2015 Post-Season

I Have a Dream

I’m not sure exactly when it began but it must have been within a year or two after I graduated from U.T. that I started having an all-too-real reoccurring dream. In this dream, I’m on my way to taking a final exam for a class that I hadn’t attended once the entire semester.  I don’t know if it qualifies for being a nightmare, but it’s darned unpleasant, and I feel a great sense of relief when I wake up.  Many years ago, I told my brother David about this dream.  He said that he used to have that dream and had read or heard a theory that the dream is caused by anxiety about an upcoming task – most often related to your job – for which you feel inadequately prepared.  I wonder if Charlie Strong had this dream before Texas’ first game of the season against Notre Dame.  He should have. If he didn’t, he was dreaming during waking hours on the job for he and his team were woefully unprepared for the Notre Dame game and the upcoming season.

For easy reference, here are highlights of Strong and his team’s unpreparedness.  Texas opened the season losing to Notre Dame 38-3. It wasn’t as close as the score indicates.  Four weeks later, Texas lost to TCU 50-7. As unprepared as the Longhorns were for those two games, they didn’t bottom out in their unpreparedness until they traveled to Ames, Iowa, and got shutout by Iowa State 24-0. Iowa State finished the season 3-9. Their other two wins were over 0-12 Kansas and Division II Northern Iowa. In short, Strong’s team pulled a no-show for 25% of their schedule.

In many if not most industries, a CEO earning $5.2 million a year would be dismissed for the kind of performance Charlie Strong delivered in his second year after a below average performance in year one.  Luckily for Charlie Strong, college football is not like most industries, so he gets to fire and hire more assistant coaches and coordinators for the second straight year and be allowed at least one more season to prove he can do the job.  Sterlin Gilbert and Matt Mattox might prove to be good hires to turn around Strong’s pitiful offense at Texas, but if I suspend my grasp of the various justifications – I prefer “rationalizations” – for Charlie Strong to retain his job, I have to ask, what makes Charlie Strong more deserving of keeping his job than Shawn Watson and Joe Wickline?  Watson and Wickline failed to produce even an average offense in two years on the job. They had to be let go, but what about Charlie Strong?  He made the executive decision to retain them after an embarrassingly bad first year. Isn’t he as the head coach even more culpable than Watson and Wickline?  Strong is the de facto defensive coordinator, and the Texas defense turned in the worst performance in school history in 2015. Strong’s special teams have been lousy in his two years at Texas. Strong can’t point to success in any of the three phases of football in his first two seasons at Texas.

Staying with the industry analogy, in the college football industry there is a line of reasoning – call it “conventional wisdom” if you wish – that a head coach needs at least four years to turn a major program around and compete for a championship. This conventional wisdom doesn’t address what the new hire should accomplish the first two or three years of his tenure.  If I’m the athletic director, here are a few requirements for my new head coach.

  1. Move heaven and earth to find a good quarterback. Great is hard to come by, but if you don’t have a good quarterback on the roster and one backup quarterback with potential to be good, find them, and have them in school and eligible for spring practice. You may not be expected to win championships, but wins are precious in your first two years and you can’t win many games without a good quarterback.
  2. Whether or not the new coach has a talent deficit to address, his special teams should be competent in covering kick offs and punts. If there aren’t good punters and field goal specialists on the roster, he should make it a priority to recruit them and have them in place for the first game of his first season. His special teams may not be able to excel his first two years, but they should be above average and not a liability.
  3. If clock management isn’t one of your strong suits, make it one – or hire a specialist to stand next to you during games.
  4. Be as candid as you can be in press conferences. Don’t sugar coat mistakes and poor effort to the degree that you undermine your credibility and lose the confidence of your fan base.

If my new head coach regularly puts an embarrassing product on the field his first three years, he won’t be guaranteed a year four.

