Texas, eh?


Dr. Goldberg peruses the gangly group, seeing numbers like 1, 9, 83, 64, 28, and 89. One especially scrawny, sickly-looking goat wears number 72. "So how do you think this happened?"

The 7 goat turns his head sideways, "If we knew, we, like, wouldn't be here. I mean, we went up to Lubbock, where Texas has lost 3 of the last six times and lost in 2008, on that, you know, freaky pass at the end of the game. And anyway, like we just WON THE GAME, 24-14, and were feeling pretty good about ourselves, and were headed out to get on the bus to the plane, and blink, we all turned into, like, goats."

"What's your name, son?"


"Well, Garrett, I have a few questions. Why don't we step over to my golf cart and try to sort this out?"

Bleating louder now in encouragement, the cluster of goats parades over to surround the doctor as he sits in his cart.

" So, were all your teammates turned into goats?"

"Well, sorry, sir, I guess, like, not all of them were. It looks like only some offensive players became goats. It looks like defensive players numbered 3, 21, 32, 44, 91, and even, wow, number 8, headed off on the bus."
"How do you feel about that, Garrett?"

"How d'ya think I feel, I mean, we won the game. I guess I, like, threw three interceptions and got sacked a few times. But hey, I threw for over 200 yards and for two touchdowns. I mean, like, what's up with this goat business? You're only, like, a goat when you lose, right?"

"And I had a great kick-out block to help score the first touchdown," chimed in number 83. " My name is Greg, by the way.

The babble of bleating crescendoed, as each goat tried to get in what they had done well. Dr. Goldberg held up his hands. "OK, OK! Calm down."

He reached into his pants pocket and pulled out his smartphone. "We can figure this out guys," as he peered sideways, still not convinced that he was really surrounded by a herd of talking goats who claimed to be the Texas Longhorn offense.

"All right let's take a look at the play by play here on the internet. Surely we can identify what this is all about... Wait!, Here's an analysis straight off the internet from a couple of wiseguys named ''Peter Bean' and 'burnt in ny.'"

"What would they know? I mean their just fans!" fumed number 64.

"Calm down, 64, maybe they are FOS, but then again, maybe he doesn't have all this baggage and the need to keep up the good PR front like your herder, ah, coach. And by the way, where is your coach anyway?

"Oh, you mean Coach Davis?" The goats all looked at each other. "Uh, he, like, lost us."

"Really? How did that happen? I mean, how does a coach lose his offense?"

"I don't know Dr. Goldberg. He was muttering a lot at the end of the game, and just, like, kept calling the same play over and over." The goats sort of rolled their eyes and stamped their hooves.

Dr. Goldberg pressed his fingers to his temples. This wasn't necessarily going to be easy. I mean it's like the first rule of psych warfare that if you cut off the head, the body will die. But these guys looked like they hadn't been herded properly in awhile. A vision of Greg Davis as Little Bo Peep flashed into his head, and he gulped down a little bile.

"All right goats, er guys, let's get into them." He held up the smartphone.

By burnt in ny, Sept 21, 2010

Disappointing Plays

After the Texas A&M loss in 2007, a furious Mack Brown instituted a new framework for accountability called NOS, or "Not Our Standard." Players who fumble, incite penalties, or otherwise screw things up get replaced or otherwise do some extra physical work. The same accountability, though likely without the physical consequences, presumbaly exists for the assistant coaches. With that said, after watching the Longhorns for 3 games, UT fans care clearly crying out, "That offense is Not Our #$%&! Standard!"

So fans looking for accountability were faced with this Mack Brown quote

Well I think it's wrong to say they're not playing as good as they want to. Usually, somebody is. It's usually one guy, and the problem were having is that it's a different guy all the game, so it's really frustrating for us. We should have run the ball better at the end of the game, but at the same time the game was over, so we were more conservative. We weren't going to run counters or reverses . They weren't going to win if we didn't turn the ball over. So I think we put more pressure on Cody when he was in, and we put more pressure on the offensive line when they were in.

Reading between the lines, and looking at the game evidence, Texas didn't look like they were going to run counters or reverses AT ANY TIME during the game. So "pressure" implies the following: We're more worried about screwing up than making plays, so we'll run the simplest offense possible. That puts "pressure" on the running backs and offensive line to make plays in an offense designed to fail. This, in turn, puts "pressure" on Garrett Gilbert to make plays against a defense with no respect for the run and in too many third and long situations.


Mack Brown - self-fulfilling prophet?

Which brings the fans to another Mack quote:

We're really proud of Garrett when he did not panic when he had the worst luck I've ever seen with the tipped balls.

Inspection of game tape reveals that Garrett's tipped balls had little to do with Garrett, but also little to do with luck. Scott Smith, hero of the defense for Texas Tech, looks to be a very good defensive end that will give most of the teams he faces fits, but he sure gave Britt Mitchell a lesson in inside moves in the first quarter. It was that release of Smith inside that led to the tipped balls and interceptions. Gilbert didn't help by completely locking in on his intended receiver almost from the snap. Furthermore, as the announcer Ed Cunningham discussed, Mitchell should have cut blocked Smith on the screen pass. Whether that was a failure on Mitchell's or offensive line coach Mac McWhorter's part remains unclear.

