Saul Goodman, Walter White’s charismatic lawyer in Breaking Bad, is a fantastic and well-developed character. The man’s hilarious, runs a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, yet functioning, law practice, and he’s sketchy as can be. One of Saul’s characteristics I enjoy the most is his ability to apply stark, real-world dilemmas to light-hearted tales of old. In the midst of grave circumstance, his analogies were fun and perfectly executed.
Warning: The next two paragraphs contain a Breaking Bad **SPOILER.** Skip them if you’re not caught up on the most recent episodes.
I was watching BB the other night when Saul and Walt were discussing a potential catastrophic issue at hand. Former cohort Jesse Pinkman had gone off the proverbial reservation and now posed a huge threat to both of them. Saul turned to Walt and asked him if Pinkman’s rogue quest for revenge had developed into an “Old Yeller-type situation.” Stunned, Walt looked at Saul in disbelief. He realized Saul was implying that the death of Pinkman, who Walt considered “like family,” would eliminate a thorn in their collective sides and allow them to continue on their prosperous journeys unscathed. Jesse’s Old Yellering would also end his pain, as he was in a bad way, suffering from debilitating remorse and depression from the terrible atrocities he’d done under Walter’s watch.
With Jesse alive and well, a dark cloud would long loom overhead. With Jesse gone, they’re looking at clear skies. At its core, though, getting Old Yellered is to be perceived as a positive. That yellow labrador retriever was offed for his own good. He had become rabid and dangerous. He was aggressive and hollow-eyed. That heart of gold had turned to ash. He was no longer the loving family member everyone knew him as. He had grown into a family hindrance, and he was no longer living a good and joyous life. The act itself was an ugly one, obviously, as turning a shotgun on a pet is a nightmare scenario, but it was best for both parties.
You see, I’m a Texas Longhorns fan. Always have been. The Horns’ Head Coach, Mack Brown, has taken on some Old Yeller-like qualities. He’s not rabid or dangerous, and he doesn’t pose any physical threats, but his profession and unwillingness to remove himself from it has created an “Old Yeller-type situation.” As he remains on the sideline with a headset on, the University of Texas football program is imprisoned by his inability to put a winning product on the field. No, you animals, I’m not suggesting that someone take Mack Brown out behind the barn and put him down. The football coach equivalent of an Old Yellering is a forced resignation, or if that doesn’t take, a firing.
Mack used to win tough ball games, recruit better than anyone in the land, put up 50 points a game, has helped many players fulfill their dreams of playing professional football, and he has a National Championship ring. He also heads up the most profitable college football program in the nation. But the game has passed him by. He’s no longer a good football coach. He’s merely a figurehead, a CEO, and he’s doing the program a disservice.
As it stands now, Mack is getting whipped on the recruiting trail, has lost five straight to the under-manned Kansas State, owns several of the biggest beatdowns in Texas-OU’s long history, has seen his Longhorns be supplanted as the premier program in the state of Texas, has not produced an NFL draftee at the offensive line position since 2007, just watched his team give up 550 rushing yards to BYU (the most allowed in Texas football history), has taken home only two conference championship trophies in his 15 years in Austin, has gone 11-16 in conference play since 2010, and has generally put a very poor product on the field. With all these shortcomings, consider that Mack enjoys the most advantageous head coaching position in the country. The resources he has at his disposal to assemble a winning football team are vast.
Mack is on his way to becoming the newest Bobby Bowden or Joe Paterno — coaches who wore out their welcome on the sidelines after successful careers. While once great (or good, in Mack’s case), they refused to ride off into the sunset while their programs, and their legacies, slowly deteriorated, year after year. They became detached. They coasted. They fell short. They created unrest among their respective fan bases — fans who felt helpless as the prospects of new leadership lied in the hands of the very man they wanted replaced.
Could Texas do any better than Mack Brown? In a word, yes. ESPN recently ranked the University of Texas head coaching job as the second best in all of football
— yes, in all of football — even ahead of the New England Patriots. As a football coach with big aspirations, that’s a phone call you take.
Mack, I once called you a good man and a good coach, but you’re only one of those things now. Your Longhorn brethren still cares for you, but that sentiment needs to be reciprocated. Set us free. Set yourself free. Pack up your belongings along with what’s left of your legacy, and settle into that West Austin mansion before your neighbors start to resent you. This is the easy way. The hard way results in more shame, and we don’t want that for you.
But how can you fire a man that has given so much to the football program over the years? To the university? To the hundreds of student athletes that he has coached and mentored? That’s a proverbial trigger that no one wants the task of pulling.
If only the University of Texas had their own Saul Goodman and Walter White.