Everybody else seems to have weighed in on the new coach at Texas. Guess I might as well give my two cents, too.
*I’ll admit that it’s hard for me to evaluate this hire fully on its merits following all the bluster coming from the 40 Acres about glamour candidates for the job. From a cache standpoint, Strong doesn’t come close to matching up with names like Saban and Harbaugh (Jim or John). Hell, he’s not even Fisher or Malzahn.
If you’re a Texas fan who bought the idea that those guys were in play, I get why this would leave you feeling just a little underwhelmed.
*And, well, the hire actually is a little underwhelming to me.
It’s not that I think Strong is a bad coach. On the contrary, he has a solid resume and reputation – worked his way up the ranks, good defensive strategist, dogged recruiter.
Even so, I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever seen anything out of his teams at Louisville that flat-out blew me away. Sure, the Cardinals put on a show in the 2013 Sugar Bowl versus Florida. On the other hand, I witnessed plenty of games where Louisville screwed around with inferior competition and either lost or narrowly escaped.
Strong’s teams usually had more talent than the other side, and he deserves credit for assembling the personnel. Yet, that makes it somewhat tough to get a good grip on his work on game day.
The bottom line is that I generally fear the coaches (and their staffs) who seem to do more with less. A guy like Mark Dantonio or Gary Andersen would have me pretty worried about what’s coming next at UT. I don’t put Strong and his likely group of coordinators in that cohort, although I do have a far higher opinion of his coaching acumen than loudmouthed Texas booster Red McCombs.
*On a related note, I don’t really care about Strong’s credentials as a recruiter.
Anecdotes about coaches selling ice to Eskimos sound good, but actual success in recruiting tends to stay pretty static from year to year. New coaches often get a recruiting bounce at the beginning of their tenure, which can bring some nice early returns at a non-traditional power (e.g., Ron Zook at Illinois). Keeping that new car smell tends to be far more difficult.
None of that is an issue at Texas. The real reasons why Bevo reels in talented prospects every year aren’t changing any time soon: Austin is a great city; the academics are strong; the weather is warm. (I could keep going, but that’s all the ego-stroking I can handle.)
You don’t need to be some wizard in the living room to haul in talent at Texas. If you’re trying to sell me on this being a great hire because of Strong’s recruiting chops, save your breath.
*Some schools love the idea that the job of head football coach at their institution comes with a unique set of expectations or responsibilities. The Texas community may relish that perception more than any other school around, which is part of the reason Mack Brown had so much stroke with the right people there.
Ultimately, however, Mack still got bounced because he couldn’t deliver enough wins.
There’s a significant relationship in the coaching profession between job security and the number of Ws you put up every year. Fans of all stripes have demonstrated time and again that they have no problem rationalizing away the shortcomings of coaches who can deliver. Meanwhile, good guys get shown the door with a quickness if they continually come up short.
Strong may be reticent to kiss babies and play golf with donors, but Texas partisans will get over that so long as the product on the field improves. If not, of course, God help him – the boosters sure as hell won’t.