Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Texas’ Tom Herman is still vague on the Longhorns’ play-caller’s identity

Posted August 27th, 2018

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Story highlights
  • Texas head coach Tom Herman said, "We'll all be calling plays."
  • No matter who actually calls the plays, Herman said he has veto power and the ultimate responsibility.
  • About 40 head coaches called their own plays in the 2016 season, but some like Kliff Kingsbury and Lincoln Riley prefer to keep doing it.

Tom Herman tried to clear up the biggest mystery of the offseason on Monday.

And made it even more mysterious.

The second-year Texas head coach announced at his press conference the identity of this year’s offensive play-caller.

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It’s everyone.

You read right.

Basically Herman pulled a Michael Dickson. He punted.

Pressed over who would be making those game-time decisions, Herman played his cards so close to his vest, he could barely see his cards. But after a season of second-guessing about Tim Beck’s choice of plays and a bowl game when Herman called the plays to mixed results, Herman basically made no decision.

“We’ll all be calling plays on offense,” Herman said. “It’s the same that went into the decision last year.”

Come again?

All? Everyone? Is this a democracy?

Texas head coach Tom Herman talks with offensive line coach Herb Hand during the Texas Orange-White spring football game in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, April 21, 2018. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Again, there is not a play that gets called or suggested that does not have veto power by the head football coach, Tom Herman,” Tom Herman said. “So I will be in charge of making sure that the plays that are run are the plays that we feel as an offensive staff are the ones that will be the most successful in said situation.”

So let’s get this straight.

Beck or new co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Herb Hand or running backs coach Stan Drayton or wide receivers coach Corby Meekins or passing game coordinator Drew Mehringer or even Herman himself will call the play. And Herman will have the power to say, uh, no.

Hello, delay of game.

What all this says to me is Beck will still call the plays, but his leash is about 2 inches long, give or take. And Herman’s likely to cancel half of them. How workable can that be?

Herman said he chose to call the plays against Missouri in the Texas Bowl to remind him what it was like when he was offensive coordinator for Ohio State’s machine. It was less than stellar with a paltry 280 yards, the second-fewest of any Longhorns game last season.

So have some fun with it, Tom.

Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck talks with quarterbacks Shane Buechele (7) and Sam Ehlinger (11) during warmups before an NCAA college football game against Texas Tech in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Maybe they could cast lots and each call a play in order. Or have a GA pull a name out of a hat in the press box. That would look good on television. Heck, have athletic director Chris Del Conte hold a raffle. Hundred bucks a ticket, have four lucky fans each call plays for a quarter. Make it a thousand.

Bring in a guest play-caller. Mack Brown’s still on the payroll.

Hey, Beck’s not popular in this town. We get it. The offensive coordinator and quarterback never are if you’re clawing just to get six wins and get to a bowl game. Even Greg Davis was vilified, and his 2005 offense averaged more than 50 points a game. That’s hard to do with 42 hitch passes a game. We kid.

But let’s be real. Beck was dealing with a makeshift line, two underclassmen quarterbacks who couldn’t stay healthy and ghosts at running back, so it was hardly a full house hand.

That said, Herman’s doing himself a disservice. It’s poor form not to practice total accountability. Be decisive. Either have faith in your offensive coordinator or fire him and get someone you do trust. After all, Herman didn’t say he was calling the plays. Just said he had veto power.

Now he does recognize that there is “an immense amount of collaboration” in the offense and should be.

“This is Texas’ offense,” Herman said. “This isn’t Tim Beck’s offense.”

But if it’s not an efficient offense, it will be someone else’s before too long.

Charlie Strong hung onto Shawn Watson a game too long, demoting him one game into the season after the 2015 Notre Dame embarrassment. Then he went through play-callers like months of the calendar.


Actually there’s a lot of truth to what Herman thinks.

Being an offensive coordinator is about so much more than dialing up an inside slant or an off-tackle run. It’s about recruiting, about developing, about formulating the gameplan, about adjusting at halftime, about fixing what’s wrong. But the media and public are too fixated on just calling the plays.

Fewer and fewer coaches seem to be calling the plays themselves although coachingsearch.com said as many as 40 FBS head coaches did as late as 2016. They’re just too involved in too many other aspects of the game to be weighed down by the burden of deciding a run or pass play on third-and-long, say, against Texas Tech at a pivotal time of the game.

Kliff Kingsbury still calls the plays, but where has that gotten him? To the fringe of the unemployment list. But it helps when you have quarterbacks like Pat Mahomes, Davis Webb or Baker Mayfield behind center.

Mike Gundy did, but gave up those duties.

Dana Holgorsen bequeathed that job to former Aggie Jake Spavital.

But Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley still juggling both duties.

“You know, the two voices that will be heard throughout a series on a play-by-play basis,” Herman said, “will be mine and Tim Beck’s.”

Finally some clarity.

That’s progress, but Herman should just make up his mind. Either have Beck call the plays or do it himself.

If not, Mack’s right down the hall.

Editor’s note: The original version of this story was edited to correct the three NFL quarterbacks that have played under Kliff Kingsbury.

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