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Monday, August 1, 2011
Mack Brown's QB treatment: The right call

By David Ubben

Mack Brown hasn't allowed one of his quarterbacks to answer a question from the media since a Thanksgiving night loss to Texas A&M.

Since then, 248 days have passed without any of the four being forced to face any waiting microphones.

The policy has frustrated fans and media alike, but at Big 12 Media Days last week, I asked Brown about the decision for the first time.

Mack Brown
Coach Mack Brown has sheltered his quarterbacks from the media since last Thanksgiving.
"What I thought we needed was to get back to work," Brown said. "We needed to make sure that our quarterbacks were focused on one thing, and on one thing only. And that was learning the new offense. Which was going to be complicated. And I didn't need them to have distractions."

I posed the question to you, the readers, about Brown's approach.

Sixty-five percent of you said he made the right decision. Not everyone agrees, and I think the point is certainly debatable, but from my perspective, it's the right decision.

As a member of the media who would have liked some insight, I hate it. But as someone who also realizes that Mack Brown's primary objective is to win games, I understand the decision.

In the meantime, he's weathered a very, very minor public relations problem to help his quarterbacks, who didn't exactly prove their emotional or mental fortitude in 2010. The payoff: We'll see this fall, but it's hard to see it being negative.

"I didn't need [offensive coordinator] Bryan [Harsin] to have to answer every day about who he thought looked better when he didn't even know their names," Brown said. "He didn't know anything about them. And I did not want the quarterbacks competing for a job until they learned the offense, because I was worried they'd worry more about starting than learning."

There's certainly a school of thought that believes that might backfire in the middle of the season, that the search for a quarterback who can handle tough questions and tougher secondaries will probably lead to the same result.

"I felt like last year was so negative, that I didn't want them to have to sit around and talk about it all day," Brown said. "And they would have. And that's your job, and that's fair. But it's my job that we do what's best for our players."

Texas isn't in a position for any kind of a title run in 2011. Maybe later, but for now, the focus is getting back to winning ways at Texas and re-establishing the "swagger" (Brown's words, not mine). That swagger was decidedly absent during 2010's 5-7 season. Maybe to get back to a title game, you'll need a quarterback who won't be fazed by questions, but right now, Texas needs to make sure it's safely back in the postseason and at least flirting with a 10-win season. One could argue that focusing on winning big rather than winning now is exactly how Texas ended up trying to rebound from a seven-loss season in the first place.

Maybe protecting the quarterbacks won't do a lot to rid them of 2010's buzz word in Austin: "entitlement." But if sitting and watching a championship program become a laughing stock all the way down to a last-place finish in the Big 12 South didn't shake off that entitlement, answering questions about it won't do it, either.

If spring wasn't about competition, and I don't believe it was primarily, then Brown took the right approach. Facing the same questions over and over and dealing with more than what was already on the quarterbacks' full plate wouldn't have paid off much in the long run, and for now, dit idn't cost Texas much, either.

We'll see the results in the fall, but for now, there's still competition to be had. Garrett Gilbert, Connor Wood, Case McCoy and David Ash will begin fall camp vying for the most prominent position battle in the Big 12, and perhaps in all of college football. And the winner? Well, he'll get plenty of chances to answer questions once the job is won.