Art Briles is the right man for Texas
While Texas message boards and blogs go crazy with potential candidates, there's just one perfect fit for the Longhorns' job that will actually take it, has Texas connections and will immediately reinvigorate the program and fans with a high-scoring offense.
The best part? He's just 100 miles up the road in Waco, TX: Baylor head coach Art Briles.
First, let me put to bed bigger names like Alabama's Nick Saban, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, Louisville's Charlie Strong, Boise State's Chris Petersen and TCU's Gary Patterson. When it comes to Saban, Sumlin and Gundy, there's no way their schools would let them get away. There isn't a price tag big enough that these three schools wouldn't match and then raise to keep their saviors.
Strong's meteoric rise has been impressive — but the 2013 Sugar Bowl win over Florida made people forget that last year's Louisville team lost to Syracuse and Connecticut. Boise State and TCU are both programs starting to trend slightly downward, making me wonder if either Petersen or Patterson would have the same success in Austin that they've had at smaller programs against inferior competition.
As for other young candidates like Vanderbilt's James Franklin, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald or North Carolina's Larry Fedora? Please. Those guys, while rising stars, aren't close to the candidate Briles is.
When Briles left Houston for Baylor back in 2008, I thought he was a great coach destined for failure at a dead-end job. After all, the Bears hadn't had a winning season since 1995, had almost no football history to speak of, played in a wretched stadium and were located in a dumpy town best known for a cult siege.
But to my surprise, Baylor had a winning season and was in a bowl game by Year 3 under Briles. In Year 4, Robert Griffin III won the Heisman and the Bears beat Oklahoma for the first time ever.
Last season may have been Briles' most impressive coaching job yet; unknown QB Nick Florence put up RG III-like numbers during an 8-5 season that included a smack down on No. 1 Kansas State and culminated in a demolition of UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
This year is shaping up to be something special. With another star-in-the-making in junior quarterback Bryce Petty, Heisman Trophy candidate Lache Seastrunk at running back and an arsenal of stud wide receivers, Baylor might have the best offense in the country not named "Oregon." With the Big 12 down this year, I think the Bears will win the conference and reach a BCS bowl for the first time ever.
That would be the perfect launching pad for Briles to leave for Texas. Yes, he's 57 years old — just five years younger than Brown — but Briles appears to have a lot more gas left in the tank after only becoming a college head coach 10 years ago.
Briles has recruited incredibly well at Baylor considering his competition in the state — namely Texas and Texas A&M — and is a Texas guy through and through. Briles won't just win in Austin, he'll bring an exciting brand of football back to town with an explosive offense Longhorn fans haven't seen since the Colt McCoy and Vince Young days.
If last year's Baylor offense finished fourth in scoring, I'm extremely confident Briles could turn the talent on Texas' offense into a point-scoring machine by next fall.
There's always a chance Briles could stay in Waco out of his loyalty to Baylor and finish what he started there — especially with a gleaming new stadium scheduled to open in time for next season. After all, he's already passed on plenty of lucrative opportunities, and leaving baylor for Austin would make him an instant Judas in Waco.
But, to adapt a line from Michigan's Brady Hoke: This is Texas, for God's sakes.
It would be extremely hard for Briles to pass up on arguably the best college coaching job in America, living in a town like Austin, the resources of UT and a substantial pay raise. Before receiving an unspecified extension in December, Briles was reportedly making $2.2 million per year at Baylor. Brown makes over double that at $5.2 million per year.
The only red flag with Briles is how bad Baylor's defense has been in recent years. There's no doubt that if hired, Briles should be told, "You can't bring defensive coordinator Phil Bennett with you." But that shouldn't be a deal breaker when you consider that Briles could convince almost any top defensive coordinator in the country to pack his bags and move to Austin.
If I was Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds, I would ask Briles to pick any defensive coordinator in the country he wants on his staff — Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi comes immediately to mind — and woo said pick with money and the opportunity to run a defense with total autonomy. (Not unlike long-time Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.)
It certainly must seem like a Sign of the Apocalypse to Texas Longhorn fans that the perfect fit to turn around their slumping program is the current head man at Baylor, a school they've treated like a doormat for decades. Then again, many UT fans would consider a combined program record of 23-17 since the 2009 BCS title game the actual end of days.
It's just another reason Briles to Texas makes so much sense.
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