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Mondays In The Humidor With The Big Cigar

This episode of the Humidor happened on a Monday in November. We sat on the information because we’re fans and didn’t want to derail or distract from what has turned out to be a pretty damn productive season coming off of 5-7. Were it not for some injuries and transfers, we’d be looking at 10 wins and an upper tier bowl after an historic failure in 2010. As it stands, eight wins isn’t bad and as a guy with a diploma from The University hanging on my office wall, I’m going to err on the side of the program, but, I’ll post what I’ve heard from my Cohiba Grande—within reason.

JS: So talk about the season so far and compare it with what you told us going into the year?

BC: Everything has come to pass nearly exactly as it was told to me this summer. Ash got his package of plays, the Staff thought 8 wins was the realistic goal, we thought you had better get to us early on defense, and on offense we had to manufacture points until the QB position was solidified. All of that happened right on schedule and would have been exactly right if we don’t lose the 3 playmakers going into Mizzou. In fact, considering the devastating injuries, we were ahead of schedule.

JS: Yep, it’s an entirely different team with a healthy Fozzy, Ship, Bergeron, and Brown. But what about the QB position?

BC: The Gilbert transfer was the one wildcard. I told you Connor would transfer back during the summer. The staff told Brewer that Wood would transfer all the way back in August. But we never thought Gilbert would be out. Harsin really thought he could right that ship and make Gilbert a viable QB but that wasn’t the case. At that point (BYU) it went from bad to worse, having to throw two young QB’s to the wolves before OU.

JS: But without injuries on offense this is a 10 win team. Is that lost on the staff or are they taking the bad luck into account?

BC: I think everyone understands what happened and that’s the reason there isn’t the finger pointing like there was in 2010. The problem is that there isn’t an apparent answer at the QB position. That’s fine if you’re a coach with plenty of time to develop the position, but if you’re Mack Brown it takes a toll.

JS: Everyone wants to win right away, but what kind of toll would it take on Mack Brown? You said yourself that 8 wins was the bar for this season.

BC: Mack tends to set his time table on the QB position and that’s probably a function of his offensive roots. He did it with Vince going into 2005 and he did it with Colt when the plan was to ride off into sunset in 2009. At this point the QB position is a huge dark cloud and it’s compounded Mack’s anxiety in terms of rebuilding this program.

JS: Rebuilding implies multiple years so why is this an added burden on Mack?

BC: Mack hangs his hat on the QB position. Think about 2010, he had to fire friends, he was forced to go out and remake the Staff at the behest of suite owners and big money donors, and he was given an ultimatum when he was thought to be untouchable. Add in the fact that he’s being pressured by new responsibilities with the LHN and realignment scenarios and you can see he’s in a pressure cooker.

JS: And he doesn’t have a QB or see a QB in the foreseeable future to keep him warm at night. Gotcha.

BC: Exactly, he’s going to have to grind to rebuild this thing without a QB and when you’re 60 and feel like you’re 70 that’s got to weigh on your mind especially when you’re an offensive guy at heart.

JS: But that’s his own fault I would think. He could have had RGIII, Andrew Luck, or Darron Thomas but went all in with Gilbert. After the transfer it’s like Pit Bull unable to have a real good time.

BC: What?

JS: Nothing. What do the misses at the QB position and the rebuilding effort mean?

BC: Privately Mack has told people that he’s exhausted and doesn’t feel like he has the energy to right the ship sometimes. He’s shared exactly that with a couple of high level contributors and a former assistant that does broadcasting. People inside the program have verified that Mack works in fits and starts for the most part this season. He has his good weeks where he’s ultra engaged and then other weeks he’s more hands off and withdrawn. The losses vs. OU and OSU were really bad in terms of being distant and withdrawn, but then he had the rug pulled out from under vs. Mizzou and KSU after rolling KU and Tech. The valleys are too low and the mountains are too high it seems.

(Editor’s note: the biggest cigar did not have a significant update after the historic Aggie win but we soldier on.)

JS: So you think Mack is too tired to keep on keeping on in this rebuilding effort?

BC: I do, and I’ll do it one better. The powers that be, Bill Powers, Deloss, IMG, and some influential boosters have asked that they sit down with Mack at the end of the season and talk about an ETA on winning big again and then an exit strategy. They’re going to ask when Mack will win again and then ask about a time horizon. If we want the LHN to take hold which will lead to a favorable realignment scenario the program has to get back to the big stage.

JS: And what is your prediction in terms of answers?

BC: Based on what I’ve heard, Mack will probably tell the Powers-that-be the truth, which is that he’s tired and he doesn’t have a near term solution at QB. But my guess is that he’s torn between the three year pact he made with the young coaching pups and his own dwindling energy level. In fact, I think if he loses one of Harsin or Diaz this season, he’s gone because he doesn’t want to go through this again. If not, I see him staying through 2012 to see what that season will yield in terms of a glimpse at the future—if he can find the energy.

JS: So does he or the University have an exit strategy or a contingency plan?

BC: Yes, Petersen wants the job and has been told he’s the lead candidate. It was never Meyer or Saban or Patterson. The plan was Petersen was the hand-picked guy if Mack stepped down, and then they’d money-whip a defensive guru to protect his blind spot. Is that Diaz? You tell me. But it’s always been Petersen.

JS: So if Diaz leaves or even if it looks like Petersen will take the job at UCLA, what then?

BC: You’re seeing it now in terms of back channels. Diaz leaving speeds up Mack’s time table. Petersen entertaining other offers speeds up the AD’s time table. Both factors being set into motion speeds up everyone’s time table. I’m not saying Mack leaves this season, but pay close attention to Diaz, Petersen, and to a lesser extent Harsin. If any of those parties seems like they’re bolting, then turn your eye toward Mack. He doesn’t want to do 2010 all over—especially without a QB.

JS: We’ll keep an eye out. Thanks.