Mack & Darrell: Differences Outweigh Similarities

<B>Darrell Royal</B>, from what we've gleaned over the years, helped orchestrate the hiring of <B>Mack Brown</B>. In the early days, signs pointed to parallels between the two. Some even exclaimed, "We have another Darrell!&quot; Negativists, they were dubbed, noted Mack&#146;s failure to win a conference title prior to coming to Texas. But believers rebutted, &quot;Yeah, but no one could handle FSU. Now that he&#146;s at a school like Texas, he&#146;ll do even more than he did at UNC."

Over time though, cracks in the foundation showed up. A three-loss slump to end the second year cast doubts on, at minimum, some of the offensive assistant coaches. The Dallas Debacle against second-year coach Bob Stoops followed a stunning defeat to puny Stanford early in 2000. Darrell’s early teams had his share of failures; lost some games they shouldn’t have, and failed to win conference titles immediately. Yet, Royal’s teams were never embarrassed to that degree in his two decades at Texas. (A few one-sided losses to OU in latter years can be largely linked to the Sooners’ NCAA violations.) Conference crowns that came early also caused the most critical to pause in their attacks of Royal.

By his fifth year, Royal, already having claimed a share of a conference crown before, rode the explosion of "Jackrabbit" James Saxton to another Southwest Conference title. The Longhorns finished with a sparkling final ranking of No. 3 in the nation after beating a great Mississippi squad in the Cotton Bowl (when that bowl was a "BCS" type of contest). Texas crushed the likes of Arkansas 33-7 on its way.

In contrast, Mack Brown has yet to win even one Big 12 title, and he’s now in his sixth year, with very little hope of claiming the 2003 trophy, or any others, the way this program has sagged now. Who would have imagined, after grabbing the 1999 South division top-status after crushing Texas Tech 58-7, Texas fans would still be waiting for Mack’s first conference championship? Now the real question is: why should anyone expect anything to change after what we’ve witnessed so far under Brown?

Saturday’s unbelievable blowout defeat in Dallas was, in some ways, worse than what occurred under the unloved John Mackovic during "Rout 66" (UCLA’s 66-3 win in Austin in 1997). Both are inexcusable; the first led to showing the door to the former coach. Is this possibly Mack’s home stretch to the exit? How many clueless clubbings can this staff stand up to?

Back to Darrell: Yes, he stumbled a number of times his first several years, but none like the two cremations to OU. He, in fact, turned the tables on the hated rivals, breaking through with a win after the Sooners had reeled off six straight in the series (only one of those, a hard-fought 21-7 game his first year, came against Royal). DKR began his own streak, ripping the Sooners 12 of the next 13 contests!

Mack has only beaten a Bob Stoops team once, in the latter’s first year after taking over for a poorly coached John Blake squad. Since then, Stoops owns Brown. His fourth straight win incredibly mirrored the 2000 nightmare. Brown trumpets his defensive coordinator, Carl Reese, frequently. Yet those defenses have allowed an average of 44 points in those four contests–obviously, it’s more than just that pitiful rushing game.

In his seventh year (1963), after two straight near misses, Darrell Royal, at the age of 39, won his first national title and third straight conference title. His Horns corralled Heisman winner Roger Staubach and Navy in the Cotton Bowl, 28-6, to place the exclamation point on a perfect season. Does anyone think Mack Brown will win the national (or even conference) title next year? Texas’ defeats under Darrell those prior two years were by 6 and 13 (and one tie)–hardly the kind of mind-numbing caning Mack’s now experienced twice against Oklahoma.

Royal’s teams, even in off moments (which all teams have), still generally played solid fundamental football and were never outworked, outconditioned. He subscribed to Lombardi’s "fatigue makes cowards of us all" philosophy. His staunchest critics would say he was borderline brutal at times. Most, however, say his toughness translated into his players being ready for battle. By showing "tough love," he ensured his boys became men.

Again in contrast, Mack coddles his kids. He generally seems to treat them with such gentleness overall, they’re simply unprepared for the kind of fight a team like Oklahoma takes to them. All week long, Mack talked about how "playing OU is like playing your brother," and similar comments. Leadership starts at the top, and when the tone is set to have to "survive the surge" of the opponents, it puts your squad at a huge disadvantage.

When Darrell Royal coached, conventional wisdom said Texas had a touchdown advantage just on name and reputation alone. Now, Texas’ only reputation under Brown is one of underachiever and overrated. In short, the Longhorns are not feared by anyone these days.

The ground game is worse than ever, excepting that darting redshirt freshman quarterback. Cedric Benson, who epitomizes the "all hat, no cattle" form over substance reality of this program, managed 21 yards on 12 carries Saturday, and fumbled yet again. He’s regressed to a level of ineptitude no one’s eyes have witnessed in his life. Without the quarterback scramble Saturday, the offense is as hopeless as any other Oklahoma games since 2000.

This is really just an extension of a soft team, no matter how it’s analyzed. Coach Brown chafes at the "soft" label, yet time and again, everyone outside the program claims such. Per Kirk Bohls in the Austin American-Statesman:

Asked if he was surprised how easily the victory came, OU co-defensive coordinator Brent Venables said, "I guess it does because of the athletes on the other side. It's what you instill and demand of your players. You usually get what you demand." And Brown never demands enough. It's all wonderful and flowers that he recruits good kids from good homes with academic drive, but football is an ugly game best played with a mean streak. OU's players are always meaner, madder and, yes, hungrier.

How true. And Brown and staff will find, no matter how they attempt to rationalize away the obvious, the equation usually results in losing against teams with similar talent.

What were Darrell’s thought about a rival like Oklahoma? To sum it up, a quote from him before that breakthrough victory in 1958 that started his own enormous streak over the Sooners: "The only way anybody’s going to beat Oklahoma is to go out there and whip ‘em jaw to jaw." He made his players and even his trainers feel that way. Per Carlos Conde, one time sports editor of The Daily Texan and previously an equipment manager, proclaimed: "…though our role was small, his words nevertheless left us with a feverish desire to walk across the field and slam the opposing team’s manager with our water buckets..."

Sadly, all evidence points to the fact that Mack fails to instill anything like that in his own players.

Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At The University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. Bert is in his second season of writing for IT and his column will appear occasionally on InsideTexas.com and in the Inside Texas magazine.


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