mack-brown

There’s this floating argument in sports about Mack Brown.

It’s not as old as his lengthy battles against Bob Stoops and his failure to win more than lose to Oklahoma in Dallas every October but it’s started to get gray hairs. Every season that Texas, the behemoth of college sports that brings in money hand over fist, continues to slug around hovering either at or above mediocrity — the flames under Mack Brown’s cushy chair near the State Capitol building gets warmer.

And there’s no easier place to start in gauging how far the Horns have fallen than signal callers.

Ever since Mack came down to a school near Hiram Clarke and grabbed Vince Young out of that marlin baby blue and put him in burnt orange, he’s been dealing with hit or miss follow ups. You can’t blame him for Garrett Gilbert as Gilbert was indeed the best quarterback in the state at the time he left Lake Travis. Gilbert, unfortunately, lost all of his confidence getting torn to shreds by Alabama in the 2009 National Championship game. He transferred out of UT after struggling during his lone season as a starter, giving way to current Texas QB David Ash, he who despite going through a revolving door of offensive coordinators seems entrenched at the position now.

But, after hitting gold with Vince Young when he led the Horns to the 2005 National Championship, and with Colt McCoy a short time later, Brown has seemingly watched highly-touted quarterback prospect after highly-touted quarterback prospect either abandon the state or completely juke UT and head elsewhere.

Consider this: in 2007, three quarterbacks from the state were ranked high on Rivals recruiting pages. You may know them as Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, & Darron Thomas. Seeing that in ’07, McCoy had all but guaranteed himself as the QB of the future, it was all but certain that whoever Brown recruited to back him up since the John Chiles experiment came and went would be sitting at least two years before taking over in 2010. There’s rumor that Mack wanted RGIII as a defensive back; that Luck – who played at Stratford – just found himself academically enamored with the likes of Stanford, Duke & Northwestern and wasn’t even looking at Texas; and Thomas, a Northside product from Aldine, wasn’t even courted by the Horns.

The results? Simple. RGII wins the Heisman Trophy as a dual-threat quarterback in 2011, improving after tearing his ACL in his sophomore season of 2009. Where was he originally signed to? Houston, before Art Briles bolted to Baylor. RGIII was tied to the hip with Briles. Mack could have rolled out a photo of him with the pen & pixel on it with a national championship ring on the front, and it still wouldn’t have broken that marriage up. Luck became a media darling and subsequently the best pro prospect at QB since John Elway in the eyes of scouts. And Thomas led Oregon to an undefeated record in 2010, losing to Cam Newton in the 2010 BCS National Championship game. Oh, and we’re not even bringing up Cam who was briefly at Blinn, a few hours down the road from Austin, and had lost some of his merit after being booted from Florida.

Mack Brown? 0-4 in that regard.

Alright, but how about the next year, 2008? Well, Mack got his man in Gilbert and thought of him to be the QB of the future for the Horns, except that blew up in his face when McCoy went down with an injury in the National Championship and Gilbert had to come in ahead of schedule. He passed on Tyrik Rollison and #1 player at the time Russell Shepard, who both chose the SEC over their home state. Shepard wound up becoming an athlete at LSU and Rollison turned into a blip for Auburn after Cam Newton got there. We’ll give Mack a pass here.

A year later, Connor Wood was the top QB choice; but by then, Texas’ recruiting class had seemingly reloaded, with Jackson Jeffcoat leading the way. Wood – much like another UT recruit, Connor Brewer – subsequently transferred out of UT to other programs years later. Wood, as recently as Saturday, lit up Colorado State to win Colorado’s opening game. Brewer is at Arizona.

It’s not that kids never did want to play for Mack or for Texas since it holds prestige as one of those magnet college football programs — it’s that Texas seemingly puts its arrogance as the big dog in the state above anything else.

The eventual QB downfall was expected. Texas couldn’t get all of the top flight quarterbacks with the emergence of other programs in the state such as TCU and Texas A&M consistently yo-yoing between their own perceived right of greatness and their actual on-field results. Once Texas got mired in the funk and couldn’t escape its coordinator position looking more like a springboard after Greg Davis finally got the heave following that disastrous 5-7 campaign, kids who were signal callers didn’t want to go there or feared that Mack, who had finally gotten it right with Vince Young, had returned to being a rigid and somewhat frozen identity on the sidelines, despite being more known in the state of Texas than anybody save for celebs and Rick Perry.

Johnny Manziel was the one recruit that made this entire idea even more glaring. Manziel was a small-town Texas legend, you know the story. He had been wanting to go to UT, but the Horns never offered the then-three star recruit a scholarship, nor did Texas A&M originally. He was all signed and sealed to Oregon, like Thomas before him, before switching commits and going to A&M.

What’s Manziel doing these days? Oh nothing, except this:

MANZIEL-MONEY

Make that back to back Heisman winners lost by Brown.

As far as the kid who decided to stunt on a jumbotron last night for America in Famous Jameis Winston? The idea that Winston, a five-star prospect out of Alabama in 2012 who has been propped up as a golden child in Tallahassee for the better part of two years now, wanted to go to UT came up during last night’s broadcast of Florida State and Pitt where, if only for one night, Jameis was as good as advertised, throwing three more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (2) and that’s only because one of the incompletions was actually caught but the receiver was out of bounds. There’s a report from a Winston interview in 2011 that “he dreamed” of playing for UT and the opinions supporting Brown’s lack of hitting on big-time QB recruits got an even louder look from Horns fans and skeptics.

It’s not often you get one of the greatest college players ever and, up until last year, the most successful (in terms of wins) quarterback back to back. That machine just doesn’t keep on rolling like that. But when you’re Texas, saddled with the perception that you can never, ever lose out because of who you are — it’s supposed to in some eyes.

Maybe Tyrone Swoopes, the kid UT scouts and diehards are seeing as the next man up can change this. Otherwise, it’ll be one of the more perplexing notes of Mack Brown’s rather illustrious career.

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