Neal Brown’s Stubbornness Hurt the West Virginia Football Program

Morgantown, West Virginia – Flashback 3 years ago when Neal Brown replaced the departing Dana Holgorsen as the new head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Brown, who had nominal success in the Sun Belt Conference at Troy, was an up-and-coming star in the coaching ranks and by all appearances, he was a solid hire by West Virginia Athletic Director Shane Lyons and the Mountaineers seemed to be in good hands.

But one thing was missing. Neal Brown decided that not only would he take over his first Power 5 program, he thought he should also take on the play-calling duties as well.

This, of course, is very rare in college football. Nick Saban has an offensive coordinator at Alabama. Dabo Swinney does as well. Most head coaches are very aware that their role as the leader of the program is more than enough on their plate and are willing to delegate responsibilities appropriately to assistants.

Not Neal Brown. Brown bit off way more than he could chew by being his own offensive coordinator for the Mountaineers. He assumed wrongly that because he was successful in the Sun Belt Conference that the way he ran his program at Troy would translate at the highest level in the Big 12 Conference.

And he was wrong. He openly admitted that following West Virginia’s disastrous season last year.

“You can’t be an elite offensive coordinator and an elite head coach at the same time,” Brown said after he hired Harrell. “So I want to be better as a head coach and to do that I’ve got to step away from the offense.”

Why did it take him three full seasons of mediocrity for Brown to see what was so obvious? Brown’s stubbornness and inability to be self-aware led to him remaining the offensive play-caller and his play-calling has been the major issue with the team since he’s arrived in Morgantown.

Remember, the defense has played well enough all three seasons to win games. It has been the short-comings of the offense – and specifically the play-calling – that has led to a 17-18 record since Brown has been head coach.

While it’s terrific that Graham Harrell has been called on to replace Brown’s Vanilla Raid Offense with a true Air Raid Offense, it’s three years late and only happened because he was forced by Shane Lyons to do so.