Why understated Texas coach Mack Brown is the best in the land
Mack Brown might not have the 'credit rating' but he's a winner
Brown has helped bring the Longhorns back to the elite
Texas is No. 1 and has the leading Heisman contender in QB Colt McCoy
For a couple of years now, I have been playing around with the idea of a sports credit rating system. It seems that certain players, managers and coaches have a knack for getting credit. And certain players, managers and coaches do not.
Quarterback John Elway, for instance, had a very high credit rating. I don't just say this as a bitter guy* who grew up in Cleveland and watched Elway break my heart time after time after time after time after time ... oh, sorry, where was I? No, it's more than that. I remember a playoff game against the Browns in 1988: Elway dropped back, ran into his own guy, stumbled, almost fell down, and in desperation flipped a very short pass that anyone with an actual arm could have thrown to receiver Mark Jackson. At that point Jackson proceeded to break about 248 tackles on his way to an 80-yard touchdown run.
This led the announcers to scream something like -- and I'm paraphrasing: "There's some more of that John Elway magic! He's the greatest! What a player! I'm going to name my kids after him! Why can't everyone in the world be more like John Elway?"
*In the interest of full disclosure, I did once write a country song about Elway's famous and multiple fourth-quarter comebacks called If He's So Great, Why's His Team Always Behind. So it is possible I'm not the world's most neutral source on the guy.
Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis has had as many books written about him (two, if you count his autobiography) as wins over Top 25 teams the last three years. That gives him a high credit rating. Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is pretty famous for his high credit rating. He has won three Gold Gloves even though he goes left about as well as the National Review. The words "Past a diving Jeter," are a staple of every New York Yankees broadcast.*
*"Past a diving Jeter," jokes are pretty prominent on the Internet these days, and one frequent commenter on the outstanding "Baseball Think Factory" blog calls himself "Pasta-Diving Jeter," which is brilliant. I keep waiting to see Pasta Diving Jeter on a menu. I see it as a spaghetti dish, chicken, garlic, onions, maybe a red sauce. We should get Mario Batali or Emeril or Giada or someone working on this. And yes, I watch cooking shows. What of it?
The ability to effortlessly accumulate credit is a talent -- like charisma, charm and always being lucky. Some just have it. Some don't. Texas football coach Mack Brown does not. Brown must have the lowest sports credit rating in America these days.
I say this because, be honest now, if asked to name the best college football coach going, would you even think of Mack Brown? Probably not, right? You may think of Bob Stoops's football gruffness or Pete Carroll's laid-back Southern California ways or Nick Saban's executive experience or Jim Tressel's sweater vest or Les Miles's white hat or whatever.
But here's the thing: Mack Brown IS the best college football coach in America. I'm not offering this up as an opinion. I don't even see how anyone else has a case. I mean, let's break this down here. What do you want a college football coach to do? I can think of six main things:
Brown has won more games this decade than any coach in the country. He is the only coach in America to win at least nine games every season for the last dozen years.
2. Win the big games.
Brown was the winning coach in the 2006 Rose Bowl -- USC vs. Texas -- perhaps the greatest college football game ever played. His Longhorns have beaten Stoops and Oklahoma three of the last four years. In the Longhorns last 25 games against Top 25 opponents, they are 21-4.
3. Go to bowl games and win them.
Brown has taken his teams -- Texas and North Carolina -- to 16 consecutive bowl games, and Texas has won four straight bowl games.
4. Make game adjustments.
Texas has made 21 fourth-quarter comebacks under Brown -- the 21st came this year against Oklahoma.
5. Recruit talented players.
Nobody questions Brown's recruiting genius -- in fact, he derisively has been called "Mr. February" because some think he should win EVEN MORE with the amazing recruiting classes he signs.
6. Energize the fan base.
When Mack Brown took over at Texas, there were 39,743 season ticket holders. That was a record. Today, there are 83,000 season ticket holders. The school has added 20,000 seats to the stadium, and they are adding more. Celebrities are showing up more and more too. Just last week, Derek Jeter was on the sidelines of the Texas-Missouri game, perhaps in the hope that some of his credit rating would rub off on Mack Brown.