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The complicated case of Mack Brown’s legacy

Mack Brown AP

For as much success Mack Brown led Texas football to during his tenure in Austin, the signs of decline were inevitably too obvious to overlook. As college football continues to evolve into a new era, Texas has a football program that has been falling behind in the Big 12, let alone as a national power. Brown may have won plenty of games, but if Texas was to awake from a slumber, a change was in dire need.

On Saturday evening Brown officially announced his resignation from the program. It was a change many saw coming from miles away back in September, if not before then, but seemed to be put on pause following news Friday night coming out of the banquet that Brown would remain the head coach. Alabama signing Nick Saban to a contract extension added a plot twist to the theme of the week sending the top coach in college football to Austin to lead Texas back to the top. But less than 24 hours later, the tune has changed, and Texas is now back in the hunt for a coach to replace Brown.

Whoever it is that steps in to the role of head coach at Texas will have some big shoes to fill. While the end of the Mack Brown Era in Austin comes on a sour note, missing out on a top 25 ranking to end the season three out of the last four years, Brown did plenty of solid work to get Texas to be a program that sees eight and nine-win seasons as “not good enough.”

From 1980 through 1996, Texas had just four seasons with 10 or more wins. Brown may have taken over at a time when schedules were expanding, but Brown was quick to raise the bar after coming over from North Carolina. In each of Brown’s first three seasons Texas ended the season with nine wins. The bar was not quite set, but the tone was established. Texas was going to be a dominant force in college football.

Six Big 12 South titles, but just two Big 12 titles would come for Brown and Texas. Nine straight seasons with at least 10 wins would follow, with six Big 12 South titles and a pair of conference championships to show for it. Each time Brown led Texas to the Big 12 championship it received a shot at a BCS title. Texas won one of them, with Vince Young helping Brown capture a BCS Championship against USC in one of the best games of the BCS Era.

The 2005 season would end up being the high point of Brown’s coaching career. He would get another crack at it all a few years later, but Alabama was emerging as the true national power in college football under Nick Saban and an injury to Colt McCoy early on would prove to be too much to overcome against a rising Tide.

Much of the success in Brown’s Texas career can be linked to his BCS Championship Game quarterbacks, Young and McCoy. Some might suggest Brown was only as successful as he was because of those two players. That is somewhat silly to honestly consider, but it may not be a coincidence that the most successful stretch of Texas football came with those two under center. There was always much more to those Texas teams, but Young and McCoy were nice luxuries to have on the roster. As it would end up becoming a joke to some, it was Brown’s misses on certain quarterbacks that suggested Brown was no longer on top of his recruiting game.

Robert Griffin III went to Baylor instead of Texas. Johnny Manziel ended up at Texas A&M. Jameis Winston wound up at Florida State. All three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks went somewhere other than Texas, but they also did not end up at abut 120 other schools as well, so the idea that Brown whiffed on these three sometimes gets exaggerated.

Some may say the game passed Brown by or he lost the ability to coach in today’s game. In part that may be true. Texas began to have a defense that some teams could expose. The offense lacked enough playmakers and physicality to compete with the top programs. Few programs put that on display the way Oklahoma did in more recent years.

It is not going to take too much for the right coach to turn things around at Texas. The resources are there. The recruiting soil is fertile. Texas can, and should, be a major player in college football’s hierarchy. Brown was no longer the guy to lead Texas in to the College Football Playoff Era. A new leader was needed to make an impact now. But the reason the expectations should be so high in Texas is because Brown raised the bar.

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20 Responses to “The complicated case of Mack Brown’s legacy”
  1. rabbi187 says: Dec 14, 2013 8:10 PM

    As a Longhorn fan, I’m totally ashamed of Texas, the media, and the way this entire situation played out. Mack Brown is one of the few genuine coaches, is the epitome of class, and I wish him the best.

