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This program continues to underachieve. How can it be fixed?

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This is not the Oklahoma team of the last four years.

They aren’t going to the College Football Playoffs. Heck, they might need even play for a conference championship. And they certainly don’t have a Heisman-finalist quarterback (yet).

But the Sooners rolled into Amon G. Carter Stadium Saturday and straight up pantsed the Horned Frogs, toying with Gary Patterson and TCU on their way to the easiest 33-14 win in history.

Were this the Horned Frogs of old, we might be content with the result. TCU didn’t get blown out. They didn’t embarrass themselves, they moved the ball a bit and the defense made some plays.

But this isn’t 2004 and this Sooners team isn’t that good.

So what the hell happened?

How long are we expected to be okay with the myriad of excuses that have been thrown our way over the last three years?

Three out of the last six seasons, the Horned Frogs have won 10 or more games. But we are teetering on two straight losing campaigns and three consecutive that fell short of expectations. In 2018, there were injuries and uneven quarterback play. In 2019, the team was young. Now, in 2020, the team is still young, COVID is a thing, and injuries seem to still be an issue.

What will 2021 bring?

I am not going to call for anyone’s job here; that’s not my prerogative and frankly I am not comfortable doing so. But I will repeat what I said on the Crimson and Cream Machine podcast earlier in the week: Gary Patterson has done more for TCU Football than just about anyone has done for any college football program anywhere in the country. He can walk out and move on however he wants and whenever he wants.

But it’s getting a lot harder to for the younger generation of fans to buy in, and the older generation to excuse the results. And games like Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma don’t help. Neither did Patterson’s answers to what felt like pretty fair questions during the post game press conference.

“When you punted late in the fourth quarter did you have second thoughts about maybe going for it there?”

“No.”

Patterson went on to say “you can’t embarrass your kids. You’re talking about a game that was a three score game.” He also pointed out that the defense did, indeed, stop OU on their ensuing drive.

But this isn’t the JV team taking on the Varsity or middle school where we care about feelings. The fact of the matter is, TCU had the ball with 10:45 to play, trailing by 23 points. They had moved the ball with some success, and ought to believe that Max Duggan can pick up two inches, no matter where they are on the field. At that point in the game, going for it and failing wouldn’t have embarrassed the players... not going for it and punting told them that you were giving up.

I know that the odds were against the Frogs; the offense had been abysmal for three quarters, so even if they had scored there and made it 30-14, they probably weren’t winning that game. But it’s really hard for me to wrap my head around not going for it when you have a ***chance*** at winning a ball game, and then choosing to stop the clock, allowing a BS field goal by the Sooners, so that you can get the ball back with 21 ticks to run four plays for your five star running back that you have seemed disinterested in using when the game actually matters.

It just doesn’t make sense.

The defense hasn’t been great either, but that’s not the issue this season. It’s the offense. And time and time again, Patterson seems to protect them.

When asked about the offensive identity, he responded “I don’t know. You’re going to write what you’re going to write.” When asked what his conversations with the offensive staff have been, he said “my conversation is ‘get better’. We have to get better at what we do. You’ve got to keep getting better protection but to do that you’ve got to be able to run the football better. We’re trying to work as well as we can.” He defended the coaches, expanding, “we’ve got some smart people over there.”

They do. There’s a long track record of success at other stops. But it isn’t working, and at some point, the head coach has to acknowledge that. Just look at this terrible truth:

You aren’t going to win a lot of Big 12 games scoring less than 28 points per. Hell, even Nick Saban has figured out that offense matters. “It used to be that good defense beats good offense. Good defense doesn’t beat good offense anymore,” Saban told ESPN. It used to be if you had a good defense, other people weren’t going to score. You were always going to be in the game. I’m telling you. It ain’t that way anymore. I don’t like it, but we just have to make sure we have an offense that’s that way and that’s explosive.”

If Saban can see it, why can’t GP?

There was a time when eating up clock, establishing the run, and keeping your defense fresh by keeping them off the field was a recipe for success in college football. There was a time where it looked like it might work in the Big 12. But the years that the Horned Frogs have had success since joining the Power Five, the Frogs were at or near the top of the league in scoring offense (46.5 ppg in 2014, 42.1 in 2015, and 33.6 in 2017) and scoring defense — averaging less than 30 ppg allowed in each of those years. They showed that they could score a ton of points AND get stops — and they had to make fewer when they were putting points on the board. The big play bug has always been an issue in GP’s 4-2-5, it just isn’t as big an issue when you know your O is going to drop 30+ each week.

Since 2017? TCU has averaged 23.5, 30.3, and 23.8 points per game — and haven’t contended in any of those seasons.

Gary Patterson has done more for TCU Football than anyone. He has brought national recognition to the university, helped build beautiful facilities, made big money donors very happy and very generous, and made it a destination for top recruits. The Hall of Fame and trophy room are filled with icons of his legacy. He has sent dozens of players to the NFL, graduated hundreds more, and made TCU matter in a way no way has before. The job is his for as long as he wants it, and that’s how it should be.

But it’s fair to ask if some changes need to be made, and if his loyalty has become the problem instead of the solution. I’ll never pretend to know the ins and outs of everything that goes on in the program, at practice, or in the film room. But everybody can see that something is wrong.

This team is too talented to not win ball games, and to lose like they lose. It’s time to turn talent and talk into wins, and that means taking a long look at the coaching staff, in the locker room, and in the mirror.