To attribute the tipped balls to "luck" is the epitome of Mack Brown press conferences. What is more disturbing is

We score 34 points in the first two weeks and everybody is mad, then we score 24 at Lubbock, which is hard and everyone is mad. So it's not fair for these kids right now. We've all got to keep them positive. We've all got to keep coaching and doing a better job coaching than we are now. But I think our fans also need to pull for our offense. We've had a great offense around here recently, and we've been spoiled. But this one doesn't score as much, but we all need to get behind this offense.


I'm a little shocked that people are shocked that we are struggling because it had it written all over coming in. We weren't going to be as consistent.

This to me reeks of self-fulfilling prophecy. The logic goes something like this: "We've got a young quarterback and young guys on offense, so we need to run a simple offense, because these young guys won't be as consistent. We need downhill running to keep pressure off our young quarterback, and its got to be simple because we've got yourng players on the rigt side. If we run a simple offense, though, defenses will have the advantage, which will put "pressure" on the young players and they won't be as consistent. So we have to be more consistent in our execution to win." I just have one question: did it ever occur to Mack that the coaches have created the inconsistency in their players by creating an offensive scheme that is destined to fail at too high a frequency?

By my count, there were 40 "disappointing" plays, or incomplete passes, runs of 2 yards or less, interceptions, sacks, tackles for loss, or penalties out of 84 offensive snaps. Ten plays I attributed to a predictable play call in which everyone in the stadium knew what play was coming and to which position on the field it would be run. Offensive line failures (either physical failures, mental errors or penalties) accounted for 13, with five of these at the feet of Britt Mitchell. Bad decisions or footwork by Garrett Gilbert accounted for 6. Wide receiver drops or failed blocks accounted for another 6, and missed blocks or drops by tight ends or H-backs accounted for 3 bad plays. A 50% failure rate is beyond "inconsistency" by any standard of success, and certainly would seem to qualify as Not Our Standard.

Thus Mack's plea to the fanbase to llower our expectations for this offense is a plea to excuse future losses. Excusing poor play on the basis of "weird things happen in Lubbock," is just what it sounds like - an excuse. What can I say but, "We're Texas," and we're not goig to lower our expectations. This is what got the team in trouble in 2007 - excuses like injuries on the offensive line, inconsistency in executing the running game, Colt taking on "too much," etc. Such excuses to cover poor coaching and poor play in 2010 may yet lead to similar results unless Mack can re-energize accountability on offensive coaches and players in the next two weeks.

The Whitlock Maneuver


Colby Whitlock celebrates tackling Chris Ogbonnaya for a safety in the  game in 2008. He was similarly disruptive in 2010

On the first three series, which saw Texas' offense score two touchdowns and rush for 1, 7, 14, 6, 3, and 2 yards (33 yards in six carries, or 5.5 ypc), Colby Whitlock, Texas Tech's all-conference candidate defensive tackle who infamously stuffed a Horns run in the end zone for a safety back in 2008, was lined up at the 3-technique, that is, right in front of guard Michael Huey. On virtually all the ensuing plays, Whitlock lined up at the 3-technique in the gap between Mason Walters and Britt Mitchell. Result? Texas running backs or wide receivers carried 31 times for 56 yards, including three draw plays on obvious passing downs that went for 30 yards. On obvious or potential running downs, Texas therefore rushed 28 times for 26 yards, not counting sacks. Yeah baby, yeah!

Why? Whitlock got under and inside Mitchell on almost every play, and Walters was attacking linebackers upfield or pulling to the left on almost every running play. Mitchell had no answer in strength for Whitlock. So Whitlock crashed almost all the inside runs from the backside or penetrated deep into the backfield, freeing up linebackers to attack the only two running lanes Texas used for much of the game. Greg Davis mostly covered Mitchell on the outside with a TE from the second quarter on, but Tech stayed in their 3-4 defense most of the game and forced the TE to block the outside linebacker, and Whitlock's unopposed inside slants put him out of reach of the TE anyway.

Yeah, baby, yeah, that Texas running game is just FABULOUS!

My Left Foot

The concerning thing about Britt Mitchell is that he seems to block well when anchoring on his right foot, but seems to have much less leverage when he anchors on his left foot. Two early runs by the Horns, including the touchdown by Fozzy, were greatly aided by good seal blocks by Mitchell. On the other hand, the two tipped passes by Scott Smith both occurred because Smith got Mitchell's weight onto his left foot and then pushed him away. Once Whitlock matched up with Mitchell, Texas' running game literally ground (pun intended) to a halt. Couple that with Scott Smith's motor and quickness matched up on Kyle Hix, and we had a replay of General Erwin Rommel's panzer divisions pulverizing the French flanks in the Ardennes in World War II. Given these physical mismatches and, because of youth and ineffective use, no real TE or H-back help, and less than 1 yard per carry is not surprising at all and has nothing to do with the running backs.

