Brown to get more involved in offense

Head coach Mack Brown has yet to call a single offensive play on game day at Texas but, taken at his word, that will change starting with the September 4 home opener against North Texas. Brown has yet to specify the extent to which he will now get more involved in the Greg Davis offense. But it's a safe bet the question will emerge during the annual Big 12 Football Media Conference, beginning Tuesday in Kansas City.

To be sure, there are other issues that weigh more heavily on Brown's agenda as he begins his seventh season in Austin. Namely, can get Texas end the agonizing four-year skid against Oklahoma and thus position itself for the program's first BCS game? Can Brown claim his first conference title after 20 years in the business? Will the rush defense reverse its recent slide toward mediocrity? Can QB Vince Young complement his running game with more consistency in his passing attack?

Still, the offensive playcalling issue will likely resurface this week because a sizable number of Orangebloods insist that the single most important factor keeping Texas from getting into the BCS Promised Land is...Greg Davis.

According to Brown, the extent to which he has previously involved himself with game-day play calling at Texas has been to offer general suggestions about the team needing to pass when the ground game gets stuffed (or, vice-versa if the air assault has been ineffective). That's about it.

Brown has also said that whatever involvement he'll have with the offense stems from his personal desire to, once again, do what he does best: help call the plays. It's got nothing to do with being dissatisfied with the job that his lifelong friend and colleague has done in Austin, he maintains. In six years, Brown has replaced his defensive coordinator, running backs coach, offensive line coach, wide receivers coach and defensive ends coach. His steadfast loyalty to Davis remains unflinching.

On paper, it's difficult to argue with Davis' statistical success. Texas has posted the top five scoring years in school history, as well as six of the top nine total offense seasons, during Davis tenure. Last year, the Horns re-invented themselves at midseason as the new 'zone read' offense set UT season records for total yards (5,709) and points (533). But you can put an asterisk next to some of those numbers. Expanded schedules now allow for swollen stat sheets (relative to, say, the Darrell Royal years when only 10 regular season games counted in the record books). Stats from bowl games were counted only as recently as 2002. Teams that reach the conference title game have recently played up to 14 games in a single season. Texas, for example, played 14 games in 1999 while playing 13 games in each of the past three years.

Even so, the vocal legion of Davis-haters is so befuddling to Brown that he once asked a group of local sports writers why fans were so hard on his OC. The responses were also legion: there is a perception that Davis brings a finesse, pass-happy Mountain West approach to the physical trenches of the Big 12 Conference -- but who then turns conservative in big games. There is the perception that Davis abandons the running game too quickly. There is the perception that Davis does not know how to maximize talent nor sufficiently develop blue-chip quarterbacks. There is also the perception that Texas fans are traditionally hard on the OC.

My response is two-fold: First of all, Brown is so doggone personable (some would say 'slick') that he still maintains his teflon coating relative to say, John Mackovic and Fred Akers. As such, much of the criticism bypasses Brown and is re-directed at Davis. (To Brown's credit, he attributes wins to his coaches and players while personally shouldering the blame for the losses).

Secondly, and more importantly, offensive success is not measured in Austin by the deluge of yards and points accumulated on fattened schedules and generated against the likes of Baylor, Rice, Tulane, New Mexico State and Kansas. What matters 'round here is whether the offense outscores Oklahoma and if it produces a 'W' when either a conference title or a BCS berth is at stake.

Out of fairness to Davis, it was not he who turned the ball over six times against OU last year. Nor can you fault Davis for a Longhorn defense that effectively launched Jason White's Heisman campaign when it got torched for 363 passing yards. Yet, during the past five years, fans have seen Texas come up short (way short, in some instances) during the most high profile of contests. Fingers will be pointed at someone wearing the coaching headphones, and it's always going to be someone who is paid at least six figures.

Is it all Davis' fault? Of course not. But what would you give to have a guy like USC's Norm Chow (one national title, two straight BCS wins) or even Georgia's Neil Callaway (24 wins and one SEC title in two seasons) calling the plays at our beloved Forty Acres? I would not be the first to suggest the difference between the Tier One programs and the Close-But-No-Cigar programs is the discrepancy between the play callers and the playmakers. Texas has the playmakers. Until Texas takes it to the championship level, there will be legitimate questions about its play callers. For now, Brown says he will be calling some of the plays.

The prediction here is Brown is more likely to call the shots during the fourth quarter. Brown loves to pound the ball with a big, breakaway RB in order to run the clock during the final 15 minutes. Otherwise, both Brown and Davis want a two-dimensional attack that ideally generates about 250 yards rushing and 250 yards passing per game. The closest Texas has come to realizing that goal was during Ricky Williams' recording-breaking Heisman run in Brown's first season in Austin.

Here's another prediction: after a game, Brown still won't reveal what plays he may (or may not) have called. Again, he will credit his staff for making the right calls and he will credit his players for executing the plays. Again, he will publicly shoulder the responsibility for any game day breakdown. Again, this is to Brown's credit.

Bottom line: if the shared offensive responsibility proves effective against Oklahoma, as well as in marquee games where either a BCS bowl or conference title is at stake, it ultimately won't matter to most Orangebloods who made the call. And if (in the next two or three years) the shared decision-making doesn't produce those kinds of key wins, it still won't matter if Brown or Davis gets the blame. They probably won't be here to receive it.

NOTE: Inside Texas' daily pre-season football coverage begins today, continuing through August camp (tentatively set to begin August 9).


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