Like It or Not, It Was Time for Mack Brown to Go

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

AP Images

Texas is one of the finest football programs in America, and Mack Brown might have been its finest head football coach ever. At the very least, he's a close second behind College Football Hall of Famer Darrell Royal and definitely ahead of fellow Hall of Famer Dana X. Bible.

Now was still the right time for him to go.

According to the Longhorn Network, a media outlet controlled by Texas athletics, Brown informed players and recruits that he will resign from the position of head football coach, ending his tenure after 16 seasons on the job. He will coach his final game in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon:

Brown's accomplishments in Austin speak for themselves, including a BCS National Championship and Bear Bryant Award after leading Texas to a perfect record in 2005, a Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Award in 2008 and a streak of 12 straight seasons with nine or more wins between 1998 and 2009.

Those are all reasons he will one day join Royal and Bible in the College Football Hall of Fame, even if he never coaches another game in his entire career.

Now was still the right time for him to go.

That might seem harsh given all Brown's team almost accomplished this year. Despite a rocky start (to say the least) in nonconference play, Texas was one win against Baylor away from winning the Big 12 and making the Fiesta Bowl, and it was tied 3-3 with the Bears at halftime!

Sep 7, 2013; Provo, UT, USA; Texas Longhorns head coach Mack Brown during the second quarter at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Thirty strong minutes in Waco would have pushed this deeply flawed Texas team into a BCS bowl, a feat for which Brown would have deserved much credit. It would have been the least likely of his trips to the BCS and the hardest he's had to work to get there.

Now was still the right time for him to go.

Why? Because if he didn't, no one in Austin would be able to talk about anything else all offseason. If he didn't, the city would be one nonconference loss away from anarchy in 2014. And with UCLA and BYU both on the early-season schedule, a nonconference loss would be tough to avoid.

Speaking of BYU, the Cougars, who finished 8-4 this season and lost at 2-10 Virginia, beat Texas 40-21 in September, rushing for 550 yards and thoroughly embarrassing the nation's proudest team. That's when all these "Mack Brown hot seat" stories hit Defcon 5, and that's when this outcome became inevitable. 

Where there's smoke, you can bet there's a fire. And no matter how close Texas came to winning a Big 12 championship, this season was always surrounded by a thick grey coat of exhaust.

Despite the 7-2 conference record and surprising run toward the Fiesta Bowl, Brown never actually had this team playing great football. Texas is No. 39 in the Football Outsiders F/+ rankings, behind teams like East Carolina, Duke and Utah State.

Given the talent that litters this roster, results like that are unacceptable. Simply by virtue of being Texas, the Longhorns are always in the running for the best of the best recruits. How could they possibly develop into a team that's worse than ECU, which didn't even win its division in Conference USA?

Recruiting Class Rankings (2010-2013)
YearTexasECUDukeUtah St.
2013 F/+39383633
Source: 247Sports / Football Outsiders

It's hard to figure out exactly where the breakdown occurred but impossible to deny its existence. Brown was unable to get the most out of talented players, while coaches at lesser programs with lesser talent were maximizing potential.

Somewhere, somehow, something went wrong. But what?

Did Brown, after so many years of success, simply lose his magic touch? Did he abandon his will to coach, his passion for the game? Or was he just the star-crossed victim of deceiving circumstance—were the players he recruited not as good or committed to the sport as they appeared coming out of high school?

The world might never know. Here's what the world does know:

  1. Texas will not tolerate poor performance on the football field.
  2. Texas has failed to meet expectations for four consecutive seasons.
  3. Texas has talented enough players to meet those expectations.
  4. Coaches are often to blame when a team's potential exceeds its performance.

That is the circumstance that exists in Austin right now, and despite his illustrious career, it's enough to warrant Brown's departure.

At other schools, Brown's long resume of success might have earned him Julius Caesar-like job security; at Texas, there's no such doctrine as "dictator perpetuo." You can't be emperor for life in a fish tank like Austin, where the walls aren't just see-through but also made of magnifying glass.

Everyone is watching everything, and they're watching it very closely. Even Caesar wouldn't survive four bad seasons.

Brown is an all-time great, but with a new athletic director, Steve Patterson, Texas is prepared to head in a new direction, eager to wash the Brown off its hands and start next season anew.

Now was the right time for him to go.