Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Steve Sarkisian was hired for four very important reasons
1. To repair a rapidly declining recruiting situation that was seeing top talent shun the Longhorns
2. To improve the offense production overall
3. To improve the development of quarterbacks and other players
4. To improve Longhorns football to play at a conference championship level
To be fair, it is early on all fronts, but the recruiting progress has been fairly limited. The Longhorns have pursued top talent but have not landed many. The future move to the SEC is partly an admission that Texas cannot compete in top recruiting battles in the Big 12.
Sarkisian is widely renowned as a play caller. In all of the scrimmages, Sarkisian has not been formally game planning or trying to do premium play calling. It is debatable whether the offensive production will actually be better given some of the injuries with the receiving core. None of the scrimmages have really shown the offense to be the juggernaut that the Alabama offense was last year.
Entering fall camp most including myself expected Casey Thompson to be named the starting quarterback. We expected the quarterback guru would further develop Thompson to at least a Mac Jones type level. There have been no signs of that so far. In fact, Card has been incrementally better than Thompson throughout fall camp. The media reports and even Sarkisian’s assessment himself have been mixed on both quarterbacks. Neither quarterback has developed the way one would expect a quarterback guru to develop young quarterbacks.
With Casey Thompson as Starting QB, it is very unlikely the Longhorns are in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Las Vegas has set the over/ under for the Longhorns this season at 8 wins (with some site having Texas at 8,5 wins). Many experts think given the early signs that the team may even struggle to win eight games. This will not sit well with the rabid Texas fan base.
The major goals for 2021 seem incomplete at best and fans are trending to be disappointed. Should they be? What can a new coach do in this situation?
In the middle of this turmoil that is Texas football fandom for the last ten years, what does Sarkisian do?
We have gotten multiple reports that Hudson Card will be starting against Louisiana over Casey Thompson. Sarkisian, who needs a big win, makes the riskier move of naming the redshirt freshman with almost no real playing time the starter. Even if he is right and Card is the better long-term quarterback, it is not likely Card would have been the better option for the first few games. What if Thompson transfers immediately as his dad threatened he would months ago? Why would Sarkisian make this decision in 2021?
(Disclaimer- I have never really bet on sports. I might get this all wrong. This is for dramatic effect to make a point.)
Call your bookie in Las Vegas. Make two bets.
1. Take the Under on the Longhorns at 8 wins for the season. (-130 at Caesars)- I will say bet 1300 to win 1000
2. Bet on the Longhorns to win in the Big 12 Championship game (10:1)- I will say bet 200 to win 2000
Therefore, I bet a total of 1500, so if the Longhorns win
1. Less than eight games – I will end up plus 2100
2. Win the Big 12 Championship Game- I will end up plus 700
I believe one of two realities will play out in the 2021 Longhorns season now
1. If Card IS the right QB this team COULD win the Big 12 Conference Championship and Sarkisian will rapidly start to fulfill the goals he was hired to fulfill
2. If Card struggles as QB and Thompson leaves, Sarkisian can preach patience to the fan base and point to Card’s development. Card will essentially be the excuse for the teams below expectation performance. In the worst case, he will point out the fact that he has Maalik Murphy coming, and Card will either become what Texas needs or Murphy will. He will turn to recruits and say come to Texas where we will play you early and help us rebuild this thing. We need you.
Card will lead to one of the two extremes and there is a narrative for either. Thompson might have led to the middle territory that would not have placated the fan base and left the impression that Texas will stick to the older less talented players over young studs.
Perhaps stating this slightly differently
Thompson is more likely to lead them to 8-4 or 9-3 and that doesn't help because it appears to be just slightly better mediocrity
Card is more likely to lead them to the Big 12 championship game and that builds momentum OR
Card is more likely to lead them to 7-5 or 8-4 and since he is a redshirt freshman he is the insurance policy Sark can cash in even in a season that would otherwise be seen as a failure to spin improvement and playing time to the recruits.
Sarkisian is using Card as his insurance policy.
Is this devious or calculated? I would tend to think of it more as dealing with the reality of his situation.
Which extreme will it lead to? We will see starting next week.
Let me end this so people are clear. I think Sarkisian is very confident in his ability to develop Card and have the upside I talk about above. I believe he believes the best will happen. I also believe he knows that if the down side does he has a plan.