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If I had to justify the retention of Charlie Strong, I would point to his ability to evaluate talent. He had an outstanding recruiting class in 2015 and has at least twelve true freshman or redshirt freshmen who will start or compete for starting positions in 2016. In addition to the freshmen, Strong has returning sophomore starters in D’Onta Forman, Armanti Foreman, and Andrew Beck on offense and Jason Hall, Poona Ford, and Anthony Wheeler on defense.   Strong can make a credible argument that, despite his losing record and his team not being prepared to play in 25% of their games in 2015, he has put the building blocks in place to contend for a Big 12 Championship in 2016, if he and Sterlin Gilbert can find the answer at quarterback.

Oh Yeah, the Baylor Game

If Texas has a good season in 2016, I suppose the 2015 Baylor game will be remembered as a leading indicator of good things to come.  I found the Baylor game almost as disturbing as some of the losses, because Charlie Strong darned near pulled defeat from the jaws of certain victory. Strong’s team came out fired up and with a good game plan for a change. They built a 20-0 lead in the first half, and then in the second half, Strong either tried to back into a win or he just managed the game stupidly. He aligned his defense like Baylor’s quarterback was Aaron Rodgers and not a wide receiver playing emergency-quarterback.  Take your pick.  Meanwhile, Art Briles and his son Nelson came up with a better offense during the 20-minute halftime break than Strong and his various offensive coordinators could come up with in two years.  The second half reminded me of the immortal words of Bum Phillips, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and take your’n and beat his’n.”

Uh oh.

Over/Under Results 2015

It’s been an exciting year for Willie Earl’s Over/Under contest. The number of players competing shattered last year’s record participation levels.

The year had an exciting finish with Clayton Frink edging David Frink in the tiebreaker in the Baylor contest. It was Clayton’s second win in 2015.

In the Baylor contest, Mark Adams proved you can score a high number if you don’t post an entry until the second half. Nice try Mark but I’m not as gullible as my French II teacher was in 1972.

2015 Final Results and Award Winners

Wade Wallace started the year strong winning the first two contests of the season. With those two wins Wade build an insurmountable lead and is the 2015 Champion with three wins and three second place finishes.  Records weren’t kept at the time but if they had been I think Wade would have been the champion in the inaugural 2008 season.

Clayton Frink, Art Zeitz, and Jeff Otto tied for second place for 2015 with two wins each.

Jeff’s performance was notable because he was a rookie in 2015 and played only four times. For his remarkable performance Jeff has been awarded Willie Earl’s first annual Rookie of the Year Award.

Art Zeitz is veteran player who has been playing since the inaugural 2008 season.  Art win’s the 2015 Comeback Player of the Year award by posting his first multiple win season ever. Clayton Frink came in second in the voting.

David Frink, Dan Yoxall, and Mike Frank rounded out the winners circle for 2015 with one win each.

Despite the losses and the tumult off the field it’s been a fun year of writing and thanks to all our loyal readers Willie Earl’s Longhorn Blog readership grew by more than 15% in 2015.

Thanks and Good Luck to us all in 2016.

HooK ‘eM,

W.E.

5 Comments to “2015 Post-Season”

  1. Strong is a lousy head coach, totally disorganized and often not even coherent. I have zero confidence in him. I did watch the Tulsa bowl game and that offense may breathe life into a dead man walking. Sure hope so.

  2. A bad year? We signed a record apparel deal with Nike and Forbes just announced us as the richest program by far. Who needs a winning record when you can still top $100 million in revenue for the 4th straight year?

  3. Or, just don’t have a QB, just a program and a plan.
    To wit: Baylor tonight. Over 600 yds running with 5+ players taking the snap.
    Can’t happen anywhere, but certainly can’t happen at UT. Too old school.

  4. Always looked forward to Fridays to check out what you had to say regarding the upcoming games. Unfortunately, more often than not, your writings were more entertaining than the product on the field. I think things will begin to turn around next year, God willing. I need to fix my picker, wasn’t exactly competitive in pick em. Maybe my luck will mirror the Horns performance next year. C’mon August!!

  5. Thanks for the funny and truthful insights…enjoyed the ride. Prepare to be pilloried next year!
    Holey

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