It would be hard to find a coach more openly criticized by his fan base the past few seasons than Charlie Strong. It is what he signed up for though. He inherited a team from the wreckage of a former players coach who had lost sight of the idea of discipline when dealing with 18 year olds. Furthermore, Strong joined the Longhorns at a time of a renaissance in Texas football throughout the state; Johnny Vegas had just torn up the SEC in A&M’s introduction, Baylor and TCU were both at historic highs, and Texas Tech had just gotten the most attractive man in football. It was largely a no win situation. In the past two and a half years he has led a team that can only be described as bipolar. He has yet to record a winning season, yet he has beaten five top 25 teams. There is talk, now, of pulling the plug on Strong’s short career with Texas. There are rumors that Strong must win out to retain his job in Austin. I argue that firing Charlie Strong would be a big mistake.
The first rule of firing a coach at a school with the pedigree of Texas is making sure that there is someone in the wings that can take the position and run with it. Longhorns fans have anointed Houston Coach Tom Herman as the heir apparent to the job. Others may look at Les Miles and see potential in hiring him. Tom Herman has proved this season that he is no better than Charlie Strong, with an above average record against average teams (Oklahoma being an exception). Likewise, Les Miles has proven himself to be an above average coach, but he is unlikely to be able to perform better than he did at LSU, where he was blessed with great recruiting, followed by choking right when things seem to be going there way. The fact of the matter is that no one will be a significant upgrade from Charlie Strong that is available, and because of this continuity should be valued above a symbolic switch up.
The second reason he should stay is in the same vein: Lamar Jackson. Well, Jackson and the rest of the 9-1 Cardinals, who are finding success off of a team largely recruited and assembled by Strong and his staff. So far the two most recent quarterbacks recruited by Strong are: Teddy Bridgewater, Lamar Jackson, Steve Buechele. The track record is there, and the glimpses from the true freshman Buechele has been there. Allow Strong to coach this kid up, and see if he truly is a quarterback-recruiting guru. It is hard to blame a man who has had to work with Tyrone Swoops and Jerrod Heard for a poor record. Many of those very close games turn out differently with Buechele under center.
Lastly, Texas should not set a precedent of firing coaches quickly. Two and a half years may feel long, but in the process of rebuilding a program that had truly been decimated from years of internal rot, this is not a long time. He needs to rebuild recruiting credibility in the new and far more competitive Texas football landscape, as well as create institutional changes that provide stability for the program. Firing Strong will do a few things. It will show potential coaches that they will not be given ample time to create a culture, and will be chase out of town in the growing pains. It show recruits that there will be growing pains in the next few years, and if they want to be part of a playoff-competitive football team, they better go to Baylor or A&M. Lastly, it will exasperate the already hurting fan base, who will all but be guaranteed a middling football team for a few more years.
I love Texas, and I will be the first to argue for Strong’s departure after next season, if there has not been a significant uptick. At that point he will have developed his star quarterback and running back for two seasons as well as allowed his very young, talented, yet mistake prone defense to develop. Until this time though, I’m afraid Strong is being judged unfairly for the sins of the past coaching regime.