North Carolina’s timing to fire Larry Fedora was good. Replacing him with Mack Brown is a missed opportunity.
North Carolina making the move to fire Larry Fedora is a smart call. The program was 2-16 in its last 18 ACC games.
And the timing of the move to fire Fedora was great. There are few Power 5 jobs of UNC’s caliber opening this year. In theory, North Carolina would be in a great position to pluck whomever it wants.
It was also an opportunity to reset recruiting.
NC State is recruiting at an elite level relative to its normal standards. It has a staff of quality recruiters like OC Eliah Drinkwitz, defensive backs coach Aaron Henry, defensive line coach Kevin Patrick, and receivers coach George McDonald. High school coaches in the region trust that the Wolfpack will develop their players. And I often hear from other college coaches of bigger programs how well the Wolfpack identify players early on who later receive bigger offers.
The gap between NC State and UNC is growing.
But in UNC’s own division, Miami seems to have taken a step back from its strong 2017 season and may be stagnating. Virginia Tech so far has not improved under Justin Fuente and now has lost momentum on the recruiting trail. Georgia Tech is, well, fine, but doesn’t appear primed to make a major step forward any time soon.
By firing Fedora now, UNC is getting the jump on its three main in-division rivals, if those rivals were to make moves in the next few years.
But hiring Mack Brown?
I don’t get the move. I won’t call it the worst hire in college football history. And I can’t guarantee that Brown will fail. But I’d wager that the coaches at NC State, Georgia Tech, Miami, and Virginia Tech are doing cartwheels in their offices right now.
Brown is one of the most drastic underachievers relative to talent level and expectations over the last decade. In his final four seasons at Texas, he went just 18-17 in Big 12 play, despite having by far the best recruited talent. His best finish in that time was a tie for second. The Longhorns were frequently noncompetitive, soft, and disorganized.
Brown’s press conferences were full of excuses for the entitlement culture he enabled, which Charlie Strong tried to fix, but Strong ended up cutting too much talent off the roster to weed out the bad apples.
Brown’s work as an announcer since 2013 has been routinely mocked as not displaying a mastery of tactics, for an unwillingness to criticize seemingly any coaching decision, and for being painfully conservative.
It’s not that a hire of Brown, who will turn 68 before next season, can’t work out. It’s just that there are other candidates who have had success within the last decade.
Take Scott Satterfield, for instance. The head coach at Appalachian State has built a program around excellent talent identification, development, and playing a fun, physical brand of football.
Of course, Satterfield has the same agent as Fedora.
Satterfield has an obvious in-state connection, and the Mountaineers are good this season. But they’ve been good the last two seasons too. The difference now is the fact that he hired Jimmy Sexton as his agent last offseason.
For this to work, Brown will have to hire an all-star ensemble of an assistant staff. At 68, he will immediately face questions posed by recruits about how long he’ll be coaching. His staff is going to need to be able to overcome those questions and work really hard to fight against the entitled culture that plagued Texas during his final half-decade in Austin.