Texas has reportedly whittled it down to four potential candidates to replace Mack Brown: Art Briles, Jimbo Fisher, James Franklin and Charlie Strong. All four were on our shortlist for the job. Here is a quick breakdown of their records since 2011, which shows the relative strengths and weaknesses of their résumés.
It’s hard to discredit Briles’ performance the past three years. Baylor is the historic bottom-feeder in the Big 12. Briles just won the freaking conference. He is battle tested. Importantly for Texas, he can develop quarterbacks. He has had three the past three years. The worst performing, Nick Florence, finished third nationally in yards/attempt and 13th in passer rating. He turned 58 this month, though 58 may be the new 48. He knows what the kids are up to.
Fisher has the best record. He also has had the best talent and the biggest talent disparity. Fisher hit the lottery with Jameis Winston. His team has been absolutely dominant this year. Though, Winston would not be accompanying him to Texas. The Seminoles never really beating a marquee opponent and losing three games to inferior opponents in 2011 and 2012 may be disconcerting.
Franklin has perhaps the least impressive record on paper the past three years. Beating injury-depleted Georgia in 2013 is his only Top 30 win. That said, he inherited a task similar to what Briles did at Baylor. Briles won just seven Big 12 games his first three years. Franklin has compiled his record in the toughest conference, without a marquee quarterback. The other three coaches have had at least one first round draft pick.
Strong is a mixed bag. His teams have played up to big opponents (Florida). They have also played down to putrid ones. Louisville, with Teddy Bridgewater, lost to UConn at home in 2012 and had one-score wins against awful FIU, Southern Miss and South Florida teams. He has done a great job building Louisville from a mess into a formidable program. But, at Texas, more than half your conference opponents have done the same.
None of these four is Nick Saban. But, this seems to be a reasonable, attainable list. Fisher signed his contract extension through 2019 and has Jameis Winston for another year. Briles agreed to a massive deal locking him in through 2023. Strong expressed no interest in the Texas job. But, he was willing to talk to Tennessee 13 months ago. The easiest deal to lock down may be Franklin, who would almost certainly leave Vanderbilt. Though, Franklin may have another prominent offer to consider soon.