Austin, Texas Two talented, young quarterbacks. One football. No chance to make everyone happy.
This potentially volatile equation has added up to a quarterback controversy in past seasons at Texas. But it won't this year, said Longhorns coaches, who are taking a different approach with Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead than they did with Major Applewhite and Chris Simms during the 2000 and 2001 seasons.
When it was announced Monday that McCoy, a red-shirt freshman, would start today's season opener against North Texas, coach Mack Brown also said there would be no scripted playing time against the Mean Green for Snead, a Stephenville High School product who enrolled in January.
Ideally, offensive coordinator Greg Davis said, Texas coaches want both quarterbacks to play today. But lessons learned from the past will impact how McCoy and Snead are handled this season.
Winning, not popularity
"We're not into any kind of popularity contest," Davis said. "We're into who gives us the best chance to win. And that's the only thing that matters."
Brown said playing time will be assigned "by feel" rather than by a series rotation system used most recently in 2003with Chance Mock and Vince Young.
Brown said the Simms-Applewhite debates among Texas fans "got bigger than winning the game" and convinced him to adopt a fresh approach for McCoy and Snead.
"When you've got two quarterbacks, it gives people an opportunity to choose sides. And when you ask them not to, some are going to anyway," Brown said.
Especially when one of the two is the popular Applewhite, the 1999 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year as a sophomore. But his mobility was compromised by two subsequent knee surgeries, opening the door for Simms - and ongoing controversy - the next two seasons.
Looking back, Brown said Applewhite's gimpy knees "had more to do with (quarterbacks' playing time) than most people thought" in that stretch. Applewhite agreed.
"If I wouldn't have hurt my knees, I know I would have kept playing," said Applewhite, now the offensive coordinator at Rice. "But it does no good to really dwell on it. You get injured. You move on."
Looking from afar, Applewhite said Texas coaches are in a much different situation with McCoy and Snead than they were with him and Simms. He predicted the current scenario will make it easier to minimize controversy.
"I think what makes this so different is there's two unknowns, as opposed to a situation where there's a known commodity and an unknown commodity," Applewhite said. "So it's easier to stress 'team, team, team,' and that's the way it should be. I think everybody in that building learned how important the starting quarterback position was at Texas when all of that was going on. And coach Brown has handled that (ever since)."
He'll handle it today with McCoy in the lineup and Snead prepared to enter the game based on a coach's instinct.