In the end, we probably shouldn't be surprised that Texas head coach Mack Brown replaced defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson. We should probably be surprised that he didn't hire Robinson two years ago.
It's easy to call Brown a CEO coach, but clichés are sometimes true. And it appears there's nothing he likes more than a company man. Robinson's one year as Brown's D.C. in the past went well: In 2004, his 'Horns defense wasn't elite, but it was fine -- 23rd in total defense (third in the pre-spread Big 12 behind No. 13 Oklahoma and No. 14 Missouri), 16th in rushing yards allowed, and 31st in pass efficiency. And fine sounds pretty good right now.
More importantly, the 2004 Texas defense stayed out of an improving offense's way and allowed more than 23 points just twice. The Longhorns went 11-1. For most of the last 12 months, one cannot say the same. Texas' offense improved last year and appears to be improving further in 2013, but the defense allowed 550 rushing yards to a BYU team that gained just 178 in the opener (and averaged 153 last year), and Diaz was, both predictably and perhaps justifiably, labeled the scapegoat and let go.
If you don't pay attention to anything that has happened in Robinson's career since 2004, this hire makes sense. Bring in the successful old guy to replace the young guy over his head, right? But we have paid attention to Robinson's career since then. We know that in four years as Syracuse's head coach, he won 10 games and never really fielded even a decent defense.
And in two years as Michigan's defensive coordinator following his Syracuse ouster, his Wolverines ranked 46th, then 104th in Def. F/+. Awful defense is what got Rich Rodriguez fired in Ann Arbor. Robinson oversaw that defense.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAHAHAHAAAHAHAAAAAAHHAAAAHAHA http://t.co/ndPrafZMEJ— mgoblog (@mgoblog) September 8, 2013
Re: Texas. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHA— Sean Keeley (@NunesMagician) September 8, 2013
it's like stabbing a bullet wound, no? "@LandThieves: Firining Diaz and hiring Greg Robinson is like putting a band-aid on bullet wound"— Holly Anderson (@HollyAnderson) September 8, 2013
Does Greg Robinson distribute a resumé that stops in 2003 and tell people he's been running a crab boat for the last decade?— Patrick Vint (@HS_BHGP) September 8, 2013
Anything can work, of course. Robinson certainly has success on his résumé. He has a Super Bowl ring, too. And perhaps an attempt at simplification will help. Perhaps this personnel simply wasn't responding well to Diaz's micro-managed maneuvering (and it was clear that, when a middle linebacker was lining up as a fifth lineman, playing an impromptu defensive end and biting severely on the zone read, that perhaps some overthinking and micro-managing was at play). Perhaps.
Still, it's difficult to imagine this working out. Of course it is. The last good defense Robinson helmed was the 2004 Texas defense. And the unit that got gashed by BYU was not simply struggling with over-thinking or confusion or whatever simple name we want to give it. It was also struggling with poor angles, poor assignments, and acting like it had collectively never seen a zone read before.
Stranger things have worked. At least, one assumes they have. But aside from, "He was good nine years ago," it's hard to find the rationale to get excited about this hire if you're a Texas fan. Pimp My Ride, Lindsey Lohan, and Vince Young were also good nine years ago.
As for Diaz, it's clear that a fresh start might be a good thing. You don't become stupid overnight, and Diaz's record suggests he's still got a potentially bright future as a collegiate defensive coordinator. Remember, in his last year as Middle Tennessee's D.C., his Blue Raiders ranked 33rd in Def. F/+. In the two seasons after he left, MTSU fell to 67th, then 116th. His only Mississippi State defense ranked 20th; in the two years before Diaz, the Bulldogs ranked 67th and 50th, and in the two after, 30th and 54th. And in his first year in Austin (2011), Texas improved from 31st to sixth. In the right environment, he will likely thrive. But Texas wasn't the right environment.
And at this point, I guess it's fair to wonder if Texas is the right environment for anybody.