If so many folks desperately wanted Mack Brown to step down at Texas, I’m not sure why they’re already getting sentimental about him now. Charlie Strong is nothing like Brown, and that was one of the main reasons the Horns made this hire.
This silliness about Strong not being "polished" enough in his public speaking is absurd. It’s probably more media-driven than anything else. And it needs to go away quickly. A recent ESPN.com report quoted several high school coaches who attended an event in San Angelo, Texas, saying that Strong did a poor job speaking. I’m not sure that a bunch of Mack Brown-loving coaches from West Texas are credible sources for something like this.
Strong did just fine in his first appearance at Big 12 media days Tuesday. It’s not easy to talk about the lack of toughness in the team he inherited while trying to honor Brown’s legacy. But that shouldn’t be his primary concern. He was hired to pump life back into a program mired in mediocrity. It is not his job to honor someone’s legacy. It’s also not his job to wow folks with after-dinner speeches. He will succeed or fail on wins or losses. He’s nowhere close to the glad-handing politician Brown was, and I don’t know why anyone has a problem with that? I have my theory as to why some high school coaches in San Angelo might take some anonymous jabs at Strong, but I’ll keep those to myself for now.
What Strong did Tuesday was define exactly what he’s talking about regarding toughness. He’s not intentionally trampling on Brown’s final years. He’s trying to establish an identity from the start. Brown undermined himself by grasping for different identities when things went south. He hired young assistants away from "hot" programs even though Texas had the resources to hire anyone he wanted. Strong has surrounded himself with long-time coaches and a strength coach he deems the best in the country.
"When you talk about toughness, you have to not only talk about it but you have to practice it," Strong said. "And that’s what we felt like we did in spring practice when you look at three-on-threes and you look at one-on-ones and you look at the goal line. A lot of times when people talk about toughness, it’s not physically where you’re always trying to just beat them down.
It’s a toughness to just go do the right thing. Go to class. Just go do the little things. It’s having that type of toughness. Right now, I think that we’re going to find us a different football team, just because of their attitude and just their work ethic and how hard they’ve worked."
Strong’s only semi-misstep this offseason was mentioning to a group of Longhorns that his team would not compete for a national title in 2014. He was simply being candid in setting his expectations for this season. It’s not something the head coach of the University of Texas should say even if we all know it’s probably true. But he didn’t exactly run away from those comments when he was asked to clarify Tuesday.
"I said after looking at [spring football], we’re not going to go compete for a championship, not looking at phase two, because we had a lot of work to do," he said. "If you think about it, we were not a healthy football team at that time. But we still have some work to do. I can’t say just how far off we are and that we will not know that until we go compete this fall. But we still have work to do.
"Now, we’re not as bad as we used to be. I’ll tell you this: We still have a lot of work to do just making sure we continue to move forward in that area, in all areas of the game, within not only just offense/defense but also with our special teams."
Strong had a good day Tuesday, but it doesn’t matter.