|Four of the seven biggest Oklahoma routs of Texas have come on Mack Brown's watch. (US Presswire)|
This hurts to write because Mack Brown is one of the best.
One of the best people, best gentlemen, best recruiters, best leaders, best coaches. Texas has been lucky to have him. It can be argued that only Darrell Royal has been better at Texas. But one nagging thought kept crossing my mind Saturday watching another Texas Red River Blowout: Was that Mack Brown's last game against Oklahoma?
Read into that anything you want. I'm not calling for Mack's firing at all, but powerful and nervous forces can be at work in any program -- especially at a place like Texas. Yep, that hurts to write.
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Nothing will get the populace to turn on you quicker than losing to a rival. Saturday raised that angst to a new high. Or is it low?
Bob Stoops now owns the two biggest back-to-back beatdowns and four of the top seven slayings in series history.
"Well, it certainly ranks up there with 63-14 and 65-13," said Stoops, comparing Saturday's 63-21 result to the epic strafings in 2000 and 2003.
"It's in the same ballpark."
He mercifully left out last year's 55-17 decision. Stoops added that if had he left the first-team defense on the field it would have been worse.
I wasn't there. I didn't have to be there. I've seen Mack and Texas at the highest of highs in the Cotton Bowl. Maybe only the Iron Bowl is a bigger rivalry. Maybe. I've also seen Mack in person too many times say that an OU loss was "unacceptable."
What are we to think now? The numbers being tossed around this week are also unacceptable. Texas is 17-14 since losing the 2009 BCS title game to Alabama. That was a game that Brown felt had been ripped away from him the moment Colt McCoy went down with a shoulder injury on the game's fifth play.
"Wouldn't have been close," Mack told me in an unguarded moment when I asked him after the game if a healthy McCoy would have made a difference in a 16-point loss.
Texas is three games above .500 since then, while Alabama is 28-4. Texas' defense has given up 1,713 yards in the past three games. Alabama has given up 1,087 all season. Sure, there are injuries. Significant ones. The tackling looks horrendous.
But more than that, Texas isn't the story. Within the Big 12, Kansas State is ranked fourth at the moment. West Virginia and Geno Smith walked into Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium nine days ago and won, then was trumped Saturday by Texas Tech.
Oklahoma owns Texas at the moment, but you knew that.
"I'm disappointed and surprised," Mack said Monday. "That's such a great game and such a traditional game, we haven't held up our end."
I asked Mack if there was any indication that Saturday's result was imminent. Wednesday was a subpar practice, he said, but they got it back on Thursday. A Sunday team meeting was spent getting the team back on track again. There were life lessons to be learned.
"You still have to be able to win," he admitted, "to teach those life lessons."
Mack has a reported $3.5 million buyout, which really isn't an issue. That's loose change for Texas if it wanted to make a change. For all the banshees out there, there aren't many realistic options. The first calls would go to Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, just because it's Texas. You shoot for the top. Neither would come.
Neither would Chris Petersen nor Chip Kelly. Petersen has indicated on many occasions he hates the fishbowl. In Austin, he would be in the biggest media spotlight. Kelly already has indicated that his next move, if and when he makes it, is to the NFL.
Pete Carroll, Les Miles, Steve Spurrier? If Miles had lost the South Carolina game, the hounds would have been unleashed. LSU's season, effectively, would have been over. Miles is criticized in the best of times in Baton Rouge. Would he be willing to make a new start in a more laidback atmosphere?
If Carroll, seemingly happy in the NFL, ever wanted to get back into college, Texas is the place. There's no indication that he would. But all it would take is one call from his agent to get the word out. Just sayin'. Spurrier may decide at age 67 that he has maxed out at South Carolina if he posts consecutive 11-win seasons. Does he have another revival in him?
This was supposed to be a bounce-back year at Texas. The Horns still can win nine. That's what Sunday's meeting was about, no doubt. Offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz need to keep their reps as young cutting-edge minds. That's not to say Texas can't contend for a Big 12 title soon.
But in a world where many consider Auburn's Gene Chizik on shaky ground less than two years after a national championship, anything is possible. Chizik has won two national championships, in fact. One with Mack Brown in 2005. That's a big reason he got the Auburn job.
At 61, Mack was born exactly 65 days before Saban. How can one man be over the hill and the other winning championships? Both are still in the prime of their coaching careers.
I want to see Mack Brown raise that Golden Hat again in Red River because it would be good for him, Texas and the rivalry. Yeah, it would be good for me too. There's a reason I've called him Mack through this column.
I hope one of the best people, gentlemen, recruiters, leaders and coaches isn't done yet.