John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
Reflections on what it means being a Texas Longhorn and preparing for Texas Tech.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for me. I've traveled quite a bit to visit family, friends and colleagues in other cities. Between Austin, Abilene, Dallas, and New York I've been asked the same question about our guys. "As a former player, who or what do YOU think the problem is this year?" With just a moment's thought I usually keep my response simple and try not to speak in too detailed a way about things I haven't had the time to fairly analyze. But everyone I've come across assumes, and justifiably so, that I have an opinion. Now, having a moment to do so, I'll share my thoughts on everything that comes to mind with our program.
Hey, guess what? We're 6-2. As a coach or player, that's what you hang your hat on. Don't get me wrong... The team is well aware of the areas in which it has lacked this entire season. But as crazy as it sounds, they go back each week and watch film, practice, and go into the following week believing they have the plan to come away with a victory.
My best friend played for the Rice Owls and was convinced EVERY year we played them that they had the perfect plan to beat us. While I do not think we're at that level in comparison to our opponents at this point, when you hear coaches and players speak as if they're preparing to dominate each week irrespective of the previous weeks' performances, they do truly believe it.
We'd all agree the record doesn't remotely show how bad we've looked across the board. But if we look like shit the next four games and win them all, the players and coaches will politely tell all critics to go fu... *ahem* screw themselves. If I were in their shoes, I'd feel the same way. I'll be the first to admit the chance of that is far-fetched. In contrast, the players and coaches feel as though they can finish the season with four wins. Well, at least that's what they say in public.
This season is setting up for an interesting end to say the least. The last game of the season is on the road against what I'd argue is one of our biggest nemeses. Can you imagine the crescendo of chaos that will lead into Manhattan if we don't pull things together in these next three games? Shit could get ugly. I'm truly hoping it doesn't because these guys, regardless of what they haven't done well this year, should do their best to enjoy everything up through the bowl game. They only get four years to do this and shouldn't feel like one went to waste. But, sometimes that's the nature of the Texas universe.
Sorry guys. My thoughts here will have the least to do with football. Beyond any football game, season, scrutiny, highs and lows, I'm more concerned with his overall happiness and fulfillment than anything else. I know he's a competitor and is truly doing everything he can to fix our issues. But, when I look at him today all I want is for Coach Brown to be happy.
We lost a total of seven games from 2004 to 2007. On seldom occasions did I see Coach Brown look flustered, fatigued or burdened. In the last few years, I've simply looked at him and wanted him to love what he's doing and be happy each and every day. Everyone clearly has their opinions on what he should do at the end of this year and beyond. I'm forever grateful for my opportunity to wear burnt orange and represent our university. I experienced many more highs than lows while at Texas and Coach Brown was at the forefront of making that happen.
Coach Brown's innermost desire when it comes to his players is to see them go on and be great citizens, fathers, and contributors to society. There's nothing more he likes than to see us moving along happily and successfully. I can't help but want the same for him and simply hope he finds that balance soon whether he decides to continue coaching this team or not.
I hardly know any of these guys so I'm going to talk shit here! Ok, I'm kidding. But seriously, the coaches need to look in the mirror and sort through these problems whether they are with the team at the end of the season or not. Staying with the staff or moving on to find another job will require them to do so.
Offensively, I just don't get it. I read a comment about Jason Garret last week that reminded me of what I see when the offense is being called: "Sometimes he gets too caught up in being a guru, instead of just running what works." It's great to run some plays to set up others. But there are times where I feel like we get stubborn and force a game plan without making adjustments. For example, every team knows out favorite run play is the Power-O. I feel that we only have one back, Malcolm Brown, who has consistently shown the skillset and vision to run the play appropriately. And... he's hurt and has been hurt for a while. So let's mix it up a bit. I could go on here but I'm ready to jump to what's really ticked me off this year.
Defensively, I just want a base defense where guys can line up and simply go play football. In the spring of 2005, there was one defense, "Stack 4-check," in which Coach Chizik taught us how to cover every possible offensive formation. Whether we were screwing up his exotic defensive calls or he simply got tired of playing the guessing game when calling blitzes, he would just call "Stack 4-check." He knew that was the defense in which we were all comfortable and could play fast. We were the most sound in our run gap responsibilities and solid in coverage match ups. It was the first defense he taught us and he intentionally designed it for us to have as a safety net.
