The Horned Frogs' head coach said he made it a point to add tough, throwback-type cmendez@star-telegram.com
The Horned Frogs' head coach said he made it a point to add tough, throwback-type cmendez@star-telegram.com

The Big Mac Blog

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The Big Mac Blog

Patterson not shying away from walking away

By Mac Engel

tengel@star-telegram.com

February 01, 2017 05:40 PM

UPDATED February 02, 2017 08:30 AM

With a statue, a Rose Bowl win, an invite to the Big 12 and final rankings of No. 2 and No. 3 in the country, there is not much left Gary Patterson could do for TCU.

An invite into the four-team BCS Plus 2 “playoff” would be nice, but that scam is so preordained that inclusion into that country club is beginning to feel like being named to the Supreme Court.

GP could quit today and he would rank with Kansas State’s Bill Snyder as turning in one of the best coaching jobs in the history of college football. Patterson is not quitting today, but that day is coming because he doesn’t want to be Bill Snyder.

Gary will soon turn 57, and he remains looking at 62 as the time to step down. As such, you best start preparing for the day when he leaves. It’s coming faster than you think or want to admit.

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The question remains: Can he author a fitting finale or it will it flame out as it does for so many in his position?

Gary Patterson is 149-54 as the TCU head coach.

The endings for Mack Brown at Texas, R.C. Slocum at Texas A&M, Jim Tressel at Ohio State, Bobby Bowden at Florida State and countless others were never consistent with the era of success that these coaches enjoyed.

Then there is the saying that once you start thinking about retiring you already have. I don’t buy that with Gary, but it’s evident he’s much more comfortable than ever before. He’s made it, and he knows it. It’s difficult to remain motivated when you’ve already done it.

And given the increased expectations and decreased patience for all big-money Power 5 coaches, a couple of bad years will get anybody.

GP sounds sincere in his desire to remain with the university in some capacity, most likely as a fundraiser, but that he does not want to coach the TCU football team for forever. This has an ending.

Personally, I thought he was full of it but his timeline has legs. I thought he would be Snyder, but GP wants no part of that. Not because he doesn’t respect Snyder, but simply because he wants a different path for his own life.

Snyder is 77; he can’t live without Kansas State, and K-State can’t live without him.

Gary sounds like a guy who doesn’t want to live without TCU, but that he has other interests and things he wants to experience beyond the game.

The last time TCU posted consecutive losing seasons was 1996-’97, when the Frogs were a combined 5-17 under Pat Sullivan.

“I’d like to be able to experience what it’s like to tailgate,” GP told me on Wednesday after he announced the 2017 signees on National Signing Day. “You get to a point where you spend more time with someone else’s kids than your own. I’d like to be able to spend time with my grandkids.”

He is also like this generation of head coaches who simply do not need to work and remain in the game the way the previous group did. They have all made so much money that they don’t need to do it if the desire has waned for a job that can pay millions but often requires 28-hour workdays and endless headaches.

GP has made more money than he can count, and he has both TCU and this town in his pocket. He can do whatever he wants.

Barring a tragic scandal, even if Gary’s finale in Fort Worth flops the way Mack’s did at Texas or Bowden’s at Florida State or Jim Tressel’s at Ohio State, he will always be the man who made TCU a national brand.

All of those guys left because they were losing, yet all are welcomed back, or remain employed by the school.

Gary accomplished more at TCU than any other coach in this state this century. The only man who could rival this is Mack, who finally turned UT into a national title winner.

Since winning the Rose Bowl in the 2010 season, TCU is 3-2 in bowl games.

After 16 years as the TCU head coach, GP is fast approaching that stage when his supporters will tire and turn on him quick if he doesn’t win. I’ve already heard the preposterous, “Maybe we need new blood” here among TCU people.

He’s had two losing records in the last four years, but those were sandwiched around two seasons when the Frogs were a combined 23-3 and finished No. 3 and No. 7 in the final rankings.

He didn’t have a good team last season, and it wasn’t just because his quarterback was a dud. The receivers were bad and his offensive line was inferior. TCU played in a handful of close games, but the Frogs finished 6-7 for a reason.

With games at Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, K-State and Texas Tech, the 2017 schedule is not exactly friendly. It’s not hard to envision a second consecutive losing record, which would be a first for this school since 1996-97, the final two seasons under Pat Sullivan.

Historically, Gary’s teams have done well when nothing is expected. And certainly not much will be expected next season.

Per his own projected timeline, the end is coming but it’s not imminent. It’s merely a question of whether the finale will be fitting for a man who has done so much or if it will fizzle like the rest.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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cmendez@star-telegram.com