It looks good on paper.
TCU finished the season ranked third in both major polls and is projected by early rankings to start 2015 as high as No. 1. Starting that high could be one less hurdle the Horned Frogs will potentially face in trying to reach the College Football Playoff and play for a national championship.
But that won’t necessarily help the Horned Frogs. Not according to their head coach.
“It doesn’t matter what happens right now. We could have started at third last year and still ended up sixth,” said Patterson, whose team was third in the rankings at the end of the regular season, only to drop three spots and fall out of the inaugural playoff. “It’s all going to be, just like we say every year, ‘It’s not what they say in August, it’s what they remember in November.’
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
“So for us, we have to go finish.”
On Wednesday, Patterson shared the room in Houston with a few other coaches trying to gain the benefit of the doubt, joining Boise State’s Bryan Harsin and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze as finalists for the 29th annual Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award.
Patterson won the Bryant Award for the second time. He has already won the Eddie Robinson coach of the year award from the Football Writers Association of America and has been named coach of the year by the American Football Coaches Association, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, the Associated Press, ESPN/Home Depot, CBSSports.com and Scout.com, and he was the Woody Hayes Award recipient.
TCU went 12-1 in 2014, claiming a share of the Big 12 Conference title before beating Ole Miss 42-3 in the Peach Bowl.
Like TCU, Boise State has long been a program trying to get a chance among football’s best. The Broncos beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl (their third appearance since 2006).
Ole Miss, of the Southeastern Conference, was on the fast track early. The Rebels went from tied for fifth in their division last year to 18th in the 2014 preseason AP poll to third in the nation in October. They finished 17th in the final AP poll, one slot behind Boise State.
“We talk about it all the time — that we have a chip on our shoulder,” Freeze said of he and Patterson. “And you have to. You’re not the one that traditionally has year in and year out been in the elite talk. We’re both pretty much hard-headed that ‘why can’t we be?’”
TCU will have the ranking and a star in quarterback Trevone Boykin next season, but Patterson said nothing is guaranteed.
“I don’t think anybody gets the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “I think you have to play into it unless you’re undefeated. Like I said when I spoke to ESPN after they announced it — the best way to control your own destiny is to be undefeated. Then there’s no ifs, ands or buts about how that goes down.”
Jimmy Johnson was also honored. The former Dallas Cowboys head coach received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Johnson won a national championship at the University of Miami and put together a 42-2 stretch from 1985-88. He joined the Cowboys in 1989, winning the first of consecutive Super Bowls three years later.
When asked about current Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, Johnson said his former quarterback has “come a long way” and took a big step when he gave up a lot of the offensive coordinator-type duties.
“I think that really takes away from the head coaching position,” Johnson said. “It hurts your time management. It hurts you as far as your interaction with the defensive players and the special teams players. Pulling away from that two years ago allowed him to have more interaction with the entire team, and I think it helps him control the momentum of the game and it helps him with the time management of the game.”