Anytime a team struggles with a roster full of talented players, failing to live up to not only their internal expectations based on tradition, but those external of the team as well, it’s a natural exercise to attempt to diagnosis the root of the issue. When digging into the Texas Longhorns struggles, trying to identify the root cause of the team’s struggles in 2013 is far from an easy task.
It’s a matter of subjectivity, really, because with some work it would be possible to identify several different culprits. For the sake of the exercise, we’ll break these down one at a time.
The initial source of disdain among many who follow Texas football closely is directed at Mack Brown, and to an extent, fairly enough. There’s been a tendency since the departure of Colt McCoy, for Texas to lose big games and in a demonstrative fashion. Yesterday’s blowout loss was arguably the most important game in the past half-decade for Texas football, and the result was as bad as it possibly could have been.
For a short time, it appeared that Brown’s decision to fire Manny Diaz after the Ole Miss and BYU losses and bring Greg Robinson back into the fold may have been enough to save face at a minimum and perhaps even his career. This notion was dispelled quickly by the loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys however, and it seems we’re right back where we started from in mid-September.
Beyond Brown’s recent struggles to lead the team to big wins in big games, there’s been a substantial amount of hand-wringing about the bizarre decision to burn the redshirt of freshman QB Tyrone Swoopes against the TCU Horned Frogs. Swoopes has taken only garbage-time snaps at the end of blowouts leading Texas fans to complain that Brown stripped a year of his eligibility simply to save his own backside.
Whether his backside is safe, however, will be a constant source of discussion from this point forward, especially with the arrival of new athletic director Steve Patterson, who is certain to have his own vision about the future direction of Texas athletics.
It’s always easy to blame a coaching staff for a team’s failure, but the facts are, coaches don’t take snaps, throw passes, block for their teammates. If you don’t have the right players, even the best system will fall flat. Some have begun to posit that the issue at Texas is in fact a general failure in recruiting to identify the right players for the Texas system, the right players who can handle the pressure under the lights when they are the brightest.
Someone could easily take on a full-scale study of the players that Texas whiffed on that went on to have great careers in other programs, but getting to far into detail just belabors the point.
The point is this:
What if there’s a large scale evaluation issue at Texas?
What if the Longhorns have consistently been recruiting the wrong players?
If player evaluation isn’t the issue, and Texas is in fact recruiting the right players, then another possibility is player development. Perhaps the problem is that the Texas coaching staff simply can’t “coach up” the talented players that arrive on the Forty Acres and they never reach the level of potential that their talent promises.
You’ll hear this idea batted around quite a bit in reference to Mack Brown and the Texas positional coaches. There have been plenty of Longhorns who left Austin with fans shaking their heads about what could have been. There have also been plenty of Longhorns who left Austin for greener pastures and reach their potential.
See Gilbert, Garrett.
The fact is trying to pin Texas’ struggles on a single factor is like dancing about architecture. It’s an abstract exercise without any hope of a concrete resolution. For now, though, that is exactly what Steve Patterson is tasked with.
Better him than me.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer, Business Analyst and College Content Coordinator for Rant Sports.