With that being said, I have yet to feel that way about the defense we've seen this season. I remember there being a few series against Ole Miss where they came out in the 20 personnel for multiple plays back to back. Pre-snap, our guys were scrambling all over the place to get aligned for multiple plays in a row. I simply did not understand how that was even possible. Which is why I found myself screaming "Stack 4-check!" at the TV. I have no solutions for this group and coordinator at this point. More accurately, I just have too many to list. But, maybe they'll shock us going into these last four games. Or else, right?
I'm probably harder on players, than anyone associated with the program. There are a ton of life lessons to be learned as the guys go through the brutal scrutiny of being 6-2 at Texas and not winning in a pretty fashion. Amongst players, I'm certain there are guys who are simply satisfied with the end product while there are others who want to perfect the process by which they achieve results. These two ways of interpreting results can send you down two different paths in sports and in life.
If the fundamentals by which you achieve your goals in aren't sound, it's just a matter of time before you get your ass exposed. Between listening to the media and catching things here and there on Twitter, I simply hope the players don't exhale after winning close ugly games. They must be harder critics on themselves than anyone else if they want to achieve the goals for which they've signed up.
I'm honestly not yet certain where these guys are on that spectrum. Regardless of the schemes and fallacies thereof, your job is to beat the man in front of you as many plays as possible. If you are not doing that, YOU must take the time and ownership of your responsibilities to get the problem solved. People who have a true desire to be great at what they do take full responsibility for the product on the field. It's a simple formula but you must want it enough to be consistent: show up every day, dig deep, challenge yourself, and do what you need to do to be prepared and focused.
I'm not a fan of Aggie logic but I hear the same question from them every day: "How does Texas have one of the top recruiting classes year after year but can't consistently win games?" I've come up with all types of excuses but have finally simplified it. Coming to Texas is about more than showing up and wearing the uniform. Some players realize the journey has just begun while others see it as a destination. I was fortunate to play with a ton of talented players who had chips on their shoulders and worked their asses off to make a point each and every week. We didn't want to be another group of overrated, under-achieving teams. Impostors. Every day we prepared with that in mind. Simply playing at Texas wasn't enough for us.
There's still time for these guys to find their chip but, not much as much as they'd like. Even still, I'm not sure it's enough to finish the way we'd all hope.
Why am I even talking about this? Because it's here and not going anywhere. I hope there's no mention of it again this year. Whether it's a distraction or not, no one cares. They want results.
On a much lighter note, I will say I've enjoyed our watching our women's volleyball team. They have definitely performed to our standards.
I love our fan base. Not only for the support they've shown throughout the years I've played and beyond, but for being consistent. No matter what any player or staff member says, we know what the rumblings are amongst the fan base. Our fans do the best job in America (I sound like Mack, right?) at helping us remember what our standards are. While I can't say everyone accurately assesses what the best solutions may be, we were always aware of the problems as players and never escaped having to be accountable. If you're full of shit, fans know it.
Thank you for that. Our supporters are the only constant factor influencing our program while players, coaches, staff, etc. roll through. No matter how unreasonable or outlandish expectations are, our fans are the only constant reminder of what the team's legacy should be: Win big or die trying.
I'll be the first to say I'm terrified this week. Amongst the list of teams who treats the games against Texas like the national championship, Tech is at the top, especially in Lubbock. Everyone knows how scary Lubbock is. They want our heads and will come into the game even more fired up knowing we aren't as sharp as we should be. So I expect their all.
After burning myself going into each game this year assessing the same issues and searching for solutions, I'll wrap this up quickly.
My basketball coach in high school told us that every individual is either the problem or the solution. You are always one or the other and can't be both. Going into this week and beyond, that's what each and every person contributing to what happens on the field needs to define for themselves. I think enough has been shaken up this year where change is inevitable. But, nobody knows exactly whose head will be rolling. The clock is ticking on various bombs that I anticipate will be dropped at the season's end. While I'm sure every ounce of whatever obscure cancer is plaguing this team will be addressed, everyone better find a way to be a solution each game to finish the year. If you risk finishing the season as a problem, you may find yourself amid the ruins.
Just like any other week, I can't wait to see our guys play tomorrow.