Tom Herman made it clear exactly one year ago that he came to Austin to change the Longhorns football program into a winning culture again. He thought he was doing all of the right things, but he didn’t know what he was getting into until the opening game.
Fast forward a bit to last week, and it looked like Texas had established an identity and gained some confidence, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But just like the past three years, the team took one step forward against West Virginia, and two steps back against Texas Tech the following week.
How can a team look so fluid and on the same page with one another, and then be completely discombobulated the next? It’s the culture that’s been established since at least 2014, that’s how.
This program simply doesn’t know how to handle success, even as minor as the success may be. Getting to bowl eligibility is something to be celebrated for this program since it’s something they haven’t achieved since 2014. I don’t think they celebrated too much and overlooked Texas Tech, though. But I do think the players heard people talking all week about how much better they looked and had all the momentum in their favor.
The culture for the players is to believe the hype without playing the game. This team simply isn’t good enough to beat anyone on talent alone, and it was proved yet again on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
So what’s next for the Horns?
They will get an invite to a bad bowl game that will likely be played in the middle of the day during the last week of the year. No one around Austin will be excited about the bowl game, which means the players probably won’t be either. That will be especially true if the handful of juniors who could make the jump to the NFL have already made their decision that they won’t be returning for their senior season.
Quite honestly, I don’t know if winning or losing the bowl game will make a difference for the culture Herman is trying to instill. I really don’t believe it will affect recruiting one way or another. But what it will do is help Herman prepare for next season. Out of the 15 bowl practices the team gets, I would be surprised if the majority of them aren’t focused on next year rather than actually winning the bowl game.
But as Herman has realized this season, he has a whole lot more work to do to get his players mentally ready to be successful. You can’t have a team that feels good about themselves after a win over an average team, and then completely lays an egg the next week against a below average team. The result you get with that type of culture will always be a team with 4-6 losses every single year, and that’s assuming you have enough talent to beat a few average teams on your schedule.
Until Herman is able to at least change the culture to a “two steps forward, one step back” culture, there’s going to be a similar amount of loss in the Texas football program. And no matter how much we hear about the culture being changed, we will never truly know it has happened until we see the results in the win column.