Reeling in the Years — Thanks, Coach P

November 5, 2021

This has been a week. A week to reflect. A week to be thankful. A week that made us pause.

And a week to get over.

Coach Gary Patterson speaks to media at the Big 12 Media Days. Courtesy of TCU Athletics | Photo by Ellman Photography

Coach Gary Patterson speaks to media at the Big 12 Media Days. Courtesy of TCU Athletics | Photo by Ellman Photography

For the first time since December 2000, Gary Patterson will not lead the Frogs onto the field. And what a run it has been.

We’ve all reeled in the years since the news broke late Sunday that TCU and its winningest coach in school history were parting ways.

And there’s lots to review.

The file is large, the successes larger. Iconic wins in Pasadena, Atlanta, Norman, Austin, just to name of few of the 181 joyous game days that he gave us over a 21-year reign.

Seniors this year at TCU were infants when the news came down in December 2000 that Coach Dennis Franchione would not coach the Frogs on the Mobile Bowl (he had taken the Alabama job) and Frogs Defensive Coordinator Gary Patterson was THE man. A generation of Frog fans have known nothing but winning and bowl games and championships and the coach with the shoe-tying, pants-hitching magic.

Contrast the last 21 years with any 21 years in the history of program football and the impact is unmistakable. Take, for instance the 21 football seasons from 1971 to 1991, when TCU won a total of 68 games, including a run of eight straight years when the Frogs won two or fewer games each year. Old-timers remember the lean years and relish in the last 20+ years of those nightmares from the ’70s and ’80s being buried by a ton of winning.

The bar had been set high. Thank you, Coach P.

That high standard of winning became the expected and, ultimately, Patterson was measured against the standard that he set. Winning is fragile and Patterson knew it. That’s why he was so vigilant throughout his tenure as head coach at TCU.

No year showed the fragile nature of winning more than this year, when the Frogs’ injuries mixed with untimely mistakes in games leading to a streak of losses, punctuated by meltdowns on offense, and big-play yielding on the defensive side of the ball. It has not been the season we were expecting. When I left the spring game on April 17th, I thought this was going to be 2014 all over again. I was enthused. Now as I prep for tomorrow’s Baylor game, my game chart and the players on it are a shadow of the 2-deep chart the Frogs came out of spring ball sporting.

Such is college football. A game of attrition, a game of collisions. This week, TCU’s expectations for this season collided with reality.

We now must move on.

Moving on involves the Baylor Bears, a “came out of nowhere” team that won all of two games last year. The Bears have re-tooled and brought in seasoned transfers in key positions to add to the already “old” players they had on the roster. Baylor is one of the most experienced teams in the nation — tons of career starts along the offensive line and in the secondary. The revival started when head coach Dave Aranda cleaned out his offensive staff and started over, bringing in OC Jeff Grimes from BYU. The “Reliable Violent Offense” features a power running game (watch out for #7 Abram Smith, a converted contact-happy linebacker, who’s run for 930 yards and 11 touchdowns) and short passes that I call extended handoffs that go for big yards.

On defense, a grown up group of defenders are led by gigantic LSU transfer #62 nose tackle Apu Ika, who rolls in a 350 pounds. Frogs center Steve Avila will need to have an epic day to neutralize Baylor’s man in the middle.

Baylor features some of the best special teams in the nation and the Frogs will have to work hard for return yards. Punter Isaac Power is in the Top 3 in the nation in net punting at 42.2 yards per punt, and kickoff man Noah Rauschenberg has had 7 kickoffs returned all year. Both these guys sport big league legs.

The key for TCU is to go play and have fun. The interim head coach said the Frogs will “play for Gary Patterson” this week, and I suspect the play book will be wide open for this one. Open it up, take chances, have fun. What has TCU got to lose?

I hope you’ll show up. The Frogs need you.

We’re on the air on the Horned Frogs Sports Network at 1:30 p.m. CT on WBAP 820 AM, Sirius 98, XM200 and the Varsity and Riff Ram apps. Until air time, here’s to Coach P! We won’t forget.

Kick ‘Em High!