Is Mack Brown admitting a mistake?
Horns going back to up-tempo, spread offense away from 'SEC-style' attack
AUSTIN, Texas -- Of all the humiliating and humbling losses for Texas from 2010-12 there was one that crippled the program early on and has left it limping ever since: coach Mack Brown's loss of belief in himself and what he does.
After the cheers went away during the 2010 season, Brown's abandonment of who he had been and what he had known manifested itself in wholesale changes. Some were necessary and overdue, to be sure. Complacency had stormed the palace gates. So, at 59 years of age, he went younger, a desperate move usually reserved for those who deal in vanity for a living.
Manny Diaz, due diligence would have proven, had succeeded with veteran players whose foundations of skills had already been laid before he took to the whistle in the SEC. He would run the defense.
They were the "it" coaches. And Brown, who had been pushed from the spotlight, needed it badly. For him to be admired and liked supersedes almost all other emotions. That is his psychology. It's what has made him so good for so long, provided his drive and fueled his success.
The downfall is that quality can lead to desperation, self doubt and a grasping for straws instead of the harder to find bricks necessary to repair a weakening foundation.
Adding incentive to abandon long-established and, until the blip of 2010, successful principles, was the Siren's song being played just to the east. The SEC was the conference that was winning. The battering style had deeply bruised Brown and his team in the 2009 national championship game.
Rather than fight them again, Brown made the mistake to join them. And, so it was, Texas became a follower.
It's an unsuitable role for this program and an unfamiliar one for its coach.
What had made Brown and Texas was an unflinching dedication to lead. Brown changed the way the game was played on the field and off when he came to Texas. Recruits flocked to him early. Points piled up. Wins came in bunches.
State of Texas quarterbacks and offensive players started to thrive in college and beyond because of Brown. His offense, at the flagship university in one of the nation's top recruiting grounds, showed high school coaches and developing players that it was the pass, and the spread offense that came with it, that led to an avalanche of points and the accompanying wins.
He didn't go to the Mike Leach extremes. There was a semblance of balance there. The running back, still a position of lore in Longhorns history, was still a vital cog. After all, Vince Young had Cedric Benson and Jamaal Charles. Colt McCoy, for a time, had Charles, too. But when the talent didn't transcend at that position, there was at least still an offensive foundation on which to build wins and points.
Brown publicly justified his decision to go to an SEC style by oft-repeating a memory from 2009.
"I'll never forget the Colorado game in '09 where we -- there were about three third-down-and-4s or less, and we threw it every time, and I think we didn't make any of the four, and I wanted to throw up leaving the field," he said. "We'd won the game 38-12 or something, and I was sick."
So formations and foundations were erased for packages and pounding. Instead of tinkering, such as finding the right back to run from the spread and achieve the balance he so desperately wanted, Brown panicked and opted for a complete overhaul.
It failed. For two years it failed. He tried something new despite the mountain of evidence that what he had done not just worked at Texas but had started to flourish at other programs in other parts of the country. Naturally there had been erosion in the Texas offense over the years. But that didn't warrant dynamite.
Now Brown has started to gather the scattered pieces. In a humbling admission, though not presented that way by the coach who plays the microphone and crowd with unmatched skill, Brown stated his team would go to a spread offense. It will be an offense with no-huddle, physical components and dedicated run game.
"I just think that's where football's headed," he said.
Now Texas is headed back there, too.
And it might be possible, if successful, along that path some may once again find the belief they once had in Texas' coach, including Brown himself.