Grantland: Happy Trails to Mr. Football

December, 18, 2013
12/18/13
1:00
PM ET
The cruelest and most accurate thing ever said about Mack Brown came from Steve Spurrier.

Spurrier was then the coach at Duke. Brown was at North Carolina. Spurrier was fashioning himself into a monomaniacal offensive strategist. Brown was becoming a Reaganesque CEO. When sportswriters traveled that little corner of the ACC, Spurrier would say, "I just don't think I know enough about the game to compete with Mr. Football."

Mr. Football. It was a missile fired directly into Brown's massive heart. It transformed Brown's best asset, folksiness, into softness. It spoke to a certain lack of edge. In 1989, Spurrier beat Brown's Tar Heels 41-0 in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils stayed on the field and took a picture in front of the scoreboard.

Spurrier wouldn't let the slur go. By 1997, he'd moved to the University of Florida and won a national championship. The sportswriter John Feinstein sent Spurrier a note saying that if he thought he was so great, he should go back to Duke. "Nah," Spurrier wrote in his reply, "I don't think I could deal with the pressure of competing with Mr. Football again every year."

Mr. Football retired — well, resigned — as Texas' coach Saturday. The 158 games he won in Austin are remarkable. For, as Spurrier noted, Mack Brown suffered from a condition that never affected Nick Saban or Urban Meyer or any other great coach. Brown, in some deep part of his soul, was afraid of college football. This made him an unbelievably frustrating guy to root for. It also made him the coach I'll love more than any other.

To read from Curtis' Grantland piece on Brown, click here.
Bryan Curtis (@curtisbeast) is a staff writer for Grantland.

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