Every team is undefeated in a college football preseason. No matter the expectations, talent or depth, everyone still has a chance to have a great year.
Perhaps no individual, coach or player epitomized the optimism that comes attached to the preseason quite like Texas coach Mack Brown did in an interview with Yahoo! Sports in August.
“I want to finish at Texas,” Brown told Yahoo! Sports. “If I’m healthy and we win, I’m going to try to make 2020. I think it would be fun to do that, get back on another roll."
The irony of Brown's comments was that he entered 2013 with mounting pressure to succeed. The 2010 BCS championship against Alabama seems so long ago now. Since then, the Longhorns have struggled to try to climb their way back to the top of the Big 12—let alone all of college football.
2010 was a disastrous 5-7 campaign that eventually resulted in a major assistant coaching overhaul. 2011 and 2012 saw mild improvements and back-to-back bowl wins. Still, there have been no conference titles and no Red River victories over Oklahoma—two crucial goals for this program—since 2009.
With 19 returning starters and a wide open conference, there were no more excuses for the Longhorns heading into 2013. Still, Brown was sure about his team's chances this year. And about his future.
“I’m not going to [be fired],” Brown told Yahoo! Sports.
Whether that holds true remains to be seen, but the first coaching casualty for UT this year has been recorded just two games in. On Sunday afternoon, Brown announced that defensive coordinator Manny Diaz had been fired. The decision came less than 24 hours after the Texas defense gave up 550 yards rushing to BYU in a 40-21 embarrassment in Provo.
"Our performance on defense last night was unacceptable, and we need to change that," Brown said in a statement.
The decision to relieve Diaz of his duties so swiftly is uncharacteristic of Brown. Former 'Horns offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who took a bulk of the blame for the problems during the '10 season, wasn't let go until the end of the season.
And even then, Davis "resigned" while offensive line coach Mac McWhorter and defensive line coach Mike Tolleson "retired," according to UT.
But when asked by reporters after Saturday's loss if Diaz would be coaching the next week against Ole Miss, Brown said, "I haven't even gotten out of the game. I'd like to watch the video."
According to Kirk Bohls of the Austin-American Statesman, Brown viewed the game tape on his iPad during the flight back to Austin and again when he got home. Per Bohls, Brown saw no defensive adjustments.
Hours later, Diaz was let go. If that doesn't signal that Brown is well-aware of his own job security, perhaps nothing will. There are few places where an eight or nine-win year is truly unacceptable on a consistent basis. Texas is one of them.
Diaz was a successful defensive coordinator in his one year at Mississippi State and considered a fast riser in the coaching ranks when he came to Texas. In 2010, the Bulldogs ranked in the top-30 in the country in points allowed, giving up roughly one touchdown less per game than 2009. However, the 'Horns' defense worsened statistically every year Diaz was the defensive coordinator.
Last year, it ranked as the worst in the history of the program.
In 2011 under Diaz, Texas led Big 12 in total defense (306 ypg). Total went up to 404.2 last year. This season: 512.5.— Chuck Carlton (@ChuckCarltonDMN) September 8, 2013
Brown replaces Diaz on an interim basis with Greg Robinson, a former DC at Texas who currently serves as a football analyst for the program. Robinson's tenure as a DC ended on a sour note at Michigan when the Wolverines ranked 110th in the country in total defense under him.
If there's one thing Texas has, though, it's athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Though bringing on Robinson as interim defensive coordinator already has some shuddering, the chance to salvage that unit is not impossible.
If it doesn't happen, though, the cries for Brown's job are only going to get louder (whether or not Texas listens is another question). And if Brown is willing to release one coordinator two games into the season, what else is he willing to do to keep the 'Horns from falling off? The Texas offense has shown signs of potency, but struggled to run the ball and protect quarterback David Ash on a consistent basis.
What does Texas need to do to win the Big 12 going forward?
Would Brown dismiss offensive coordinator Major Applewhite if the Longhorns offense falls apart? The difference here is that, unlike Diaz, Applewhite has a connection to Brown.
But Brown has gone against his usual grain once already this season in an effort to pull a quick fix. Brown could have easily let Diaz go after 2012, but chose to bring him back for another year.
He then promptly fired him not even a month into the season.
That's not the sign of someone who feels he has seven more years of coaching left in him. The optimism Brown expressed just a month ago appears to be long gone.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.