This is hardly an ideal time to be talking up Texas coach Mack Brown.
For starters, his Longhorns recently lost to TCU — a team they would not have deigned having in their conference a few years ago, much less fathomed losing to on Thanksgiving.
The offense in Austin is a train wreck, yet their defense somehow manages to be more disappointing. The insult added to the injury is both units are led by coordinators plucked from elsewhere and paid big money to fix this problem. The best quarterback in the country and Heisman frontrunner, Johnny Football, plays at Texas A&M at least in part because the Longhorns recruited him to play defense. And this misstep came on the heels of Texas telling Robert Griffin III that it did not see him as a quarterback.
They were substantially responsible for breaking up the Big 12. The Longhorn Network has been somewhere between slightly and full-fledged embarrassing depending on the day. Brown actually complained of this being a distraction, high heresy considering Longhorns AD DeLoss God, er, Dodds, views this as his crowning achievement.
And most important of all, The University of Texas has not been a very good football team lately.
For two years, actually.
That is a lifetime in the great state of Texas.
Brown is not getting fired for this, or it is highly unlikely barring a meltdown of epic proportion against Kansas State. It is not simply the price tag to jettison him, about $25 million, which somewhat ironically became that big after votes of confidence, extensions and, yes, cash were thrown at him after rumors last year that Brown was about to be forced out. The security also comes in his having won a national championship and having gone to another, and in the knowledge that the perfect replacement is readily apparent.
Texas is a great, tough, dream job in the way name schools like USC, Notre Dame and Ohio State usually are. They are loaded with advantages and expectations in equal measure. There is no grace period, no justification for not winning and winning right away and there is no room for mistakes.
This is hardly news I am breaking: Big-money programs fraught with challenges. Just ask Charlie Weis, Lane Kiffin, Gene Chizik or Brown for that matter.
Welcome to college football where a guy averages double-digit wins for 14 seasons and a Google search of “Fire Mack Brown” leads to an entire page of results — articles, actual petitions, buyout numbers.
And this is especially true in Texas and especially, especially at The University of, where mediocrity is not tolerated.
Mediocre is exactly what the Longhorns have been since 2010. And that includes a Thanksgiving loss to TCU and another butt whipping by rival Oklahoma (the second in as many years).
I realize as defenses go, this, so far, has been a very Longhorn-ish, which is to say awful, of Mack Brown. The point is there are legit questions to be asked about Brown and the Longhorns, how a team with the best recruiting base in the country, more money than God and its own TV network finds itself fallen on just OK football times. There are fair and needed questions about their talent evaluation, their defense and their Oklahoma problem.
What there are not are legit questions about Brown.
When he was winning a national championship and playing Alabama tough in another, it was not because Brown was some great tactician or he had a sharper eye for talent in his youth. He always has been a CEO type, leading the very big business of Texas football exceedingly well and with class. This last part matters not because we demand character from our college football programs. We do not, not from winning ones at least. It matters because we love the narrative of college football as this molder of young man.
What has made Brown special is how, by all accounts, he actually believes character matters. Not only did he win, he was a guy you want as the face of your program because of how he won. And this absolutely has value.
We too often confuse being good at your job with being a good person. They are not the same.
A doctor who is good with patients is not necessarily a morally upright mom, friend or person. A winning coach is not always somebody you think “Wow, I am proud of what he is doing with my alma mater.”
When I see this confusion, I am reminded of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
It is Brown’s reputation that has been dinged. His character is intact, and it is there my defense lies. There is a benefit to a guy like him and he deserves another season — at least — to try to get his football program back.