It seems the Mack Brown/Texas saga has finally come to an end as it was reported early Saturday night that head coach Mack Brown will step down as the Texas Longhorns coach after coaching the Longhorns for 16 years. Now this isn’t an immediate resignation, Brown will coach Texas in the Alamo Bowl against Oregon but after that, he will no longer be the head coach of the Longhorns.
While many fans and media experts respect what he has done over the years for Texas, no one can deny that the Longhorns have struggled the last four seasons under coach Brown. Now some will say that Brown shouldn’t have resigned because he still has the potential to fix the Longhorns, then you have others who feel his time with Longhorns has been over for some time now.
Nonetheless, Brown’s time with the Longhorns is now over and it’s time for the Longhorns to look towards the future and hire their next head coach because expectations are high for this historic program.
Now normally, when I think of a program like Texas, my first thought would be the big names out there like Nick Saban. Unfortunately for Texas, the chances of getting him are over. Then you have names out there like David Shaw, Jimbo Fisher, Gus Malzahn and even Mark Dantonio. While I feel these coaches are all great options for Texas, I don’t know if they are realistic options. In my opinion, Shaw’s next move would be to the NFL, Fisher seems happy at Florida State and with the possibility of more title opportunities with Jameis Winston, I don’t see him leaving.
When it comes to Malzhan and Dantonio, some think it’s up in the air but I feel that it is unlikely that they join Texas. When it comes to Malzahn, I would think possibly if he wasn’t on his way to another national championship game. Plus he has a nice contract extension coming up as well. When it comes to Dantonio, you’re talking about someone who is fresh off a Big Ten title victory over Ohio State. He has the Spartans playing in the Rose Bowl against Stanford and while I feel he is an underrated coach, I don’t know if he honestly wants to be a part of the Texas Longhorns. Plus I’m not sure if he wants to deal with the media and political madness that comes with being the head coach at Texas.
So after those options, your left with more realistic options and there are three specific coaches who come to mind.
The first being Art Briles of Baylor. I feel he has done wonderful things with Baylor and I have no doubt that he would do the same with the Texas. He’s a great developer of talent and he definitely knows how to create and control an explosive offense. He would flourish in recruiting and continue to bring the top talent to Texas. He would also get the players to buy into his system and play hard for him. However, the question remains, does Briles want to leave Baylor? Honestly, I’m not sure if he wants to leave or not. He recently signed a lucrative extension through 2023. Don’t forget that Baylor will be moving into a renovated stadium next year. So I don’t know if he is the most realistic option but he is the right option, if he is indeed interested in coaching the Texas Longhorns.
The next option that comes to mind when talking about Texas’s next head coach is James Franklin of Vanderbilt. When it comes to Franklin, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised that he hasn’t been snatched up already but in this case it is good news for Texas. When you talk about Franklin, you’re talking about a charismatic and enthusiastic coach who will bring that new-found energy to Texas. He’s a great recruiter, so you can bet that he will continue to bring in great talent. He may be 41 years-old but he has experience turning teams around, just look what he has done for Vanderbilt. He has led Vanderbilt to a bowl game in each of his three seasons as their head coach, not long ago, he lead them to their first nine-win season in nearly 100 years. So I feel he is more than capable of revitalizing Longhorn football, which is why I feel that he would be a solid option for Texas.
My third option may indeed surprise some of you but I think Kirby Smart of Alabama would be another solid option. He is currently the defensive coordinator for Alabama but I feel he is the next big name to watch as far as head coaching. He is defensive minded but he has a championship pedigree and mentality which is what the Longhorns want and need. As most people know Alabama’s defense has been one of the most dominant defenses in football for the last two seasons. I feel he would bring that same defense if not better defense to the Texas Longhorns. The only knock against him would be the fact that he has no head coaching experience but besides that, he is a good solid candidate to consider.
Now obviously my top three options for Texas at this time are Briles, Franklin and Smart but if you’re looking for a few more solid options, here are couple more realistic options to think about.
Starting with Mike Gundy of Oklahoma State. When you talk about Gundy, you’re talking about veteran coach who has done some impressive things with Oklahoma State. In 2007, he led them to a Big 12 conference title with a 8-1 record. He would be a relentless recruiter with the advantages available to him at Texas. If Texas were to hire him, they would get a coach who comes from the Big 12, who knows what it takes to win in the Big 12. Now with that being said, Gundy has never led a team to National Title game, which makes you wonder does he have what it takes to lead this Texas team to the top because that’s the only place Texas will be happy. Then you have to remember that Gundy also tends to struggle against Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, while it’s not unusual to struggle against Stoops, it makes you wonder could Gundy lead the Longhorns to victories against Oklahoma consistently.
An underrated option would be Bobby Petrino of Western Kentucky. He led Western Kentucky to an 8-4 record in his first season as their head coach. He has great offensive mind and knows how to develop talent. During his time with Arkansas, they were No. 3 in the BCS standings during the 2011 season. I know some people question his past but he is still one of the better coaches in college football. It’s because of that statement that I believe Petrino would like to get back to the bigger conference like Big 12 and show what he is capable of on the national stage again because most forget about him in the Sun Belt Conference. So while he may not be everyone’s first option, he could be another solid option.
Don’t forget about Charlie Strong of Louisville as a possible option for Texas. I know he may not be Texas’s first option either but he turned Louisville into one the nation’s top teams at one point this season. He help to build up one of the top quarterbacks in college football right now in Teddy Bridgewater. He has ties to the south part of Florida when it comes to recruiting which is always a nice plus. The only catch with Strong is the reported $5 million dollar buyout it would take to acquire him. Now some will say that he is worth that buy-out, others will see he isn’t worth that buy-out.
As always, there are always a few fans who want to know if the Texas Longhorns should hire somebody already on the Texas staff. In this case I would say no but for the fans who feel differently, I decided to name a possible in-house option.
If you’re looking for in-house options, the Longhorns only have one option in my opinion and that option is Major Applewhite, who is currently the co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the Longhorns. As most of you know, he was a quarterback at Texas from 1998-2001, so he definitely knows the offense and what it takes to succeed at Texas but that doesn’t mean he should be their next head coach. I like Applewhite but I question whether he is the guy to lead this Longhorn team back to success. Plus I wonder if he is ready to deal with media and political madness as the head coach. Obviously he is not the best option for Longhorns, but if your someone who is thinking in-house option for Longhorns, he is your best bet in my opinion.
Now again, it’s still early, so this is just speculation on my part, based on who is available and who I think would be solid options for Texas. This list could change as the search process begins and becomes more public but for now, these are the “realistic” coaches that I think Texas might want to consider.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit
Listen to LBeasley’s Radio Show, “Sports Talk with L-Beasley” every Mon, Wed & Fri from 6-8pm (ET) on LBeasley.com