As Texas pours over candidates, looking for a name that will sate the masses, the folks doing the searching would be wise to remember that winning with defense never goes out of style.
Since the 2009 departure of Colt McCoy, the Texas Longhorns have been a team searching for an identity. The Longhorns have worked some spread. The team has tried to go smashmouth. Texas looked to go uptempo.
None of the offensive moves truly worked. Texas spent three seasons as a team pushing for an identity, ultimately resulting in the biggest transition for the program, head coach Mack Brown being out of a job. Under Brown, Texas was a team that morphed from the epitome of a pro style unit into a bell cow for the spread system.
Vince Young and Colt McCoy led the way as truly special collegiate athletes. Those two ran and threw their way into being household names and, in the process, embodied Texas' identity as a program. The air went out of the Texas program in 2010, and Brown failed to fill the sails despite trying desperately.
Gus Malzahn knows anything you can do at Texas you can do at Auburn. http://t.co/Q846ytVCeq— Kevin Scarbinsky (@KevinScarbinsky) December 17, 2013
Gus Malzahn's name has popped at Texas, although Kevin Scarbinsky of AL.com points out that with a new deal done, Malzahn leaving doesn't seem very likely. To go along with Malzahn's name, many, including CFN's Russ Mitchell, have suggested Vanderbilt's James Franklin.
My top two picks for the Texas job would be Gus Malzahn & @jamesfranklinvu. Both should take it if offered.— Russ Mitchell (@RussMitchellCFB) December 16, 2013
Throw in Jimbo Fisher, who Brendan Sonnone of the Orlando Sentinel reports simply, "ain't getting into all the rumors," and you have three of the hottest offensive leaders in college football. Mix in Geoff Ketchum of Orange Bloods reporting that Jon Gruden is interested in being pursued by Texas, and you have job opening bingo.
OB$ A source with knowledge of the situation has confirmed that Jon Gruden is interested in the vacant Texas HC job http://t.co/xTgcqKJtGO— Geoff Ketchum (@gkketch) December 18, 2013
What you don't have is a single guy who has built his resume on defense.
In the Pac-12 South, the division leaders were UCLA and Arizona State, two teams people noticed on offense but routinely ignored the strong defensive efforts put forth by the Bruins and Sun Devils. Jim Mora and Todd Graham, two names that have barely been mentioned in the same space as Texas, both came up on the defensive side of the ball.
That said, it is not Texas' fault; rather, it is the climate of the times. Offense sells. People swear by points and look with disdain at defense. Michigan State is boring, despite powering to a 12-1 record under Mark Dantonio. Stanford, led by an innovative offensive mind who should be having Texas burn his phone down, plays football many call old school because they beat opponents up on both lines and do not sacrifice yards in drives.
Perhaps, great defensive minds like Pat Narduzzi at Michigan State and Derek Mason at Stanford are tough to sell to fans who look enviously at Baylor and long for the high-point scoring act. Maybe Kirby Smart, Nick Saban's coveted No. 2 man in Tuscaloosa, does not get people who love big plays going.
There is one thing that every football fan loves more than points, that is wins, and there is more than one way to put games in the win column. Unfortunately, with the hiring climate in college football, that ideal seems to be lost upon plenty of people.
For Texas, this is the next big step for the program. Steve Patterson, and the eight person committee put together to find the next coach, are looking to establish an identity. After the Nick Saban mishap, Texas will get a chance to show whether its play was simply for Saban or if it was to put defense at the top of its identity.