An Inconsistent Truth

As brilliant as some Garrett Gilbert plays have been, including several zipped passes into tight windows, and the off-balance throw to Matthews for the last TD on  in the Tech game, GG is very inconsistent in his pocket footwork. Sometimes he throws with his back leg extended to far back, which causes him to "wind up" on his throws, and these are often too high. Other times, Garrett gets happy feet because of pressure on his right side and throws off his toes, which leads to passes that are too low. The impromptu flip was the sort of pass that Colt McCoy, who couldn't throw a deep out to save his life, could make with high accuracy, and Texas fans may be a bit spoiled. In any case, fans are just going to have to live with Garret Gilbert's inconsistent footwork for 2010 , because if he tries to correct it now, he'll just spend the season thinking about it and being tentative. Given the lack of success so far in the running game, the coaches must just let Gilbert play and not think about how he is playing.

Diagnosis, Prognosis, and Imminent Drug Cocktail

So if we boil it down, here is the Longhorn offense in a nutshell. The offensive line is good in running certain blocking schemes in certain directions, but the combinations of these that have proved effective from either the pro-set or spread with 1 back, 1 TE, and 3 WR is so few and so restricted in space that the defense can focus their attack on just a few gaps and eliminate any advantages the offensive line has in the box on running plays. Playaction has been the most effective type of play for Texas just because Garrett is so good and because teams are over-committing on the run because Texas has tried deep routes only when there is coverage breakdown and a clear receiver advantage. Different formations, such as 1 TE, 1 H-back, 2 WR, have yielded successful plays (such as Fozzy's TD against Tech) when they have been used, but, like the Jumbo package, they scream predictability. In short, Texas  thus far does not have the physical ability or technique along the offensive line to run out of a passing formation (except for draws on obvious passing downs, and the physical ability, experience or technique in TEs and H-backs to pass out of running formations. Trick plays like reverses and options are not likely to work becasue defenses are not overcommitting to stop outside runs ( of which the jet sweep is the only one Greg Davis has used thus far).

So what's possible? One, the fans could take the red pill Mack is offering, revel in our conservative, mistake-avoiding (ha!) offense, celebrate the success of every other play, and be happy when we score more than 17 in this re-building year. Or the fans could take the blue pill and slide down the rabbit hole into the cold world of rebellion against Mack and the establishment for the rest of the season, constantly comparing the Horns to other teams ike Boise State, Oregon, or even, gasp, Nebraska, that seem to get much more out of their offensive talent.

Likewise, the coaches could take the blue pill and start raising expectations, stop worrying about risks, and start running the playbook, including outside zone swweps, toss plays out of the pro-set, a zone read run or two per game with Gilbert,  some TE seam passes out of 2 TE 2 WR sets, or anything that would stop the incessant pinching of the inside 5 gaps of the offensive line by DE's and LB's and would give Britt Mitchell the opportunity to turn his defender off his right foot rather than try to jam inside moves with his left. Or, based on history with Greg Davis and Mack, not until after a loss.


So Texas coaches, what will it be? Take the red pill and continue to live in your own media-spun self-fulfilling false reality? Or take the blue pill and go down the rabbit hole to an ultimately better team?












Dr. Goldberg looks up from his smartphone. Around him, the sunlight is extingished by the bulk of large men in white football jerseys with burnt orange numbers, looking around each other. "Hey," said one, "We're not goats anymore!"

Dr. Goldberg shakes his head, "You guys never were goats. It would seem you were put into positions that made some mistakes inevitable. But you did make enough plays to win, and for some of you (he glanced at numbers 1 and 9), the mistakes are highly fixable. And for you, number 72, well all I can say is that you seem to be doing the best you can, but you might consider greater attention to your footwork."

The players convulse in high fives and cheers as they jump to their feet and begin to head off the golf course.

"Wait," cries out Dr, Goldberg, "I'm confused. Why do I still hear goats bleating?"

"Oh," says Garrett, "while uou were reading, these three goats, like, showed up."

Several players move aside, revealing three white goats with burnt orange polo shirts with the initials MB, GD, and MM. All three look a little surly and defensive.

"I'm guessing these are your coaches," said Dr. Goldberg.

"Yeah, I thought they looked familiar," remarks number 83. "Are you going to help them, too?"

"I don't think so. I can only help those who want to be helped, and these guys are in complete denial."

The goat labeled GD gazes blankly at Dr. Goldberg, thinking about the probability of success of butting the good doctor in the chin at an attack distance of 10 yards. Too low, forget it, let's just go empty set and throw for 3 yards.

"Why don't you take these goats with you," suggests Dr. Goldberg, "Maybe they'll come around in time."


Mack Brown stirs awake with a pain in his neck from lying his head on his outstretched arm on the table. He glances groggily at a clock that reads 3:23 am. The DVR screen is a blank slate of blue, and all the other lights in the building seem to be off. "Man what a dream," he mutters. "I've got to stop watching film so late."