It can be easy to point out what has gone wrong when times are tough, and times have definitely been tough for TCU football.
The Frogs are 6-12 in conference play since joining the Big 12 two years ago and are coming off a disappointing 4-8 season. The offense was statistically one of the worst in the league, scoring 25.1 points per game.
Former quarterback Casey Pachall thinks he knows what the problem was: leadership, or lack thereof.
It's rough right now. There is zero leadership. Nobody wants to step up and take charge of anything. It's rough. That is why they have the stuff they did. I still love those guys. Maybe they made mistakes, everybody does. I'm not putting those people down at all. They are still my good friends. Things are going to happen and as a team they need somebody to step up.
Pachall doesn't explicitly state names, but it's clear he's talking about a lack of leadership from the players. The former quarterback continued:
It's one of those things where every now and then you may say something to a teammate, and it may make them mad, but when they sit down and think about it they know it was sincere and it wasn't getting on your ass. A lot of these guys don't want to speak up, they just want to blend in with the crowd. They want to be cool with their teammates, instead of getting on them and getting something going.
While only the players and the coaches can vouch for leadership in the locker room, there are off-the-field examples that support Pachall's statements—including his own run-in with the law.
In early 2012, four football players—defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, defensive back Devin Johnson, linebacker Tanner Brock and offensive tackle Ty Horn—were arrested as part of a bigger, campus-wide drug bust.
Brock was quoted in his arrest warrant as saying that only about 20 people on the team would pass a drug test, though that number was never confirmed elsewhere.
Pachall was later suspended one month into the 2012 season after being arrested for DUI. He then left the team to deal with substance abuse problems. He rejoined the Frogs in 2013 and went on to start in Week 1 against LSU.
Though drug/alcohol problems are nothing to scoff at, they also aren't unique to TCU. The four players arrested in the drug bust were dismissed.
For Pachall, the bigger story is that he got his life back on track and was given a second chance at football. Engel himself admits that Pachall "is not the same guy who got busted for a DUI."
As for on-the-field leadership, the question is whether TCU's defense was exempt from Pachall's comments. If anything, defense was the reason the Frogs were in a position to win more times than not.
(For that matter, did Pachall consider himself a leader?)
Of course, defensive end Devonte Fields served a two-game suspension last season for a violation of team rules. With that said, guys like cornerback Jason Verrett played with an undeniable sense of pride despite the win-loss record.
According to Alex Apple of The Dallas Morning News, Verrett also played most of the '13 season with an injury.
#TCU cornerback Jason Verrett revealed today at the NFL combine that he played most of 2013 with a torn labrum.— Alex Apple (@AlexAppleDFW) February 23, 2014
Verrett was named to several first- and second-team All-American lists, nonetheless. That seems like leadership.
The full story on Pachall's comments would be interesting to read, as would any additional corroboration from players—current or former. Perhaps then a clearer picture of TCU's football program could be painted. Head coach Gary Patterson will undoubtedly be asked about this when spring practice starts as well.
In the meantime, a portion of Pachall's quotes is all anyone has. Still, there are examples on both sides of the spectrum. For every story about guys like receiver LaDarius Brown, who was recently dismissed from the team after reportedly being busted for marijuana, there are players like Trevone Boykin. Boykin filled in twice as a backup while Pachall dealt with personal and injury issues.
Boykin may be bound for a position change, but no one watching him could question his effort.
So for Pachall to say there was no leadership at TCU? That looks like it can be easily debunked.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. All stats courtesy of cfbstats.com.