- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas – Ask Mack Brown any questions you want about his job status, his bosses, the hot seat, the pressure, the disappointment. You’ll get the same answer.
“The only thing that’s important is to beat Kansas State,” Brown said Monday.
The rest, he says, is unimportant. Outside of his control. He’s been doing this job long enough to know that there’s really only one remedy in times like these.
“There have been rumors here for 16 years. By the hour,” Brown said. “You stop the rumors by winning.”
This is how he started his tenure at Texas, too. The Longhorns began the 1998 season 1-2. Back then, a buddy told Brown he’d need to be cremated, because he’d be hard-pressed to find enough friends to serve as pallbearers. Two losses can quickly make a man unpopular in this state.
To his credit, Brown is not making any excuses. He’s not backing down from his expectations. He fully understands why fans are frustrated.
Texas has been ravaged by injuries to the point that athletic director DeLoss Dodds has called the problem a “perfect storm.” Its offense could be missing as many as six starters on Saturday against Kansas State. Doesn’t matter. Brown wants to see his players grow up, overcome this and move forward.
He was booed last Saturday during the Ole Miss game by Texas fans simply because he appeared in a commercial on the video screen. Doesn’t matter that the ad was for a good, charitable cause. On that topic, Brown is trying to thick-skinned.
“What I want to ask our fans to do is pull for the players,” he said. “They don’t have to like me. I’m not very happy with me either right now. I might boo me. But be for the players and the team.”
The Longhorn players are still for their head coach. The team’s veterans haven’t lost faith in his ability to lead them. If anything, they feel responsible for these rough few weeks and say Brown doing his best to brave them.
“He’s the head coach; he knows best,” defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. “He makes sure we keep our minds right, stay positive, don’t get down on ourselves. That’s what happens to teams that believe, 'Shoot, we can go undefeated.' Things don’t always go the right way.
“When you hit adversity, a head coach like him does a good job of keeping us from getting down on ourselves.”
Added safety Adrian Phillips: “He’s handling it like a head coach should.”
Brown says he isn’t reading the newspaper, listening to sports radio or checking message boards. He’d been down this road before and knows it does him no good to monitor what’s being said. All that matters is fixing this team.
His talk of competing for a Big 12 championship isn’t bluster, either. Brown isn’t suddenly raising the stakes. He has been talking about that goal with his players since January, and the Longhorns aren’t abandoning their mentality that they go into every game expecting to win.
“From video, it looks like the Big 12 is wide open,” Brown said. “Why shouldn’t we have a chance?”
His press conference on Monday was not a somber affair. Brown is keeping upbeat as best he can. He’s not giving up and doesn’t much care if people believe his days at Texas are numbered.
These days, the only numbers that matter to him are in the win column.
“A lot of football left. It's early,” Brown said. “I'm disappointed. I'm not getting down on these players and coaches. I believe in both of them. They're going to fight and pull us out of this thing.”