It’s 3 p.m. on Monday. Have you called for Mack Brown’s head yet?
In the wake of Oklahoma’s 63-21 win over the University of Texas Saturday, everybody else has. Or has at least engaged in major speculation about UT’s football future.
After all, the Sooners aren’t just the Longhorns’ biggest rival, but, with Texas A&M now off the schedule, their only major rival. OU has always been Mack Brown’s Achilles heel, and since the Horns are a mere 17-14 since losing the 2009 BCS championship game, that’s also not the program’s only weak spot.
“Texas needs a makeover,” wrote Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman. “Or a Mack-over, because too many have to be wondering if the Texas coach who remade Longhorns football and brought it the first national championship in 35 years is the same coach who has to rebuild it back into the powerhouse he so desperately yearns for it to be.”
Two days after the Longhorns were drubbed 63-21, their third consecutive loss to the Sooners and ninth in a row to AP Top 25 teams, Brown said he knew there was rampant negativity about his program on the Internet and in social media. But when asked if anyone close to him — donors or administrators — had been critical of him, Mack gave a defiantly upbeat response.
“No, none whatsoever,” he said. “I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I know I have time to fix it.”
Brown went on to say that other coaches aren’t able to turn around a program without worrying about losing their jobs, but he has that luxury.
Finger gave his own more direct interpretation of the quote on Twitter:
For me, “I know I have time to fix it” is the Mack Brown money quote. He’s saying he’s staying, and doesn’t believe his job is in jeopardy.
— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) October 15, 2012
Here’s what columnists around the state and country have been saying about Brown and UT’s future:
This was not a team that entered a downward curvature Saturday. This team hit bottom.
It feels to me as if this is beyond the beginning of the end for Brown. But how far beyond will depend on whether the Longhorns (4-2) can rebound over the last half of the season and finish respectably. If they can’t, well, you can turn to social media and see what the critics are saying.
You also could look at the reports of Brown’s contract and learn that, for the first time in 15 years as coach, he has a buyout clause. It’s worth $3.5 million to him at the end of the season, dropping to $2.5 million on Jan. 1 and descending.
You could argue Burton’s inflection point occurred on the Longhorns’ first possession against Alabama on Jan. 7, 2010, in the BCS title game against Alabama when quarterback Colt McCoy was injured.
Here’s where some of those earlier numbers come into play. Since that night, the Longhorns’ record is 17-14. Against Top 25 teams, they are 2-9. You could put an asterisk by one of those victories because it came this season against Oklahoma State, which was ranked in one poll but not the other.
But Texas does not have a history of patience with coaches. Royal’s successor, Fred Akers, won nine or more games in six of 10 seasons and was fired after his only losing one. David McWilliams was fired one year after finishing 10-2-1. John Mackovic was fired two seasons after finishing 10-2-1 and one season after winning the Big 12 Championship Game.
Perhaps Texas will rekindle one of Brown’s old traditions and embark on a late-season hot streak. But if not, what should he do? This isn’t an emergency situation on par with Gene Chizik’s predicament at Auburn, but Brown, at age 61 and making more than $5 million a year, won’t likely be afforded a second chance to reinvent his program. It’s too soon to declare Brown on the “hot seat,” but it’s a more plausible scenario than it’s ever been before.
For now, Texas is nothing more than Nebraska in better uniforms. Neither great program seems nationally relevant at the moment…
Mack’s program has spiraled out of regular Top 10 contention as Bobby Bowden’s did during his final, sad years at Florida State. Could Mack face the same fate?…
Something’s broken. Big-time broken. And if Texas is content with going to Holiday Bowls and winning eight and hoping for nine, then that may become the new acceptable.
The Oklahoma game has outsized importance. Coaches don’t like to admit those truths, but Brown has been on both sides of the Red River rivalry. As an assistant to Barry Switzer in the mid-1980s, he asked Switzer: “What do you have to do to keep your job here, and what do you have to do to keep everybody happy?” As recounted by Brown, Switzer’s reply was brief: “You’ve got to beat Texas.”
It’s no different from the other end. Brown has beaten Oklahoma, but only six times in 15 tries. Against Stoops, who arrived in Norman a year later than Brown did in Austin, Brown is 5-9.
Brown was hammered almost as hard by Texas-based columnists in Sunday’s editions as by Oklahoma on Saturday. His $3.5 million buyout was referenced. If it seems premature — Brown is 145-41 at Texas, with nine seasons of at least 10 wins (something Texas achieved just twice in the 14 years before his arrival) — the importance of the Red River rivalry can’t be overlooked. The standards, reached recently by Brown’s program, are fairly high.
If Mack wins eight or nine games and a bowl, he remains in good graces. He’s earned it. Among his many qualities, no coach, not even Darrell Royal, has made more money for Texas. For better or worse, that’s been DeLoss Dodds’ bottom line all along.
But should Texas continue to struggle, it’s not hard to envision Dodds or a prominent booster sidling up to Brown. You’re 61, he’d whisper. You’ve built a great program. You’re held in high esteem. Bow out now before it gets any worse.
Because judging by the directions two old rivals were headed Saturday, this isn’t getting any better any time soon.
He’s banked enough goodwill — and Texas has banked more than enough revenue with him running the program — that any push to remove him won’t build momentum.
But that’s how it stands today, and Brown likely understands what could come next. Darrell Royal wasn’t immune to unrest, and Texas’ best coach since isn’t, either.
So should Brown retire before he’s asked to?
Royal wasn’t exactly the same, but there were similar lines. OU tormented him, too, and he could have coached past 1976 had he been determined to do so. But he retired at 52, nine years younger than Brown is now, because he felt the current slowly growing against him.