Brown's gamble means Texas must win now

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
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Mack BrownCal Sport Media via AP ImagesMack Brown knows his job is safe for now. He also knows the only way to keep it safe is to win.

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Mack Brown era will not end this weekend.

Know that and remember that before we dive into this bottomless pit of a topic. Brown has built up too much cachet among his bosses and boosters to be forced out that swiftly, and he knows it. And he hasn’t given up.

“I’m loving coaching,” Brown said Wednesday. “I’m passionate about getting us back where we want to be. We had a step back last Saturday, and I’m going to work my tail off to make sure I get us fixed. I see a lot of good things moving forward.”

And he seems to feels good about where he stands with the men in charge of his fate, athletic director DeLoss Dodds and UT president Bill Powers.

[+] EnlargeManny Diaz
Cooper Neill/Getty ImagesMaking Manny Diaz the fall guy puts the pressure for turning things around squarely on Mack Brown.
“I’ve got the two best bosses in the world. They get it. They understand. I have great conversations with them. They put me in a position to run it, they want me to do it, and I’m responsible for it. That’s what I’ve got to do. DeLoss has been around a long time. I don’t have knee-jerk bosses. They get it.”

As long as his Longhorns can avoid embarrassments like the one at BYU, Brown can control his destiny. If Texas wins, he can still end his tenure on his time and terms.

But the fact this is even a discussion is indicative of a climate that became far more uncertain the minute Taysom Hill started dashing for easy scores in Provo.

Brown’s answer for last week’s 40-21 loss was to fire defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and promote Greg Robinson. He made this surprising but justified decision entirely on his own. In doing so, he accepted ultimate responsibility for whatever comes next. Mack Brown has doubled down.

Brown set the bar high this summer, talking up a Texas program that he was sure was ready to contend again. He raised the stakes, and now his team must play up to them.

On paper, the schedule ahead seemed downright favorable back in the summer. But lose to Ole Miss, and suddenly it’s littered with mines. Kansas State can beat Texas; they’ve done so five straight times. Iowa State would love nothing more than to humiliate Texas in its home stadium on a Thursday night. And then there’s Oklahoma. Lose badly to Oklahoma again, and it’s pretty much over.

Texas can start this season 5-1 or 2-4. Something in between seems much more likely. The team that shows up Saturday against Ole Miss should tell us an awful lot about where this program is heading.

What a bizarre scenario this is, too. Texas faces a must-win game with a new defensive coordinator, without its top playmaker (Daje Johnson) and possibly without quarterback David Ash.

Brown’s staff has assembled a roster that’s far more talented than it appeared last Saturday. Their players are tougher and smarter than whatever they were in Provo. And now it’s Brown’s job to help get them fixed.

“You totally go back to work,” Brown said. “This isn’t the first time I’ve heard things said about me. It won’t be the last. The only way you can change the way things are outside is win. My total thought has been on beating Ole Miss.”

His track record of coming back from losses is a solid one, though not in recent years. Entering the 2010 season, Texas was 18-5 in the games after losses since Brown took over. Since 2010, the Longhorns have responded to losses by going 7-9.

He won big at No. 5 Nebraska in 2010, No. 6 Texas A&M in 1998 and in tough bowl matchups when coming back from losses. He also has endured enough losing to know backlash is coming his way anytime Texas doesn’t win.

“I learned that 16 years ago,” he said. “I didn’t have to be told this week that people would be upset.”

Bringing in Robinson to clean up the defense could be a masterful move, one that saves his job and sends Texas careening back on the path toward a conference title. If the move fails, Brown will be fully responsible.

If he beats Ole Miss, he’ll shut up the critics for one more week. If he can’t beat a team that Texas trounced 66-31 a year ago, the heat turns up.

This all can play out in so many wild ways. Mack Brown can still have the storybook comeback he’s dreamed up and make Texas a title contender again. He can win this gamble in the end.

Right now, though, the only thing Brown can control and worry about is winning.

Max Olson | email

Big 12 reporter

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