How hard does the axe fall?
Mack Brown is a realist. He realizes that in his tenure at the University of Texas there haven’t been many overtly negative moments. He doesn’t spend his press conferences discussing pay-for-play allegations, defending his berating of officials and players, or trying to sell his schedule as anything but the “sisters of the poor.” Mack Brown doesn’t have to concern himself with those issues. His issue, in the football Mecca that is Texas, could be greater.
A losing football team.
Now, it’s understood that the gloom and doom campaign in Austin may be premature, considering this is the first losing season since Brown’s arrival to the 40 acres in 1998. To put the premature nature of this reaction into greater perspective, this is Brown’s FIRST season with less than 9 wins. However, after the dismissal of Randy Shannon at Miami, it has become painfully evident there is only one way to ensure job security in the cash cow that is FBS football. Just win, baby.
I am in no way suggesting that Mack Brown should be on the chopping block after the events of this season. Brown has solidified himself as one of college football’s elite coaches, restoring the Longhorns to the status they came to expect under legendary coach Darrell K. Royal. Texas has been a BCS mainstay since the Rose Bowl thriller against Michigan in 2004. He delivered a national championship in 2005 in what is considered the greatest football game of all time, featuring the greatest single performance by a player in Vince Young. He followed that by producing the winningest QB in NCAA history in Colt McCoy. Mack has the keys to the city, and a cushy AD job waiting for him when he hangs up the headset. Not everyone in burnt orange is so lucky.
Greg Davis is a pariah in Austin. Despite having one of the more potent offenses in the country over the past decade, Davis can’t seem to get out of his own way with his questionable playcalling. Texas, it seems, is not so potent when it doesn’t have the array of household names it has produced in the past. Fans groan when the hapless Horns waste drives with -2 yard bubble screens and an east-west rushing attack. Davis tried to infuse the offense with a more straightforward ground attack to compensate for the loss of McCoy, and it produced the worst offense in Texas history. For years they have recruited players for their vaunted “zone read” offense, which Vince Young made famous. Texas had a specific offensive mentality and found high school players to fit that mold. Simply put, Texas does not have the personnel to run a pro-style offense. Linemen are undersized, blown off the ball by defensive minded teams such as OU and Nebraska. They couldn’t commit to anything less than a 3 headed monster at running back, due to injuries and poor play. What’s worse is that Davis was dumbfounded when the offense sputtered, and produced no results when it mattered most. The development of the former #1 recruit in the nation, Garrett Gilbert, has been equally disappointing. The hottest seat in Austin can be found in the pressbox at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium.
So if the axe falls on Greg Davis, who replaces him?
Major Applewhite is the first option from a “hire from within” standpoint. The 32 year old is a legend in Austin, with his gutsy performances as an undersized QB at Texas defined the early Mack Brown era. He cut his teeth as the OC at Rice, and in 2007 became the youngest offensive coordinator in the NCAA under Nick Saban at Alabama. The credentials are there, and Applewhite is a true student of the game. He will be on everyone’s short list for this gig.
Todd Dodge led the Southlake Carroll Dragons to four state titles in just 7 years, amassing a staggering 98-11 record and becoming a legend in the DFW Metroplex. He then left high school to become the head coach at North Texas, and realized that college football at a 3rd tier school in Texas isn’t a walk in the park. Dodge was recently fired after posting a 6-37 record with the Mean Green. Dodge, a former QB at Texas, will be looking to rebound after a rough debut in the college ranks. Coming to an established program such as Texas could give him that.
Brian Harsin is at the helm of one of the more potent offenses in the country at Boise State. The 34 year old has been OC for the Broncos since 2005, and is considered one the nations top young assistants. With TCU bolting the Big East, Boise’s move to the Mountain West makes less and less sense. They figure to continue trying to play the part of BCS spoiler, and Harsin could test his mettle at a top flight program at Texas.
Mike Leach is the oddball of the group, but to quote Kinky Friedman’s slogan in his run for Governor of Texas “Why the hell not?” Leach is erratic, and his lawsuit with ESPN will undoubtedly keep him off the sidelines for the near future, but can you imagine Mike Leach pacing the sidelines on the 40 acres as an assistant?
Texas Football needs to make a statement. Something that tells the coaches, players, fans, and media that the Longhorns don’t accept losing. That said, I’d bet the axe falls on Davis. When it does, Mack Brown and Athletic Director Deloss Dodds need to make a splash. Bring in someone who will rejuvenate the Longhorns, and the disillusioned fans in the stands. Bring back the Texas Swagger. Or, as we noticed in other top flight programs, the axe may fall on them.