  2. mrlaloosh says: Dec 14, 2013 8:18 PM

    I remember Mack at Tulane. He preformed miracles. There has never been a classier gentleman in College football than Mack Brown. God speed, coach. Enjoy your retirement.

  3. eidolon21 says: Dec 14, 2013 8:19 PM

    Urban flew to Texas Friday afternoon

  4. suprmous says: Dec 14, 2013 8:22 PM

    Truly a class act and as I said previously, this’ goin to be one longggggggg Texas Style soap opera. Lots of luck to Coach Brown in whatever he chooses to do.

  5. 13datsyuk13 says: Dec 14, 2013 8:27 PM

    Dear Mack,
    Thank you for everything. Texas was reminded what winning was under your leadership. I can’t think of a coach who I have loved more over the last 16 years. Every day I go to work with the mindset of “how can I make this place better?”. I know you pushed your program in that same direction. I remember all the high points, VY in the Rose Bowls and they were amazing. I remember the low points, Michael Crabtree stomping on our title hopes. The low points were only bad because of the success you brought. It’s hard to imagine it ending now but I will be that much more excited for the Alamo Bowl. Good luck Coach, Texas is a better place because of you.

  6. teambringitstrong says: Dec 14, 2013 8:27 PM

    rabbi187 says: Dec 14, 2013 8:10 PM

    As a Longhorn fan, I’m totally ashamed of Texas, the media, and the way this entire situation played out. Mack Brown is one of the few genuine coaches, is the epitome of class, and I wish him the best.
    I’m sick of these arm chair AD’s, arm chair all Americans, etc sounding off on who can play/coach/manage.
    The only thing I didn’t like about Brown was in 2004 with his shameless campaigning for UT in the Rose Bowl over Cal but that’s his cause to put his team first.
    Just remember, UT; you ran off Freddy Akers and suffered for a few years because of it. When you’re competing for National Titles, CFB is a better sport; but don’t lose site of the fact that you’re not the end all in college football.
    While UT had ‘only four’ ten win season from 1980-1996 Akers teams suffered an injury riddled team in 1980 and of course, a few of those losses in subsequent years came at the hands of the Pony Exce$$.
    All I’m saying is, you’ve run him off now you’ve got to hit a home run with his successor.
    rabbi187- You are a true fan and gentleman.

  7. thefiesty1 says: Dec 14, 2013 8:28 PM

    Mack has been a great coach, but trust me, he’s not retiring. As AD Peterson said last night “I’m looking forward to working with Mack for a long time”. He will as special assistant to the university president. He’s not leaving Austin. and he will be very involved in who replaces him as head coach. This just took a few days to get the details worked out on his future and legacy at Texas.

  8. cometkazie says: Dec 14, 2013 8:33 PM

    Mack was QB coach at LSU a long time ago.

    The guy got around.

    Best wishes.

  9. polegojim says: Dec 14, 2013 8:50 PM

    Mack did GREAT things… nothing will change that.

    But there comes a time for EVERYONE… when it’s time to move on and let the program do the same.

    New head coach and staff… reset and reload.

    See Mike Shanahan, Broncos and now RedSkins

  10. Marcus says: Dec 14, 2013 8:54 PM

    Should read “for as much success as Mack Brown led Texas TO”

  11. metalhead65 says: Dec 14, 2013 9:04 PM

    wow I wish I could be upset with my coach winning 8-9 games a year. as a fan of IU let’s just say if Wilson ever gets them that many wins in a season he would never ever have to worry about being fired or forced to retire. I hope the next coach fails miserably and the idea winning 8-9 games would be a great achievement for them.

  12. dolphins4 says: Dec 14, 2013 9:07 PM

    Mack Brown is a great coach and I hope he get’s a great head coaching job somewhere else if he still wants to coach.Texas ought to hire someone like Jason Garrett as head coach.

  13. tulsacyfan says: Dec 14, 2013 9:53 PM

    If the Big 12 replay official had the guts to make the correct call during the Iowa State vs. Texas game, we could have gotten all of this over a whole lot quicker.

