by Vincent Kwan
This is nominally a post about Baylor Football, but as you’ll find out as your read on, it’s more accurately a love letter to Baylor head coach Art Briles. Unlike the PAC 12, where I struggled to find teams that I truly liked (or had any strong feelings for), the Big 12 is home to three of my favorite coaching personalities in the college football: Briles, Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury and WVU’s Dana Holgorsen. Being Matt’s team of choice, I’ll leave it to Matt to do more Justice to WVU than I ever could.
That leaves us with Kingsbury and Briles. For the sake of this post, lets imagine these two at a Crossfit gym together. It’s not hard – if you’ve ever been in one, you’ve either got young power yuppies who look like Kingsbury or older dudes like Briles with their old man strength. Holgorsen, for good measure, is outside drinking a pint of Four Roses while doing bicep curls over his Trans Am.
Kingsbury’s eager to please, talking about the additional benefits of his Vibram Five Fingers and preaching the gospel of the Paleo diet. You stare at him from afar, with one part envy, one part sexually confusing attraction, and two parts pure seething hatred. You see him load up another plate on to the bar and think “God, I hope that douchebag falls on his ass,” but he doesn’t, finishing his set with perfect form. Later in the night, he’ll probably scoop in and take the girl you were eyeing at the bar. Initially, you’re angry, but then you realize a simple truth — there are those of us who are blessed with GQSWAGGERHOLLYWOOD status and there are those of us who are not. Who are we to hate on the Heisman-tutelage and Ryan Gosling looks of those more fortunate than us?
While you’ve been working out latent self-esteem issues thinking about Kingsbury, Briles has long finished his workout. As he walks out, he turns your way and says goodbye, pulling out his earbuds and revealing that he’s been listening to Young Jeezy this entire time. Slowly, you turn off your iPod that’s been playing that Ariana Grande song on repeat, hiding your shame. You slowly approach Briles and ask him what the secret to it all is, and he simply says “so what was, ain’t. It’s done.” You’re not entirely sure what transpired here, but next thing you know, you’re wearing green and gold and writing a check for a new Baylor stadium.
Kingsbury’s return to Lubbock echoes Briles’s return to Houston years ago, where he lead his alma mater to renewed relevance largely under the hot hand of Kevin Kolb. Now, the great question facing Kingsbury is whether or not his rising star was propelled solely by the prowess of his prized pupil, Johnny Manizel. When Robert Griffin III left for the NFL, Briles faced the same question and answered brilliantly, using holdover Nick Florence to lead the 11th best offense in the country (only a drop off of 6 spots from the previous, RG III-led year). Football Study Hall committed a two-part series on the Baylor offense, explaining the many ways it can hurt you and offering limited solutions on defense in return. The aerial assault of Briles’ Baylor teams belies the fact that Briles offers more flexibility than you would think. As discussed in Spencer Hall’s interview with Briles, Baylor’s demolishing of UCLA in the Holiday Bowl last season featured only 12 passes from Nick Florence, who had just posted a season of comparable quality to his Heisman predecessor. It makes you think twice about Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk’s boasting about the Heisman – there’s just enough grain of truth there to stop you from betting short on it all the way. Briles is an old hand at swaggerin‘, Kingsbury’s just working his way up to it.
Who knows if Baylor can play enough defense to get out of the Big 12’s middle tier. If they can poach the best talent that the Longhorn state has to offer on both sides of the ball, maybe you might see a more complete Baylor team take the field. But then again, would you complain if you had to watch this again? Art Briles is a craftsman, solely dedicated to building the purest spread. We shouldn’t ask for too much more than that.