Before kickoff, I thought the game would go one of two ways: The Longhorn players would rise to the occasion, play out of their minds, pull out some magic tricks, and beat the huge favorite, the Oregon Ducks—all in the name of Mack Brown, sending the legendary coach off riding into the sunset in a movie-script-type ending. OR…the much better team would win the game. It turned out the latter was true. Mack got his send-off, but it did not come in a magical movie-script finale.
The game itself was a great measuring stick on where the Longhorn program sits today. The Texas defense actually played very well the entire game but got zero help from the offense. Against a talented team like Oregon, you have to take advantage of each opportunity you get. The Texas offense continuously went three and out, putting enormous pressure on a tired defense all night.
The Mack Brown era is officially over.
Who will the next coach be?
If you look at what Mack Brown did great and what he struggled to do, you can start to get a blue print for what the next coach will need to look like.
The next head coach will need to be charismatic. Mack was the best recruiter in the country, in large part due to his endless charisma. When he walked into a player's house, it was all but over. He knew exactly how to treat a player and his family – being authentic and genuine. Only coaches with zero personality need to negative recruit and talk trash about other programs in order to convince a kid to play at their school.
The next head coach will need to be the ultimate diplomat. Bring everyone back together. There is a fracture within the Longhorn nation. The regents, the administrators, the donors, the alumni, the fan base, the media…all want different things. When Mack took the job, he inherited a very similar fractured state as it is today. He was able to “put all the beebees back into the box,” but after four below-average seasons, those beebees are all over the place again. Most coaches do not have a CEO-level skill-set to smooth over relationships with billionaires as well as strike a chord with 18-year-olds all in the same day. Mack was able to do it for nearly 16 years.
The next head coach will need to be more hands on with the Xs and Os. Mack was a great CEO, but that cost him in the actual game-management facet of coaching. When a head coach has success, every one of his assistant coaches are prime candidates to leave to become head coaches at another school. This happened almost every year at Texas. The coaching staff that Mack put together would get gutted, and he would have to spend a lot of time and energy finding suitable replacements. Mack’s coaching style was to remain the CEO and let the assistant coaches do a lot of the actual coaching and game planning. So, when you lose those coaches every season, it’s very difficult to maintain a successful program. On the other end of the spectrum, there's Nick Saban. Saban is able to keep Alabama at a championship level every season because he is a micro manager, down to the littlest of details. Saban loses an assistant coach, and it doesn’t hurt quite as bad as when Mack does. The new coach will need to be more “Saban-esque” in this regard.
The next head coach will need to develop his players better than Mack did. My biggest complaint of the entire Mack Brown era is that it often felt like we were getting less out of more talent as compared with other schools. Maybe it was because Mack was the CEO-level coach, and his assistants were not great player developers. Maybe it was because Mack was too nice. No one can argue that he wasn't a class act, but a lot of people will argue that Mack needed more tough love and to demand more from his players.
When a high school kid signs at the University of Texas, he might think he just “made it.” It’s pretty common for an 18-year-old to get complacent and stop grinding every single second when UT offers him a scholarship. Mack was great at getting a kid to come to Texas, but he often struggled to keep that kid's attention in the work ethic department.
Jimbo Fisher is coaching the Seminoles in the National Championship game on Monday Night. He is a name to monitor closely. I'm hearing that a lot of regents are very high on Jimbo. He comes from the Nick Saban coaching tree (offensive coach). He is an excellent recruiter. He knows how to follow a coaching legend—he replaced the great Bobby Bowden and has done fantastic. He fits every criteria that UT is looking for. Hard to find a flaw with this candidate.
Art Briles is the favorite of many people because he is a Texas man. Art has taken Baylor from a perennial loser to a team that is now the head of the class in the state of Texas. He comes from Texas High School coaching roots and has used those connections with the high school coaches in the state to build the Bears into a power. He is a very offensive-minded coach and runs an up-tempo high scoring offense. He would be a great hire.
Charlie Strong’s name is becoming more and more popular each day. I am hearing that Athletic Director Steve Patterson really likes Charlie Strong. He is a defensive-minded coach from the Urban Meyer coaching tree, from the Florida days. He is an excellent recruiter and has built up the Louisville Cardinals in a short amount of time. Strong is a very well-respected man.
James Franklin is one of the hottest coaching names in the nation right now. Vanderbilt is the Stanford of the SEC, but they have never had any success in the toughest league in the country. That all changed when Franklin arrived. He has built Vandy into an 8-4 level team the last few seasons, which could be considered a small miracle.
The next chapter of Texas football is about to start!