How good a coach is Mack Brown? He makes winning look easy
People may say anyone can win at Texas, but 'Horns didn't before Brown
Like many of the great ones, Mack Brown makes winning look easy
Even after Brown led Texas to an epic 2005 season, there were still doubters
Eric Dickerson tells a great story about his early practices with the Los Angeles Rams. Dickerson, you probably remember, had this beautiful and gliding running style. He ran straight up and it seemed effortless. It seemed TOO effortless.
"Run Dickerson, damn it," Rams coach John Robinson would yell at the running back practice after practice. Dickerson was only a rookie and so he took the abuse daily -- "If you don't start running, I'm going to send you back to home." Or whatever pro coaches yell.
And then, finally, he heard it one too many times. Robinson yelled at Dickerson "Run," and Dickerson said, "Coach, I AM running. If you don't believe me, put somebody out here and see if they can catch me." Dickerson ran for 1,808 yards and scored 18 touchdowns his rookie season. The next year he ran for 2,105 -- still the record 25 years later.
I love that story because it gets at one of the real wonders of sports -- those people who make brilliance look SO EASY that it doesn't even look all that special. Maybe it's Tim Duncan -- there are games you don't even notice him until the end when (again!) he has scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Maybe it's Carlos Beltran's easy style -- he hardly seems to be trying only he has another year where he scores 100 runs, drives in 100 runs, hits 30 home runs, steals 25 bases and wins another Gold Glove.
Or maybe ... it's Mack Brown back coaching in the BCS Championship game at Texas.
"It's really funny," Brown says. "I've been asked all week if I'm really nice."
There's a common line you hear about Mack Brown and it goes something like this: "Well, OF COURSE he wins -- hey, anyone could win at Texas."
He does win -- and win big. Nobody can deny this. Texas has been ranked for 156 consecutive weeks, almost twice as long as Ohio State's 83, the second-longest streak in the country. Texas has been in the top 5 for 27 weeks -- that's the longest streak, too. The Longhorns have scored more touchdowns since 2002 than any team but Boise State, and they have given up fewer touchdowns in the decade than any team except Miami, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. They are the only team to win 10 games or more for nine straight seasons. This is their fourth BCS bowl game since 2005.
No, nobody can deny the preposterous level of success. So you hear all that time that it's easy. Anyone could do it at Texas. Look, Texas has more money than other schools. Texas is the big school in recruiting heaven. Texas has the great history. Texas has the big TV market. Texas has the best facilities. Texas has the huge fan support, including those millionaire boosters. Texas is king of its conference. Texas ... Texas ... Texas. When people finally finish telling you just how many advantages they have at Texas, you might wonder why they even HAVE a football coach. Shoot, Darrell Royal's old Longhorn jacket could coach 'em up to a 10-win season year after year.
Mack Brown's easy personality adds to the perception. We get this image in our mind of what a football coach is supposed to be -- an image inspired by Bear Bryant's hat, Woody Hayes' scream, Knute Rockne's halftime speech and what we see in movies -- and he doesn't fit. Brown doesn't seem to have the new-age spiritedness of Pete Carroll or the old-school resolve of Jim Tressel. He's not a mad scientist running off to draw new plays on napkins like Steve Spurrier, and he does not strike you as a professor the way Joe Paterno might. He definitely does not have the Ohio stoniness of Urban Meyer or Bob Stoops, and you can't imagine him running out on the field and head-butting one of his defenders the way the great coach Erk Russell used to do.
So what is he? Even after all this time and all the success -- no college football team has won as many games the last 12 years as Brown's Texas Longhorns -- it's something of a mystery. This week leading up to tonight's BCS Championship Game, many have tried to contrast Brown with Alabama's Nick Saban. But Saban is easy. He's brilliant, grim, proudly paranoid, tough, smarter than you are and nakedly aware that he's smarter than you. He's also the kind of guy who can turn on enough charm to recruit anyone; the kind of charm that inspired that the best exchange in the movie The Blind Side. This was when Saban (persuasively playing himself at LSU) came to recruit Michael Oher, and Sandra Bullock swoons over him.
Bullock: "I find him to be handsome."
Tim McGraw (who plays Bullock's husband): "I'm standing right here."
Bullock: "I know."
Brown simply does not inspire a string of adjectives like Saban, or really almost any other successful football coach. He has a little bit of this, a little bit of that. He inspires one adjective: Nice. He's perpetually and genuinely nice -- he will tell you that's just how he was raised in Cookville, Tenn. -- and this makes him as likable as any coach in America. Nice undoubtedly pays big dividends when it comes to recruiting and fundraising and working with a staff and so on. But we are not used to our football coaches being nice, and we may not be entirely comfortable with our football coaches being nice.
And so, when people try to explain Brown's success they will often just fall back on the common line. It's easy at Texas. And Brown is just along for the ride.
More College Football
College Football Truth & Rumors