Chris Simms: Charlie Strong, despite recent critics, is perfect for Texas
The University of Texas didn’t get it wrong. The skeptics and critics have.
Charlie Strong is the right choice to help lead the Longhorns to national prominence.
He is the perfect coach. He can balance the political and media pressures at Texas and is a strong personality, and great leader, who knows how to run a program.
The reason I love the choice is because it is all about football. College football has become such a business that Texas got lost in the money and pageantry.
You always hear the phrase, “He is going to change the culture.” When you get a shakeup like this, everyone is on edge — players included. Unless you are a star, you don’t know if you will start. Strong is straight forward and has his hands on the day-to-day schematics regarding X’s and O’s. He will calm down the media and outside noise and just focus on Texas football.
Strong had very few off-the-field issues at Louisville. He’s done a good job developing young kids’ lives.
I have first-hand experience.
When I was being recruited out of Rampao (N.J.) High School, Strong recruited me on behalf of the University of Florida.
We talked on the phone a few times. The first time I spoke to him, I could tell within the first 10 seconds there wasn’t a whole lot of nonsense. He is a straight-shooter and expects you to shoot straight back with him. He commanded respect and struck me as a guy who could be a great defensive coordinator and had the presence to be a head coach one day.
Did I think that he would be the head coach at Texas? I did wonder whether Texas would hire an African-American coach given the significant meaning it has culturally.
It is the South. It is Texas. It is the first time the school has hired any African-American head coach to a major sports program. But Austin is a great city and very liberal for the state of Texas. The fan base is open-minded. It’s the right time to be breaking barriers.
Strong and his staff will face challenges; there has to be some tolerance. The fan base has been spoiled by Mack Brown the last 16 years. I think they will see instant changes in the first year, which will keep the fan base quiet knowing they are on the right track.
I was not a fan of how Texas handled the situation with Brown, releasing how he was going to step down before he did. But it was time.
He built the program to a level nobody could have imagined. At the same time, he was fired because of the monster he created. Their play has been below average in a below average Big 12 Conference the last few years.
One thing recent history has taught us between Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno – and Mack is in the same situation – is that great coaches always think they can fix it. Mack is the last of a dying breed — the face-of-the-franchise, CEO head coach.
Athletic director Steve Patterson felt it was time for a change, and I give him credit for making that decision his second month on the job.
The culture of college coaching is becoming more and more NFL-like because of the success colleges see from the likes of Nick Saban, Chip Kelly and Pete Carroll. They showed the ability to manage the media, but at heart they are true X’s and O’s, game-plan coaches. Strong follows suit along with those guys, like Gus Malzahn, Jimbo Fisher and Bill O’Brien.
The program does need to be fixed. The talent level that has been coming into the university the past four or five years has been subpar opposed to the previous 10 years. The telltale sign the talent level has dropped is the lack of players selected in the NFL Draft in the past four years.
Maybe there was a little energy lost in the recruiting process. It’s football, and sometimes you do miss on players. Still, recruiting wasn’t up to the level Mack set in the first 10 years. Part of that is Mack’s fault, because he set the bar so high with all the top-five recruiting classes.
Maybe the Texas A&Ms have stolen some of the Longhorns’ thunder. To me, the inability to land a good quarterback for the last six years is perplexing for a big-time university like Texas, along with the fact that there are so many Texas-grown quarterbacks in the NFL currently. Having a star quarterback helps with landing big-time receivers and big-time players in general.
Big-time players want to play with a QB who they know is going to give them a chance to win and could play in the NFL one day – such as Vince Young and myself.
It is an anomaly that the University of Texas — in my opinion the most attractive and resource-rich program in the country — can’t get a top-end running back. For a national power like Texas, it is unacceptable to lack five-star skill players.
I’m sure it will take time for some of the boosters to buy into the hiring of Strong. One, Red McCombs, voiced his displeasure.
"I don’t have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator," the billionaire booster McCombs told a radio station. "But I don’t believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin. I don’t think it adds up.
"We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game. When we decided to go get Mack — from the time we decided to go get Mack to about 30 hours later to have a press conference here and it was done — we had a lot of input before we went after him. So I don’t know what the big rush was. I was kind of pleased that Patterson already said that he’d like to get it done in the middle of January. That seemed logical to me. I’m a team player, but I think they went about it wrong and made the selection wrong."
I have a lot of respect for Red McCombs, what he has done in life and in business. At the same time, I don’t think hiring football coaches is his expertise. The same can be applied to boosters at most schools. Unless these boosters are ex-GMs in the NFL or coaches in college or the pros, I don’t think they are qualified to be running football programs.
Strong coached a Louisville team to a better record the past four years than Texas had; to say he could be a position coach is an insult.
Once they knew the candidates available and once they knew they weren’t getting Saban, I think he was the best candidate along with the Jimbo Fishers and Gus Malzahns.
Show me a better candidate who was receptive to taking the job.
Strong and the team will to have to win games. I have total faith and confidence that they will. Look how quickly he turned around Louisville. With all that Texas has to offer, who would doubt he will succeed?
We’ve seen what Strong can do in recruiting. He probably will have the first quarterback drafted this year in Teddy Bridgewater. His demeanor and the way he handles himself as a man will help in-state recruiting and could open up the gates to Florida because he is so well connected there.
On the field, expect Texas to be much more sound on the defensive side of the ball. Strong is bringing his defensive coordinator, Vance Bedford, with him. In general, he will make Texas a more physical team. He will continue to run the ball within his pro-style offensive scheme and be aggressive throwing the ball downfield in the passing game.
Ultimately, Texas will be a reflection of Strong: tough-nosed and detailed. Its performance on the field will do the talking.
I am proud to have Strong as the coach of Texas, not only because of what he does on the football field, but how he handles himself as a leader and a man. The cultural significance of this hire makes me proud to say I went to school at Texas and am an alum.
Chris Simms played quarterback at the University of Texas from 1999-2002. He played eight years in the NFL. He was an assistant coach and scouting assistant with the New England Patriots from 2012-2013. He currently is color commentator on FOX Sports 1 NCAA football broadcasts.