Thu Dec 02 03:57pm EST
Greg Davis has been Mack Brown's offensive coordinator for the last 15 years, going back to their days at North Carolina, a collaboration that's produced seven top-10 finishes, two conference championships and a national championship. Coming into this season, Davis had groomed a Heisman winner, two Heisman runners-up and six first-round draft picks at Texas, and four of his last five offenses from 2004-09 had finished in the top dozen nationally in scoring. He's the kind of guy, in other words, who's probably earned a mulligan.
There's a very good chance today, though, that Davis will gone by the weekend as a token sacrifice to the masses demanding a purge following the Longhorns' catastrophic descent to 5-7 this fall, if the ax hasn't already dropped privately. If his tenure has earned Davis a few extra lives, 2010 may have consumed them all:
• The Longhorns averaged just shy of 24 points for the season, a full 10 points below their previous low under Davis, and failed to top 24 in any Big 12 game.
• Sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert, heir apparent to Colt McCoy, finished 11th among regular Big 12 starters in pass efficiency, tied for the national lead with 17 picks and came in behind only LSU's Jordan Jefferson for the worst touchdown:interception ratio in the nation. In UT's only conference wins, Gilbert threw three INTs at Texas Tech and hit 4 of 16 passes for 62 yards at Nebraska.
• Davis' attack failed to produce a 1,000-yard rusher or receiver for only the second time in his tenure. Only one other receiver under Davis has led the team with fewer yards than James Kirkendoll (707), Tony Jeffery in 2004, on a team that ran Vince Young and Cedric Benson 41 times per game en route to the nation's No. 2 rushing attack and an 11-1, Rose Bowl-winning finish. This year's entire team combined for fewer yards on the ground (1,806) than Benson alone (1,834) that season, and only one more touchdown.
In Davis' defense, he was pulling the string for those attacks, too: It's the standard he set that this year's misfits failed to meet. But his defenders in Austin have always been few and far between, especially after his insistence on starting quarterback Chris Simms over Major Applewhite in 2001, which probably cost the 'Horns a shot at a national championship. The office was relatively stagnant and unimaginative for another year-and-a-half, until they realized Vince Freaking Young is our quarterback and proceeded to rip off a prolific, 20-game winning streak with Young as the centerpiece in 2004-05. But it took two more years in the wilderness of December bowl games – along with back-to-back losses to both Kansas State and Texas A&M – to find Colt McCoy's sweet spot as a deadly spread passer out of the shotgun.
Based on Gilbert's progress this year (or lack thereof), it would take the rest of Davis' career to coax a McCoy-like performance out of him, if he ever did. He doesn't have that long – with vastly more popular defensive coordinator Will Muschamp still in line to succeed Mack Brown as the head coach at some point before he starts drawing social security, there's not enough patience around the office for Davis to burn another season grooming up-and-coming freshmen Connor Wood and Case McCoy in the same system that laid such a giant egg this year, either.
The next few years will probably make up the final chapter of Brown's career on the sideline. He's talked increasingly as the 'Horns' fortunes faded over the second half of the year about the sense of entitlement on his team and the failure of the coaches to shake it from the players. He sounds like a coach in search of a spark that will send him out on top. There's no guarantee that would necessarily come in the form of a new coordinator. But if he holds his ground the status quo, Mack's liable to start feeling a few of the hands that have slapped him on the back for so many years begin guiding him toward the door if the Longhorns aren't back on top of the new-look Big 12 next year.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.