Gilbert’s leash should be short, just not too short

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r quarterback Garrett Gilbert, shown here celebrating Texas’ 20-13 over Nebraska in Lincoln last season, was announced as Texas’ starting quarterback to start the season. Gilbert emerged out of a group of three other candidates. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Jeff Heimsath | Daily Texan Staff

Texas finally announced Garrett Gilbert as its starting quarterback. Big surprise.

Now for the better question — one that won’t take 5-7 months to answer:

How short is his leash?

“If he moves the ball and scores, he’ll keep the starting job,” said Texas head coach Mack Brown.

If that same logic was applied last season, Gilbert wouldn’t have lasted through the halfway point of the schedule.

So this year, should Gilbert’s harness have some slack, or should he be wearing a choker around his neck?

Brown refused to acknowledge the concept of a leash, and for good reason. Gilbert has enough on his plate to worry about than going into Saturday’s game at Rice knowing he needs to complete a minimum of 65 percent of his passes, or throw a maximum of two interceptions, if he wants to keep his job.

“I’m not concerned about making mistakes,” he said.

And that’s good, because he doesn’t need to be. The more he pressed last season, the worse the results were.

But want to know what junior safety Kenny Vaccaro is concerned about?

“I trust all those guys, but my only concern is that the quarterbacks [have to] play like we need them to,” he said. “You can spit it out however you want but regardless of how the offensive line or defense plays, you have to have great quarterback play to be a great team.”

Fans (and probably the locker room) will expect changes if the Longhorns open the season in lackluster fashion. An early loss to BYU or UCLA will put a lot of heat under Gilbert’s seat, regardless of how he plays, and no matter who’s around him.

“Vince Young had a lot of great players next to him, but he was still the one making the plays,” Vaccaro said.

Kenny Vaccaro isn’t trying to create any controversy. In fact, he said all of that 10 minutes before Texas named the starting quarterback, so he wasn’t calling Gilbert out. What he said did have some teeth to it, though. The Longhorns, as they usually do, expect to be very good this season. With poor quarterback play, that won’t be happening.

If Brown and co-offensive coordinators Bryan Harsin and Major Applewhite elect to allow a struggling Gilbert to keep playing, it sends a message to the team that poor performance is acceptable. But the coaching staff also has to be careful about pulling the trigger too quickly on Gilbert’s season, as it could permanently shatter his confidence.

If it were up to me, and it’s definitely not, I wouldn’t start thinking about a switch until Texas loses its second game. And I’d probably wait until after the Oklahoma game as well. You don’t want to throw Case McCoy to the wolves. If the Longhorns are floating around .500 at that point, you can consider changing the guard.

Give the guy some slack. It’s not easy following Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Just don’t give him too much.

Printed on August 30, 2011 as: Embattled quarterback gets second chance