Asti: Good, Bad, Ugly Dissecting Neal Brown’s Tenure in West Virginia

Four years is an appropriate time to evaluate a head coach’s tenure. Yes, coaches were often given much more time years ago, but that will never be the case again, especially in the midst of NIL and the runaway transfer portal. So regardless of what happens in the future, it’s time to look back at Neal Brown’s time leading West Virginia’s football program to this point.

No one, including Brown himself, would try to argue that the past four years were generally good enough. If you’re one of only two teams in a conference that doesn’t qualify for bowl, it’s not even good enough. Brown has an overall losing record, finishing under .500 for three seasons. To put that in perspective, WVU only had three losing seasons from 1999 to 2018, but three in the last four years under Brown. Even those who love Brown the man, and they are there for a reason, cannot deny that he has failed to deliver in a results-based business, fair or dishonest.

That said, was it always bad? No. There was even a point halfway through his tenure when the program really seemed to climb. The promotional phrase “trust the climb” actually seemed to mean something. It is also pertinent to recognize that there were low expectations of WVU right away when Brown deliberately took over because it was understood that he was taking over a program that needed to be overhauled. Year 1 was labeled by some as “Year 0” and Year 2 ended with a bowl win. How did we get to where it is today, a place of complete chaos and uncertainty? Why is a once proud program, the 15th winningest in the history of the sport to be exact, going through what could be considered the darkest for the Mountaineers since before Don Nehlen took over in the late 1970s? 1979 was WVU’s last 0-2 start to a season before 2022.

Asti: WVU football fans should expect more, but have to be reasonable

What has Brown done well?

It may be hard to take any positives from a four-year run that has been some of the program’s worst, particularly over the past several decades, but Brown has done some good things. For starters, Brown immediately brought back the connection and bond West Virginia football always had with its alumni. Brown reached out to notable alums and former major players like Rasheed Marshall and Mike Logan, both who live in the Pittsburgh area just 70 miles north of Morgantown, but expressed not feeling welcome in the program under Dana Holgorsen. Perhaps most famously former mountaineer Pat McAfee publicly acknowledged that Brown, and Lyons both to be fair, sought him out and made sure to prepare any trepidation the NFL gambler turned media magnate still harbored about embracing his WVU- roots, admittedly, it’s unclear if there are any. tension exists after McAfee’s criticism of the 2022 product. This led to several prominent alums taking it upon themselves to attend games again for the first time in years, leading to many of them being at the Backyard Brawl in Pittsburgh to open the season.

This shouldn’t have been a job on Brown’s plate as he had nothing to do with anything that happened under his predecessor or even years before, but he did it and knew how important it was. Restoring those important relationships is an underrated feather in Brown’s cap.

Asti: Criticize Neal Brown, don’t accuse him of not caring about West Virginia

In addition to his work as a people person, Brown has performed well as a recruiter, which can be considered the most important job of a college head coach. And this has even peaked with the upcoming class of 2023. So far, and things can always change, Brown has commitments of 18 players, many of them three-star from most national outlets, four players with a four-star ranking from ESPN and Rodney Gallagher, who owns a four-star label all around. who awards stars. Neal Brown is responsible for recruiting the sixth-highest recruit in West Virginia Mountaineer football history at Gallagher. That’s impressive. It’s just like that. And to do that despite a down period arguably makes it that much more impressive. These players are actually so locked into Brown that some have expressed a desire for WVU to keep the current coaching staff in place as a condition of staying committed. Firing Brown could mean the recruiting class goes from the top 35 or 30, depending on where you look, to barely recognized.

What has Brown not done right?

Cleaning up messes off the field is no more important than failing on the field. Recruiting quality players doesn’t matter if they aren’t well developed and the team doesn’t win. Those are the comebacks that Brown’s critics will have ready in response to everything that has already been put forward. And those comments are justified.

Besides losing too much and not winning many big games, what else has Brown not done right that led to a disastrous situation? For starters, the transfer portal has become a huge problem for WVU. Now the portal didn’t exist in its current form prior to Brown and it’s far from just a West Virginia issue as it impacts the program across the country both positively and negatively but the numbers speak for themselves against WVU . Losing key contributing players like Winston Wright Jr., Akheem Mesidor and more recently Charles Woods is just a bad sight no matter the reasons. If one of your players who is still eligible to play decides that he would rather play elsewhere, it will affect the head coach, even if it is not his fault. Brown has also used the portal to his advantage, but the additions, namely quarterback JT Daniels, have not materialized as planned to balance things out. There are rumors that other players are also leaving.

West Virginia Football players lost from the transfer portal in 2022

Now to his actual coaching, you know what it’s all about. Brown has lost too much and his record is bad. Anyone can see that on a quick Google search, but why? He is inconsistent with in-game decisions. Brown hasn’t been aggressive enough, or not enough until his team’s season was already going downhill. An example of this is the decision not to go for it on a 4th and short late in the Backyard Brawl, arguably the biggest game Brown has coached at WVU. The Mountaineers were out and about in a record-setting rocking atmosphere as the underdog yet Brown took the conservative approach. Many can make other mistakes, drop passes, and controversial moments like why WVU lost that night in the rebirth of the rivalry with Pitt, but that moment was the most vexing.

In total, the team has never been able to click with every stage performing well at the same time. This season the defense started to let the offense down and then the offense started flipping the script and struggled right as the defense started to improve. But in 2021, it was the great defense that allowed WVU to make its way into a bowl game, despite the offense not scoring points on a consistent basis. The 16-13 loss to then No. 4 Oklahoma last year spoke of that more than anything and was another big game escape from Brown.

One of the criticisms brought up as often for this was that he stayed with quarterback Jarret Doege for so long. Many felt Brown gave Doege too much rope because of a long personal relationship dating back to coaching his older brother at Texas Tech. There’s no way of knowing how Garrett Greene would have played if he took over from Doege a year before he finally claimed the starting role over Daniels, and it’s been said by coaches that Greene is now a different quarterback than he let into practice back then to see. , but giving him that time to learn may have sparked the team or at least kick-started his individual progression sooner.

With a decision still pending and the possibility of Brown returning for another season in full swing, the polarizing effect his tenure has had on Mountaineer Nation may linger, but what that means for the future of the Western football program Virginia has yet to be seen. realized.

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