Neal Brown has shown some glimpses lately that he might be figuring some things out in Morgantown. Some say too little, too late. Some say they are happy to see a win against our greatest rivals. Others say slow down and see where this path leads. Staring down Texas Tech in the Big 12 Conference opening weekend, we need to evaluate what it means for the program if Texas Tech shows out like they did last year. How hot is the coaching seat if again we fall short of ever nabbing a three-game winning streak?
It might not be as black and white as you think. While some fans will call for the head coaches’ job if we fall to Texas Tech in Morgantown, Athletic Director Wren Baker has to make smart decisions for the university based on the facts and not an emotional response from a frustrating loss or performance. A loss will likely mean nothing in regard to the employment status of Neal Brown UNLESS:
We Get Destroyed
No one wants to see a repeat of last year. It might be one of the worst losses I can remember as a Mountaineer fan, mostly because of how unexpected it was from the start way the squad felt entering the game. We were picked apart. If WVU doesn’t keep this one close, that’s a coaching issue. That’s a scheme issue. That’s a Brown issue.
We Look Unprepared for Tech
Texas Tech is getting better as the years go by. They had a couple tough games to start the year and could have won them both. They are fast and aggressive, making time management critical in any successful defense against the Red Raiders. If the playing on the field gets sloppy and subs cannot be brought in because we didn’t manage the clock well enough, this is going to be a blowout.
Fans Turn on the Coach or Players
In our recent history, fans have never been more vocal about their discontent with decision making for the offense. The boo birds can congregate in Milan Puskar stadium the same as Acrisure Stadium a couple weeks ago when Panther fans expressed their disgust for Jurkovec as QB. Bad choices on the field and senseless play calling that leads to punting throughout the game will bring out the worst in a Mountaineer fan base on the edge of instilling their trust back in Brown.
Factors also work in the coach’s favor regardless of the outcome Saturday, which can include:
You Don’t Have Garrett Greene
It’s pretty well understood now that Nicco is getting the nod for Saturday as Greene continues to heal up. The fans have been anxiously awaiting a season with Garrett Greene at the helm, and this is the emotional leader of the team without question. His absence, though physically available to help keep morale up, will be felt. This also plays a factor in swaying the narrative if WVU stumbles Saturday afternoon/evening.
You Are Creating a New Scheme
To build on the previous point, the offense runs differently based on the quarterback you have and their particular skill set. Nicco and Garrett run the offense differently, so designed plays to feature Greene will not be as successful with a different quarterback. Whomever is calling the plays, whether it be Neal Brown himself or Chad Scott, needs to play to Marchiol’s strength but can use the one-week preparation for a whole new scheme as a defendable excuse should they need it.
We Just Beat Pitt
It’s safe to say that bad team or not, it always feels good to send the Panthers back up I-79 to Pittsburgh with a loss. That win, however ugly, bought favor. While you don’t want to have to cash in those chips the following week, you do have a little wiggle room in the fanbase as they shake off the good vibes still lingering from the Brawl.
What does all this mean for the future of Neal Brown coaching in Morgantown? Personally, I think it means very little at the moment, considering WVU still would owe a pretty substantial buyout for Brown in a time where we are in a well-documented deficit as a university, cutting majors, courses, and staff. But athletics are a cash cow that must be nurtured. Is Neal Brown warm in his chair? That remains to be seen with how prepared he makes this group for not just this game, but the remainder of the Big 12 slate ahead.
Tune in to ESPN+ Saturday at 3:30 to see our Mountaineers host the Texas Tech Red Raiders seeking revenge for our drubbing in Lubbock last year.
Photo Credit: WVU Athletics