UNC Football: At This Point, Something Has To Change

Nov 25, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown looks on during the first half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown looks on during the first half against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Following another embarrassing end to another UNC Football season, it is safe to say that it is time for a change in Chapel Hill.

I want to preface this by saying that we don’t typically call for jobs and changes in coaching roles here at Keeping It Heel. We try our best always to be supportive of all UNC Athletic teams. However, what we have witnessed the last two November’s, and seasons in general, by the UNC Football program and coaching staff requires us to ask the question (or make the statement).

It is time for something to change in Chapel Hill.

The devastating loss to rival NC State for the third straight season capped off another disappointing end to the season. There are so many places we can start with this, but I think, first and foremost, it should be acknowledged that what Mack Brown has done with the UNC Football program has to be appreciated by the Tar Heel fanbase.

Brown took over a program that went a combined 5-18 the two seasons prior to his arrival. And while the program hasn’t stooped to that level of turmoil, it’s reached a new level of disappointment, mainly because Brown has built high expectations with talented quarterbacks. Brown has compiled a 38-26 record (59.3%) during his five-year career. For comparison, former UNC Football coach Larry Fedora had a 40-25 record through his first five seasons.

The frustrating part is that Brown has had seven losses as a double-digit favorite during that time, including twice in 2023 (versus Virginia and at Georgia Tech). Another frustration is the lack of success after November 1st.

The record dropped to 9-13 after Saturday night’s loss to the Wolfpack, making it a 40.9%. The previous two seasons, 2022 and 2023, have been even worse, with a 3-6 record (33.3%). Again, this is against FBS opponents only. So the question then becomes, why is performing well late in the season a problem?

Not only is late season struggles a problem, combined with losing three straight games to a hated rival in NC State, but it’s doing so with talented recruiting classes and arguably the two best quarterbacks in program history. Obviously, changing a program doesn’t happen overnight (or maybe it does… TCU?), but since Brown returned in 2019, the UNC Football program has had recruiting classes of 31, 14, 14, 11, and 30, respectively.

With that talent, one would think more would be shown for it than what has been accomplished. What has been accomplished, you ask? Well, a judge of how successful a program isn’t just wins and losses. It’s also conference championships and bowl wins.

How does UNC Football do in that department? Under Mack Brown in the 2.0 era, the Tar Heels have one (1) Military Bowl win over Temple in 2019 and a Coastal Division Championship leading to an ACC Championship game appearance in 2022.

Outside of that, it’s just been wins against average programs during the regular season and disappointing losses as big favorites. For the record, since 2020, the Tar Heels have lost a remarkable seven games by double-digit favorites. And that comes with the two greatest quarterbacks in program history.

If you’re wondering, that’s the same thing Larry Fedora accomplished in his first five seasons – which included a 2013 Belk Bowl Victory over Cincinnati and a Coastal Division Championship in 2015. Side Note: Fedora also won the Coastal in 2012, but UNC Football was ineligible due to a post-season ban.

This isn’t meant to necessarily compare the Brown era to the Fedora era – because the UNC Football program was in a bad place after year five of Larry Fedora. However, the question now has to be asked? What does year six (or year seven) look like for UNC Football under Mack Brown? Are we headed back to 2017 and 2018?

During a press conference, Brown even mentioned last week that several players were contacting other schools about transferring. Is another rebuild on the way? And does the UNC Football program want to go through that with a 72-year-old coach?

Even if Brown remains the head coach, changes in the coordinator room is an area that is non-negotiable for a change. Defensively, UNC Football has been one of the worst defenses in the conference for pretty much the entire time of the Brown 2.0 era. The Tar Heels haven’t had a defense to back up the great quarterbacks, whether under former defensive coordinator Jay Bateman or current DC Gene Chizik.

Is the grass always greener on the other side? No, absolutely not. However, given the age of Brown, struggles of late, and the fact that a complete rebuild is highly likely on the horizon, the UNC Football program should be looking at changing something.

This year alone, UNC Football was 6-0 and has finished the regular season 8-4, and depending on who the bowl game opponent is (and what key players decide to play), could finish as bad as 8-5, stumbling once again down the stretch, currently losing four of their last five against FBS opponents.

Would you like more comparisons to the last coaching era? This year returned a majority of the talent, including star quarterback Drake Maye, from a team that started 9-1 in 2022 and made the ACC Championship game. It is awfully similar to the 2015-2016 seasons of Fedora. The only difference was that 2016 returned the majority of that 2015 Coastal Division Championship team and replaced quarterback Marquise Williams with future top-five NFL Draft pick Mitch Trubisky.

That 2016 team started the year 7-2, and the wheels came off. They lost two of their final three to NC State and Duke and finished the regular season 8-4, capping the season off with a bowl game loss to Stanford and finishing 8-5. While the 2023 team can salvage what is left of the season with a bowl win, there isn’t much left to salvage when you look back at our preseason expectations.

Again, some Tar Heel fans are loyal to a fault that they will never call for someone’s job. While some it is the first thing they point to. Keeping It Heel loves Mack Brown and is thankful for everything he has done to right the ship for the UNC Football program. However, it might just be time for the UNC Football program and its fans to consider a change that needs to be made in some capacity.

Next. UNC Football: The season we hoped for slipped away. dark

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