More despised than Davis? Probably, but honestly he wouldn't know. From the time Texas starts August camp until the conclusion of the bowl season, Davis insists he has precious time to read newspapers. Last October, sports columnists and Longhorn fans skewered Davis not only for his admittedly "conservative" game plan resulting in a fifth straight loss to Oklahoma but also for Texas' first shutout in 24 years.
"I read nothing about us," he said, "and haven't for many years because it doesn't serve any purpose."
When he does skim The Daily Planet, it typically is just a passing glance at box scores and the run-pass ratios of other teams. Even when local and national TV sports media broadcast segments about the Longhorns, Davis admits he puts the volume on 'mute' and leaves the room.
"I certainly didn't (read papers) earlier in the season," Davis said. "If I was gonna do that, I would have done it the past two weeks when we came from behind. At least, I figured (the sports media would) have something nice to say."
Still, the critical voices invariably reach Davis. And sometimes from the most unlikely of sources.
"You'd be surprised what friends will say," Davis laughed. "I remember coming in one time at North Carolina and Tim Brewster said something about, 'Man, did you see the paper?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'Well, look at the paper!' I said, 'I appreciate your sharing that with me.'"
At some point in their careers, OCs must develop thick skin and short memories. For Davis, that started with playing quarterback at McNeese State.
"Although I was obviously one of the best that's ever played," Davis quipped, "I had games that weren't real good. So I really started back in college as a player thinking the guy that was writing it (sports stories) was not in the arena, he didn't know everything that went into the decision, so I didn't feel like it was worthwhile. I mean, I've been booed as a player. I've had a lot of practice in this stuff. You get callused."
To help Davis weather the storms at Texas, Brown showed him an editorial cartoon that was published the day after George W. Bush's inauguration as President of the United States. It depicted Bush sitting in the corner of a room wearing a dunce cap.
"Now, it can't get any better than that day (for a U.S. President)," Davis said. "I mean, you haven't done anything yet. It can't get any better. Ever. That's just part of it."
Whether it's self-perception or public opinion, Davis believes "the truth is somewhere in the middle."
On one end of the spectrum, it can be objectively stated that Davis' offenses have produced six of the top eight total yardage seasons, and the top five scoring years, in school history. Currently, the Horns ranked No. 8 nationally in total offense (472.4 ypg) and tenth in scoring offense (36 ppg). What's more, Davis has shown the kind of flexibility that allowed for a complete makeover of his offense last season when Texas transitioned from a drop-back passing attack to a power running game with inside zone plays as its bread-and-butter. Fans and media sometimes fail to differentiate between the 'game plan' and the execution of the 'game plan'. To Davis' credit, he has never been critical of a player for failing to implement the blue print. And, to his credit, I have as experienced Davis as personable, patient and with the kind of thick skin that you wish Mack Brown had.
Where I have been critical of Davis is that his gaudy numbers are padded against The Little Sisters of the Poor while his offenses have come up empty these past five years against Oklahoma. Yes, that game is that important if you care about little things like conference titles and BCS bids. While Davis called his game plan 'conservative', I called it playing-not-to-lose. And it gets you beat, over and again, in the one game that has more to do with Texas' championships aspirations than any other. Sooner coach Bob Stoops, meanwhile, said that OU "always comes up with something" just for Texas. As for Davis, you'll see the halfback pass against Missouri, or the fake field goal for a TD against Rice, or the shovel pass against Oklahoma State, or the tight ends involved in the passing game, or, or, or coming up with something in every game (it seems) other than Oklahoma. Fair or not, there are those whose assessment of Davis (in both Austin and Chapel Hill) will be predicated primarily upon his team's success in rivalry games or pivotal contests where division and conference titles are at stake.
"You're not going to please everybody but the most important thing is you just try to win," Davis concluded. "The only reputation I'm interested in is a winning reputation. It's that simple. It's really not hard."