A Look Back: Mack Brown's First Ten Years at Texas
At the time, Brown's hiring was a welcome sight after six seasons of mediocrity under John Mackovic.
Coach Brown has changed the Texas program for the better over the last decade, and his reward was a new 10-year contract extension—worth $2.8 million a year—which he signed before the start of this season.
From a Longhorn football fan's perspective, there are two arguments regarding at Coach Brown's tenure. The first argument is in favor of him, because he has moved the Texas program in the right direction. The second argument is that despite all the talent Coach Brown has recruited over the years, his teams have often underachieved.
When he took over 10 years ago, Brown brought a family atmosphere to UT, rebuilding the bridges between Texas high school football coaches and the UT program that were burned down by John Mackovic. This fence-mending has resulted in several top-10 recruiting classes for the Longhorns.
Fan interest has returned with a fervor with 74,000 season tickets sold before the start of the 2006 season. This year brought an expansion to the north end zone of DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium, which will raise seating capacity to nearly 90,000 by the time the 2008 season kicks off.
On the field, Texas leads the nation in wins over the last decade, having compiled a 102-25 record since Brown's hiring, and is vying for its seventh consecutive season of 10 wins or more heading into the upcoming Holiday Bowl game against Arizona State.
Leading the nation in wins over such a long stretch is an even nicer accomplishment considering the powerhouses college football has seen over that span—USC, LSU, Ohio State, Florida, and even Oklahoma all trail Texas.
Of course, Brown's biggest achievement was bringing home the program's first national championship in 35 years.
Despite the Longhorns' accomplishments under Brown, Texas fans have put up with a lot of heartache and frustration too. For example, against Texas' archrivals Oklahoma and Texas A&M, Brown has a pedestrian record of 11-9 (4-6 vs. OU and 7-3 vs. A&M).
Texas has won only four Big 12 South Division titles (three outright) and only one conference title over the last decade as well.
Longhorn fans can expect more winning seasons to come in Brown's second decade as head coach, but the question remains:
Will the Longhorns capture more conference championships or contend for another national title?
As long as Bob Stoops remains the head coach at Oklahoma, I'd say the chances aren't good, unless Vince Young decides to re-enroll at UT to finish his degree.
Bob Stoops is by far the best coach in the Big 12, and has become Brown's nemesis since arriving at OU in 1999. Stoops has proved to be a better field tactician than Brown, due to his combination of intelligence, unpredictability, and mastery at motivating his players.
In his nine seasons at OU, Stoops has won nearly as many games as Brown (97), and has a better win percentage (.822 to Brown's .803). Texas fans would like to think the Big 12 South Division title goes through Austin every year, but since the year 2000 the outcome of the Red River Rivalry has often been the deciding factor for the division crown.
In that time, the Sooners are 6-2 against Texas, resulting in UT playing second-fiddle to OU in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004—and 2006-2007, thanks to Texas losing to the Aggies on Thanksgiving Friday two years in a row.
Stoops won his fifth conference title this past Saturday against Missouri, and has played for three national championships.
The inept coaching by Brown's staff is another reason why I don't see Texas contending for as many championships. Commanding the Longhorn offense for the last 10 seasons, Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has been lambasted for his predictable play calling and lack of creativity.
Earlier this season, Davis said he fashioned a specific package of plays for freshman QB John Chiles to utilize his arm, and most importantly, his speed. Chiles hasn't seen the field since the Baylor game in October.
I don't understand the rationale for keeping Chiles on the sidelines. Look at last year's Florida team: Did you see Urban Meyer withhold playing time from Tim Tebow?
On defense, the combination of Duane Akina and Larry MacDuff has spelled disaster for Texas. The Longhorn defense has been spectacularly inconsistent on defense all season, and enters the Holiday Bowl allowing 275.5 passing yards and 374.8 total yards per game.
After the loss to Texas A&M, Coach Brown declined to comment publicly regarding any changes to his coaching staff, but something has to be done.
After observing Brown's teams for the last decade, I have come up the following suggestions to help improve the program, for next season and beyond:
- Coach, you need to be an even better motivator. Players emulate their coaches (look at Stoops and the Sooners), and this team needs to have more swagger and aggressiveness.
- Always put your most talented players on the field, regardless of their class status.
- Every year, the team's identity should center around a power-running game.
- Be unpredictable on offense. Use more trick plays in rivalry games—not just against Baylor and Rice. Throw everything including the kitchen sink at the Aggies and Sooners.
- Throw the ball even more to Jermichael Finley. I say a minimum of ten times a game.
- Recruit defensive backs who are 6'1'' or taller—and know how to tackle.
- Always be sure you have your best tacklers on the field during kickoffs and punt returns.
- Dump the wide-receiver jailbreak screen from the playbook. It rarely works.
- If you win the coin toss, take the ball on occasion—especially against OU and A&M. Put the pressure on them, and make them play from behind.
- Put one coach—and ONLY one coach—in charge of the defense.
- Find a new offensive coordinator, who has fresh ideas.
- Stop being Coach Clappy on the sidelines. Be more like the Mad Mack we saw when you chewed out your defense during the Oklahoma St. game.
The Longhorns will stay competitive under Brown, but unless significant changes are made to his coaching staff as well as in team motivation, Texas will continue to be a second-tier team within its own division.
I also admire Coach Brown for his loyalty to his team and the coaching staff—but sometimes he's loyal to a fault.
Here's hoping at least one change will take place during Coach Brown's second 10-year term as head coach—the Longhorns wearing more championship rings.
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