When Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong added tight ends coach Jeff Traylor to the staff after National Signing Day to join wide receivers coach Jay Norvell, it was widely hailed as a positive move.
Traylor brought in East Texas recruiting connections and ran a massively successful spread offense at Gilmer High School that helped him win three state championships. What was there not to like?
Unfortunately, what Horns247 describes as a "toxic" offensive meeting room never allowed Traylor the influence he deserved on the staff through the spring and helped undermine the offense before it even took a snap during the 2015 season.
I was told Traylor's input was initially rebuffed with one of the assistants refusing to take input from him because they felt - for lack of a better term - the three-time state champion coach was beneath them due to having never coached at the college level.
Oh. That's... um, yeah, that's gross.
At the time, now-departed play caller Shawn Watson was supposedly installing a hurry-up, no-huddle spread attack meant to mimic some of the competition on the Big 12 and highlight the strengths of offensive players, but none of that ended up coming together and in-fighting among the offensive coaches likely contributed to that failure.
During the spring, however, Strong still believed that he had the right mix in place.
"You look at us on offense, and by adding Jay (Norvell) and Jeff (Traylor), it's been a great fit for us," Strong said. "Most coaches are professional and they can adjust, and they've adjusted well and come in with great ideas. When a guy's not concerned about himself, and doesn't need his ego stroked, it's so easy for coaches to adjust. When you have to pamper egos, that's when you have an issue."
Looking back, Strong was either misrepresenting his staff dynamics, those issues had not yet come to the forefront, or he just wasn't aware of it. None of those answers are satisfying in any way.
Ultimately, the end result was that egos were clearly not set aside and got in the way in a manner that was extremely detrimental to the program. It's not clear whether it was Watson or offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Wickline who was so frosty to Traylor upon arrival, but the impact was the same and Strong demoted Watson after the Notre Dame debacle to open the season.
Both deserve significant blame for a lack of professionalism, according to the report:
Sources with knowledge of what went on in Texas' offensive staff meetings with Watson in charge talk about an attitude of "needing to prove he was the smartest guy in the room," as one source put it, coming from the former assistant head coach for offense. Tales of Wickline's tenure at Texas paint an unsavory picture of a coach who couldn't figure out which of his player's buttons were the right ones to push, all while being described as not being engaged to the point of seeming disinterested outside of practices and games.
So here's guessing it was Watson who wasn't interested in the input from Traylor, then, even though Traylor proved himself capable of making important contributions after wide receivers coach Jay Norvell took over play-calling duties, with some observers holding that the offensive attack employed by the Longhorns for most of the 2015 season looked extremely similar to the Traylor's offense at Gilmer.
Norvell still has to make a decision about his future, but with Traylor serving as a key part of the recruiting team sent to Tulsa to land new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert and offensive line coach Matt Mattox, the new staff should fit much better together with Watson and Wickline both out out the picture now.