Commentary

Mack Brown had better toughen up

If coach doesn't lead by example, then Horns might look for somebody who will

Updated: October 26, 2012, 5:59 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

The mighty Texas Longhorns football team is soft these days. They follow their head coach Mack Brown's lead.

It's shameful, really.

Once upon a time, not too long ago, Brown was one of college football's best coaches and the Longhorns were one of college football's best programs.

The Longhorns won a title in 2005, and played for another in 2009.

Since then, they're 19-15. And two weeks ago, the Longhorns declined to compete, and Oklahoma destroyed Texas 63-21.

Who thought it was possible that the Longhorns would fail to compete a year after OU stomped Texas 55-17? All of that is awful, as is the Longhorns' defense that's allowed 46.8 points per game against their past five opponents.

And it doesn't help that Brown spent some time this week whining about his commitments to the Longhorn Network, which has a 20-year, $300 million partnership with ESPN.

"I didn't ask for it," Brown told Orangebloods.com. "...We were given a deal that we had no input in. It's a true advantage [for opponents]. They can watch our attitude, they can watch our coaches.

"There has to be some give-and-take. It is what it is. It's part of my job because [athletic director] DeLoss [Dodds] and [president] Bill Powers have told me it is."

Whatever.

Texas gets its pick of the state's best athletes every year. No school has better facilities or generates more cash. The Longhorns have tradition. And fantastic facilities. And Sixth Street.

What they don't have is a legitimate excuse for underachieving ever since QB Colt McCoy left.

How embarrassing it must be for the Texas Exes, who helped build this program's tradition, to watch the team's raggedy defense each week.

In an Oct. 6 loss to West Virginia, the Longhorns gave up 48 points and helped quarterback Geno Smith take an early lead in the Heisman Trophy campaign. In the next two weeks, Texas Tech and Kansas State shut down West Virginia's offense and beat the Mountaineers by a combined score of 104-28.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's unit is absolutely awful.

When Brown hired him away from Mississippi State in January 2011, Diaz was supposed to bring a Southeastern Conference-style defense to the Big 12. Well, we're still waiting.

In the past five games, the Longhorns have allowed 31, 36, 48, 63 and 50 points.

Wow.

Somewhere, guys who established this program's tradition are shaking their heads in shame -- and that's why Brown finds himself at a crossroads.

In his 15 seasons at Texas, Brown has been way more than the Longhorns could've imagined when they hired him after 11 seasons of David McWilliams and John Mackovic produced just one 10-win season. Before that came the three mediocre seasons at the end of Fred Akers' tenure. That's a lot of average football for one of college football's great programs.

After the 2010 season, Brown let offensive coordinator Greg Davis resign, and defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the coach-in-waiting at Texas, left to become Florida's head coach.

While it looks like Diaz is destined to get a pink slip after this season, Muschamp has the defensive-minded Gators ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Hmmmm.

Still, the question AD Dodds must answer is whether Brown still has the energy, enthusiasm and swagger to keep the football program relevant nationally.

Perhaps the good life has made Brown lose his edge. Maybe he needs to drive his players and coaches harder? He's only 61, so it's not like Brown is too old, especially, when you consider Nick Saban is the same age.

But these are dangerous times for the Longhorns' football program.

Texas A&M now plays in the SEC, college football's best conference. The Aggies are competing well, and quarterback Johnny Manziel will be a pied piper for recruits the next few years.

Oklahoma can pop in a DVD of the beatdowns it has delivered to Texas the past two seasons and ask any recruit why he'd want to play a school that quits against its rival.

Texas will still get its share of recruits, but now Alabama, LSU, Georgia and others have more incentive than ever to recruit the state even harder than usual.

Brown, who had nine consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins from 2001 to 2009, is having every facet of his program scrutinized for the first time in forever.

If the Longhorns don't win their last five games -- a difficult task given road games at Texas Tech and Kansas State and a home game against TCU -- there's no guarantee Brown will coach a 16th season at Texas.

When asked about the media coverage his Longhorn Network comments got, Brown called it "a huge overreaction." In fact, he went on to say, "If somebody asked me if there's some things we'll work out over time, I would say yes. And I really didn't think that was a bad thing. I thought it was a good thing."

There is only one way Brown can ensure he'll be around to address those "things we'll work out over time."

The Texas Exes are restless. The murmurs grow louder. The alums want victories.

Brown must deliver them.

Or someone else -- Oregon's Chip Kelly comes to mind -- will get a chance to do it.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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