How to solve a puzzle like Houston Nutt?
In a world where most people identify themselves by the lines they will not cross, the prisons they gleefully sentence themselves to, Nutt zigs and zags through the swamps of his life on a constant jailbreak, the shackle cut but still tight around his ankle, the hounds still tracking the last air of his scent. Not quite sane yet not yet mad, he is more easily defined by what he is not than what he is.
Perhaps this is because Nutt always seems to vacillating between two ends of a dialectic. When he became the head coach at Arkansas, it wasn’t quite a homecoming because, although he had played there for Frank Broyles, he had also left the school to finish elsewhere. As his coaching tenure followed suit, at least one could say he’s constant in his inconstancy.
On his first day toward becoming the Razorbacks’ most successful coach (other than Broyles), Nutt laid out a claim for a national title he’d never win. On the day before he resigned, he beat the team that would.
What else do you expect from the coach whose players include both Darren McFadden and Clint Stoerner? Nutt is beyond analysis, beyond evaluation. He is, as the Beats would tell it, a holy fool, a football Siddha.
Now at Ole Miss, Jason to Orgeron’s Benjy, this is a man who bragged about winning a division title in a room with at least four national championship coaches present, a man who hired a high school coach just to land the school’s quarterback before running both of them off to different schools—and then taking the coach’s playbook with him to a third!
His coaching career is a Mobius strip, a non-orientable band of underdog victories and callow choke-jobs, a Klein bottle circulating half-diffused opium and paranoia. And as such, the Rebels are everyone’s point-spread pick for the weekend at two touchdowns.
Of course, one can over think such things, to be sure, but were there such a thing as easy money, friends, Lefty Rosenthal would’ve never earned a nickname.
So if everyone’s in on the gag, is the joke still funny? Therein lies the metaphysical dilemma of a Houston Nutt team: how can you sneak up on someone making all that damn noise?