Man what an amazing weekend for sports. So much to get to…
We start with Charlie Strong, who reportedly will be fired by the Texas Longhorns. The reality is he should be gone after losing to Kansas. It’s a shame. Strong is a solid coach, a good person and has cleaned up a program that had fallen into disarray. But it did not translate on the field, and even though Texas might be a little overvalued as a program, 5-6 win seasons should never happen, especially in a watered down Big 12 that is essentially designed to make UT successful.
But finding a coach who can thrive in that environment is not easy. Strong had all the credentials. He had been a big time coordinator at Florida. He built Louisville up to the point where he went 23-3 over his last two seasons. But college football is as much about fit as anything. Very few coaches can win anywhere. At Texas, there is enormous pressure, because there are big money backers who feel like they are part-owners of a franchise. They are at every school, but at Texas they have a voice that is louder than most places. Dealing with them and trying to put a winning product on the field is not something everyone can do. For all the advantages Texas has, the job itself is not easy.
Let’s go back 30 years. 1986 was the last season of the Fred Akers era, when he went 5-6. Over the next 11 years of David McWilliams and John Mackovic, the Horns won 10 or more games in a season only two times. It would be three more years under Mack Brown (all nine-win seasons) before they did it again. And when they did, Brown’s teams did it nine times in a row. But as often happens, things began to fade under Brown, and the last 10-plus win season came in 2009. The point of all this is Mack Brown was a perfect fit at Texas. What he accomplished there was insane. And it has created a bar that might never be reached, unless the Horns can convince Nick Saban to leave Alabama this time. Brown also had the advantage of playing in a much more powerful conference.
None of this excuses Strong. By now his program should have advanced enough to win eight games. But the glory years under Brown also came with a strong Athletic Director in DeLoss Dodds. It might not be quite the job it once was, and no one may ever touch what Brown did. Still, in a worst-case scenario, Texas should never be worse than 8-4, and every
three to four years make a playoff run. That’s a more than reasonable goal. Essentially be where Oklahoma is now. And the big question is who is the right coach for that? The hot name will be Tom Herman, of course. And his resume looks a lot like Strong’s did coming in, including a 22-3 record in the last two years. I believe he is the kind of coach who can win anywhere, but watching his team in the games between the Navy loss and the Louisville win should bring questions as to whether or not he is ready to take the next step. In a perfect world you would have gotten one more year in to make that determination. But with A&M possibly also considering a move, the Horns might have no choice.
As Strong just proved, Texas can not be a learning job. It has to be a place where you are polished and ready. And you can win. And handle all the off-field distractions. A lot of big names have tried it and failed, and now the shadow of Brown’s run looms large, as Darrell Royal’s did for many years as well. In truth, Texas was lucky to get Brown. Now it needs to get lucky again and make the right call.
Clearly Strong was not it.
Primetime Texans: The Texans travel to Mexico City to take on the Raiders tonight. (Here are five things to watch for from the Battle Red Blog). The Texans have been awful in primetime under Bill O’Brien, and this is a much-improved
Raiders team. But if the Texans fancy themselves as anything more than first-round fodder (if that), this is a game they should win. I would just like to see them be competitive, and like everyone else would love to see a big game from Brock Osweiler.
NFL recap: Interesting day in the league yesterday, but probably nothing more interesting than the Dallas Cowboys getting to 9-1 with yet another strong effort from Dak Prescott. Defensively the Cowboys are not anything special, but they are good enough, especially with an offense that can chew up clock with the game on the line. It would not be a stretch to call this the best team in football right now. They need to keep it up, however, as the Giants are just two games back and have reeled off five in a row. For a fun look at all the games check out our friends at holly.football.
College football recap: Not much of significance happened over the weekend as the season winds down. Ohio State survived a major scare against Michigan State, and Oklahoma destroyed West Virginia, but there was no earth-shattering kaboom to match what happened to Louisville on Thursday night. The other major contenders remain in the hunt and things will play out this week with bedlam and Ohio-State Michigan.
Gambling recap: Had an absolute blast at Delta Downs on Saturday for Jackpot Day. The
betting did not go well, but it was still a good time. We were desperately close to a couple nice scores but came up just short. The good news is a 9-3 overall week on football bailed us out. We went 2-0 on the NFL Sunday and missed the Edmonton CFL game, but even that one I don’t feel too bad about because it was played in a ridiculous snowstorm that had a serious impact on play. This has been a really good year overall, and hopefully there have been some teaching lessons along the way. After a fast start and a 9-0 run, we had a bad lull for about three weeks, and then it turned around again. It is a week to week evaluation process, and I hope that we learn each week from both the successes and the failures.
Yes, a Canadian football item that pertains to Houston: Calgary is having a near-record year and will face Ottawa in the Grey Cup next week. The Stamps went 15-2-1 in the regular season — a win short of Edmonton’s record 16-2 mark — and will likely roll to the title. The Stamps have a Houston angle, too, in that they are quarterbacked for former Katy star Bo Levi Mitchell. Mitchell has done Warren Moon and Doug Flutie-type things in the CFL and is about to lead his team two a second title in three years. He went 15-1-1 as a starter this year. This is a guy who someone in the NFL should take a look at. He is under contract through 2018 but those things can always be worked out.
Ready for a rematch: The Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev fight was everything we could have asked for and more. While I had Kovalev winning the fight, there were a lot of 50-50 rounds that could have gone either way so I was not surprised by the decision. I was surprised all three judges saw it the same way. The one thing that stood out to me was Ward landed some serious shots and never hurt Kovalev. The same can’t be said for the other way around. Regardless, I will gladly shell out another $70 for the rematch.
Waste of bacon: Yes, it’s Florida. Nothing like having traffic stopped for pig remains.
A new way to pick up women? Just send a beer to your sunbathing neighbor next door by using a drone, and you are in.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I used to think it was only me. Then I talked to Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden at one point and they said, ‘Oh we’ve been beaten up our whole lives. Understand it’s not you, big boy. You’re nothing special. It’s part of this deal and part of this job.”
— Mack Brown