Charlie Strong was 16-21 in three seasons as head football coach of the Texas Longhorns.
Charlie Strong’s record with his players and among some of the fans is much higher though. It was never meant to be for the former Louisville head coach, it was never his war to win. What was done at Texas will lead them back to being championship contenders, just not under Strong himself.
There are two ways to pull weeds from a garden. There’s the easy way of just pulling what’s visible and then there’s the hard way of digging down and uprooting the weed. Strong’s uprooting was much deeper than anybody expected and the booster’s weren’t following.
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The unreal pressure given to Strong was to win with a team that didn’t know how to play as a team. Sometimes that can’t be changed with a new playbook and a different voice at the helm.
There are times when you just have to remove the bad apples and bring in your own. Many talented players were removed from the team even before Strong had coached his first game.
Still, there was an aura and a mood that stuck with those who remained that Charlie attempted to decode.
Unfortunately, decoding players and getting to know them personally can also take away from game planning and preparation. Nobody knows where exactly the lack of wins came from. Yet it severely affected how the boosters felt their money was being spent.
Wins over Baylor and Oklahoma last season were promising for Charlie in 2016. A win over Notre Dame to start the year had people thinking big. “College football playoffs, national championship, extension..” but all of that was too soon.
The Longhorns had a chance to be a contending team this year but often found themselves on the wrong end of shootouts. 50-43 against a sub par Cal team, 49-30 against a less talented OKST team and a 45-40 loss to their biggest rivals in Oklahoma. The hot seat started to burn and Strong was all but out until a surprise win over Baylor eased some thoughts. However, you can’t win big and then turnaround and lose even worse.
After a close loss to Kansas State, the Longhorns expected to walk all over the Kansas Jayhawks the next week. Instead, they were greeted with a 24-21 loss and all but sealed Strong’s fate as being fired.
Nov 25, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns fans show their support for head coach Charlie Strong (not pictured) against the Texas Christian Horned Frogs during the first half at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports
His players supported him at his press conference before their game against TCU, and showed the compassion they had for the man they called coach. Again however, the team fell flat and lost 31-9. The announcement of Strong’s firing was made official today even though it was pretty much set after yesterday’s game.
Players were in tears, Charlie was down, and the mood was very much predictable to the next day’s events.
We’ll look back on Strong’s tenure and have nothing great to say on the field with the exception of four games. However, his memory as head coach of the Texas Longhorns will forever be recognized and appreciated.
The players that he coached and the fans who opened their eyes understand his long-term impact beyond the scoreboard. Charlie Strong is a good coach and an even better mentor, his journey does not end here.
Tom Herman, who will reportedly be named the next head coach at Texas, will carry just as much pressure as Strong. It’s now up to him to take this program to the next level.