As the decade comes to a close, Texas is still trying to find its way back to the right path.
The 2010s have been a forgettable decade for the Longhorns. Eight seasons of at least five losses and multiple appearances in the Texas Bowl and Alamo Bowl leave the 2018 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia as one of the lone bright spots for the program.
When head coach Tom Herman was introduced three years ago, championships were promised. Three years in, none have been delivered. That’s why Herman did what he did Sunday, firing defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and reassigning offensive coordinator Tim Beck. Herman’s actions were a statement to Longhorn Nation that mediocrity won’t be accepted as commonplace in Austin.
“7–5 will never be our standard at Texas, and I take full responsibility for any and all of our shortcomings and know we need to do a better job coaching across the board,” Herman said in a press release.
While that statement seems standard after such a move, it is a risky one for Herman’s future. It further entrenches Texas into a “win now” culture. More importantly, it speeds up the timetable for Herman to accomplish what he promised when he arrived on the Forty Acres.
The Monday prior to the changes, Herman stood at the podium and said, “at the end of the day, the buck stops with me.”
After Sunday, there is nobody else left to blame. Herman has put himself out in the open and exposed himself to any and all criticism that will come his way.
And if the ship isn’t righted soon, the criticism will continue to pour in. Next year will be the final year of quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s career at Texas. At the beginning of this season, it seemed as if Ehlinger had taken his game to another level. Before the season went downhill, Ehlinger was leading the Longhorns with Heisman-level numbers. If the peak accomplishment of the Herman-Ehlinger era is a Sugar Bowl win, the outside noise will surely grow.
Along with the heightened expectations lies the fact that Baylor, who was in a significantly worse position than Texas was at the time of Herman’s hiring, has rebounded with astounding speed. In three years, Matt Rhule has taken the Bears from a single win to 11 and conference title game berth.
Every coach has a breaking point in his career. Herman is at his. He has bought himself more time with the events of the last week. However, given the standard Texas holds itself to and the expectations Herman has placed on himself, time could run out if change doesn’t come for the Longhorns soon.