If you’re a science fiction aficionado, then Jorge Luis Borges' garden of forking paths is a familiar concept to you.
The idea which originated in his 1941 short story explores how at any given moment, major moments in our lives result in a plethora of different outcomes that we don’t experience. Essentially the fictional theory is that time branches out at critical junctures in our lives and that there are an infinite version of ourselves in other dimensions who made wiser, more irrational or any other range of decisions that would have changed our fates.
It’s too bad Mack Brown’s distant frosty-haired cousin isn’t Doc Brown. A DeLorean to travel back and fix the biggest boondoggle of his coaching career would have come in handy.
There were only two college football storylines dominating the headlines this week. One was the status of the Texas coaching job, and the other involved the prop bet discussion over Jameis Winston's victorious Heisman vote margin. There were probably more Heisman candidates on the stage Saturday night than there are Texas head coaching candidates.
Mere minutes before the Heisman presentation began to air on ESPN, Brown stole Winston’s thunder by announcing his resignation as Texas Longhorns head coach.
His final game will be the Valerno Alamo Bowl. It could have been in Pasadena. A plethora of factors hindered Mack Brown in recent years. The fundamental issue was his ghastly track record of recruiting quarterback prospects since the commitments of Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead in 2006.
McCoy injured his shoulder in the first quarter of the 2010 BCS title game, and true freshman Garrett Gilbert, the 2008 Gatorade Player of the Year, couldn’t slingshot Texas past Alabama. After a disastrous sophomore season, Gilbert transferred to SMU. Ironically, Colt’s brother would be the quarterback that was the impetus for the calamitous final season that pushed Brown out of the emergency exit from 30,000 feet.
Brown and Winston’s garden of forking paths began in 2011 with five or six missed phone calls. It ended in New York City.
On Monday, Brown was spotted at the Peacock Alley Restaraunt inside the Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue chatting up new Texas athletic director Steve Patterson. I was on site hours beforehand for the National Football Foundation/Ivy League's Bushnell Cup presentation. If I'd seen Brown, I may have passed along a Mark Twain quote that applies to his predicament.
"I do not regret the things I've done, but those I did not do."
A few days later, Jimbo Fisher was in Manhattan wiping away tears as Winston was announced as the Heisman Trophy winner. Nearly 2,000 miles away, Brown was holding them in as he announced his official resignation.
On Thursday, Brown was in Florida recruiting. Probably trying to convince Winston to transfer to Texas.
Georgia Tech was the first school to recruit Winston, when he was in the ninth grade, but Texas was his dream school. The two national championship berths and the only title for Texas were undone by what he couldn't do–get Winston.
Winston doesn’t relate to Charlie Ward. He’s too short and he last played football before Winston was even born.
Alabama’s track record with quarterbacks commits is spotty.
"If you look at Alabama lately they haven't had the best quarterbacks," he told AL.com in 2011.
"Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin probably wouldn't be who they are now if a Trent Richardson was in the backfield with them," Winston said.
On the other hand, Winston idolized Vince Young. His career peak occurred at a critical juncture of 12-year-old Winston’s childhood after he carried the Longhorns to a national championship.
"The school I'd be committed to now over everyone else never offered," Winston said. "I loved Texas. I grew up watching Vince Young."
"Texas even has a great baseball program. The first tape I asked our coaches to send out was to Texas.”
"It's about relationships," he said in early 2012. "I dreamed about Texas, but if they came with an offer now I couldn't consider it. I don't know those coaches and the time between now and signing day is not enough time to get to know them."
Instead, Texas’ coaching staff shunned one of the nation’s top quarterbacks like he was a Democrat on the statewide ballot and never returned his Hueytown High School head coaches’ messages.
Texas is such a recruiting hotbed that Brown got too comfy and never rolled out of it until Patterson pulled the sheets out from under him.
He used the state’s bountiful resources as a crutch by telling Jim Rome that he didn’t pursue Winston because they were outside of Texas’ pipeline. Once Brown heard Winston’s decision was between Florida State and Alabama, he tucked his tail between his legs and scurried away, unaware that Winston was waiting on interest from Texas and ignoring the lengthy history of recruits switching their verbal recruits late in the process.
If Hugh Freeze had that same flight response to Robert Nkemdiche’s recruitment, the class of 2013's top prospect would have wound up at Clemson or LSU instead of Ole Miss.
Brown would have been the wrong coach for Winston. According to his dad, Winston doesn’t understand failure, and Brown seems to have lost an edge over the last four years.
Conversely, Fisher has been the head coach or offensive coordinator responsible for developing former Virginia Beach, Virginia prospect E.J. Manuel and Dallas, Texas product Christian Ponder into first round picks.
Winston was a 1,000 yard rusher in college, but at Florida State he’s velcroed himself into the pocket—except for when he gets flushed out.
Perhaps the cause of death was hubris. After Winston's 25-for-27 passing debut against Pittsburgh there were Texas fans roaming the streets without straight jackets who actually thought Winston wouldn’t have beaten out David Ash or Case McCoy for the starting job before this season.
He was expected to be the next Colin Kaepernick or Cam Newton. He unexpectedly threw in a mix of Peyton Manning.
"Sooner or later I'll reach a level where I can't win games with my legs," Winston told The Birmingham News as a high school sophomore. "I want to be a thinking quarterback first."
He’s goes by many different names. Jameis, Jaboo, Jameis Squintston and Trinidad Jameis. I call him LeBron Jameis.
Winston is a football prodigy. At 11, he had a skillset on par with Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne. By 12, he was diagramming intricate defenses.
In high school, Winston was a 4.0 student who aspired to become a podiatrist if pro sports didn't pan out. However, until he has time to become the next Dr. James Andrews, he’ll have to settle for being the coroner of opposing defenses, responsible for dissecting secondaries. Don't blitz him, either.
Wisnton completed 70-percent of his passes against the blitz, for 12 yards-per-attempt, and 20 touchdowns, all of which ranked as the best in the country. Winston would have fit Texas' spread/power run offense better than Tebow at Notre Dame.
If there was an alternate future in which Winston wound up at Texas, the only place Mack Brown will experience it is in his dreams.