December 14, 2013

Mack Brown defenders have little to hang their hats on

And, Mack Brown himself ultimately recognized that, ESPN reports. AD Steve Patterson gave him the opportunity of coming back in 2014 and he declined. Sure, part of it was from all the hassle over the last year, I'll venture, but, part of it was really being ready to move on and recognize that he just wasn't where he had been five years ago.

As Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown, like long-ago interim FBI director L. Patrick Gray, has ben "twist(ing) slowly in the wind," his defenders have been coming out.

Since Alabama's Nick Saban appears to be off the table (but never say never in college football's coaching fraternity) the standard argument has been, "why not stay with the horse what brung you?"

But, now that Mack is gone, finally and officially, that will have to be updated. (And we'll get to see how concrete Saban's commitment to Bama actually is.)

Representative of that view was Mark Schlabach of ESPN, who says, if you can't get Saban, why not stay with Mack? He offers cautionary tales of ditching once top-notch coaches who started faltering, like Phil Fulmer at Tennessee and Larry Coker at Miami.

Problem is that Mack's recruiting problems have been multi-year; these concerns about him have been building since the losing season of 2010. And, nobody's ever considered him an X's and O's coach on the same level as a Saban, or possibly even as a Les Miles.

Related to both points A and B in the paragraph above is that Brown's had four straight years of eight or fewer regular-season wins. He hasn't fully bounced back

As for this year in particular? Mack got lucky against Oklahoma, even though the Sooners haven't been that great this year either. Got referee-lucky against Iowa State. And got thumped by the two top teams in the conference, Baylor and Ok State. Give him an L instead of a W in either the Red River Shootout or the Iowa State game, and his record this year is 7-5, the ’Horns are looking at a third-tier bowl, and the rumors aren't totally stopped.

Actually, it could have been worse. If Texas loses that Iowa State game, maybe the negative momentum carries over to Oklahoma. And, Brown's lucky to finish 6-6.
Nothing about his current recruiting indicates there will be a big difference next year. The Horns will again probably be 8-4.

And, Schlabach's other arguments are plain stupid.

First, on the "watch out"? The Sooners had to sort through multiple less-than-par replacements for Barry Switzer before they got Bob Stoops. For that matter, the Horns had a long gap between Royal and Brown.

Which leads to the second point. How many national titles did Brown have before coming to Austin?

Gee, Mark, guess he never should have been hired.

Let's look more in-depth over those past four seasons of Brown's career, and why people who want a change can argue that, at least, even if the Horns aren't going to be great, they should be posting nine-win regular seasons, and without too much of a sweat.

In a 10-team Big 12 with a nine-game play-all conference schedule, that leaves three non-conference games. I would see a team like Texas as scheduling one tough game — a game that they're more likely to win than lose if they're good, but a bit more likely to lose if they're not so good; one "meh" game which has a 50-50 chance of being won even in a down year, and one semi-patsy or even full-blown patsy.

So, the Horns should go 2-1 non-conference without breaking too much of a sweat.

In conference?  Call the Sooners, resurgent Baylor and Oklahoma State all 50-50 games. That's 1.5 losses. Add in a 10 percent chance of losing against all six other teams, or 0.6 losses.

In other words, 7-2 in conference is a reasonable expectation every year.

That adds up to 9-3, not 8-4. And, after that losing 5-7 mark in 2010, Mack's not done better than 8-4 in the regular season since.

So, to Schlabach and other Mack defenders? Sure, you can roll the dice and lose with a Mack replacement. Or, you can continue to wonder if Mack is no better than 8-4, and pleasant mediocrity in Texas terms, for the foreseeable future.

That said, it appears Mack accepted the inevitable, and decided to move on.

As for his replacement? I've already thrown out Les Miles as a stealth candidate. I seriously doubt Jimbo Fisher is coming. I'm sure Art Briles isn't. I'm doubtful of Jim Harbaugh. I think Vandy's James Franklin would be in over his head. Gary Pinkel, though he's repeated his commitment to Mizzou, would be very good. I don't see Mike Gundy as a good candidate. Bob Stoops would be interesting. I don't think Jim Mora Jr. is leaving UCLA. Mike Stoops is a bit green as a head coaching candidate, but could be interesting. Gus Malzahn at Auburn also seems unlikely. Arizona's Todd Graham and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio probably round out the list of likely candidates.

That said, I don't know why nobody but yours truly is talking about Miles.


Randel said...

Well said. We'll see what befalls the great and powerful Oz known as UT in the next couple of years.

Gadfly said...

To the degree I follow college football myself, I'm a Sooners fan, so watching this, and now the official search for Mack's replacement play out, is and will be fun.