  14. manik56 says: Dec 14, 2013 10:04 PM

    If a tiebreaker goes his way and an injury doesn’t happen, he could have three NC’s. Hellova run.

  15. md4beck says: Dec 14, 2013 10:42 PM

    The problem isn’t that Winston went to FSU instead of UT. It’s that no from Coach Browns staff picked up a phone and returned the calls for Winston’s High School Coach. He wanted to go to UT.

  16. alligatorsnapper says: Dec 14, 2013 11:58 PM

    And another problem is that Coach Brown put his arm around the shoulder of Johnny Manziel in the Texas High School championship game and told him he was the best player out there, and yet did not offer him a scholarship as a QB. Johnny wanted to go to UT. He had that dream all his life to that point. But Brown blew it.

    One would think with the best high school football teams and players in the nation in Texas, that Brown would be able to do more with the talent that he gets. The QBs he has chosen are not the caliber of those he rejected or ignored.

  17. raysfan1 says: Dec 15, 2013 1:37 AM

    List of coaches to win 77% of their games at Texas in the last 90 years: Darrel Royal, Mack Brown.
    1997 Longhorns’ record under John Mackovic, the year before Browns first season there: 4-7.

  18. v2the4 says: Dec 15, 2013 4:29 AM


    Brown has had good qb’s at Texas…everyone knows Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Major Applewhite and Chris Sims, but Mack also had Chance Mock, Jevan Sneed, John Chiles, Garrett Gilbert, Connor Wood, Connor Brewer, and Tyrone Swoopes,

    all of those QB’s, except Applewhite, were all five star recruits according to major services…..some of them came together, like McCoy and Sneed(Sneed transferred to Ole Miss), Wood and Brewer (who both transferred to Colorado and Arizona respectfully.)

    when people say that Mack Brown missed out on Andrew Luck, RGII and Johnny Manzeil, UT had good qb’s on campus or coming..with Luck, he was a Stanford commit before his junior year of high school and turned down everyone else because of his relationship with Jim Harbaugh.

    RGIII was offered a ‘ship to Texas, but was asked to play WR or DB because UT was bringing in Garrett Gilbert, who they thought was a better pocket passer. Gilbert was the #1 recruit in the 2008 class and had offers from everyone in the country…his career at UT suffered mainly because Brown and Greg Davis went from the spread to a power running game in 2010, when this kid was a spread specialist his entire high school career and won two state titles. Gilbert transferred to SMU after the 2011 season.

    Manzel was also offered to play DB, and thats because then offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin fell in love with David Ash, and Ash was a 6’4″ qb and manzel was 6 ft even. Ash has had an injury riddled career. Harsin left UT to go to Arkansas State and was just named as the Boise St head coach.

    Andrew Luck was a two time heisman finalist and was the top pick in the 2012 nfl draft. RG III was the #2 pick that year, along with Johnny Manzell went on to have record breaking college careers and each won the Heisman trophy….as spread qb’s..the same system UT got rid of in their 5-7 2010 season.

    I think thats the root of the qb problems the last four years….

  19. buryyourduke says: Dec 15, 2013 7:31 AM

    I’m tired of this revisionist history. Texas was never going to beat Alabama in that game. They didn’t lose because Colt McCoy got hurt. Colt didn’t want to go back in that game. He knew what he was up against.

  20. doggeatdogg says: Dec 15, 2013 10:17 AM

    Great accolades for Brown and that’s fine. But the fact that the man deliberately waited for Saban to commit to Alabama tells me he wanted to stick it to UT and the powers that be that wanted a change.

    Times have changed and I don’t know if the game has gone by him being that he missed out on some recruits that became great elsewhere, but that tells me he was thinking more about his own pride than UT.

    They are done with mediocre at UT, so in the end, I think they told him, OK, we were too giddy on Saban, you played us, you won, but you are still out, step down on you terms anyway. Of course they won’t humiliate their longstanding coach in public.

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