Oklahoma has once again started the season in the Top 5 and once again underachieved and choked. Is it time to question whether Bob Stoops can ever win another national championship? I don’t think OU will ever be really “bad” under Stoops, but I also don’t think they will ever be truly exceptional, either. He’s just become too complacent. As a fan, I kind of just wish the national media would forget about us so we don’t get embarrassed year after year.
— Brad, Dallas
It’s interesting how we evaluate a coach’s performance from year to year. Last season Oklahoma went 11-2, 7-2 in the Big 12 and did not win its conference, but because preseason expectations were relatively low — 16th in the preseason AP poll — Stoops mostly received praise for what the 2013 Sooners accomplished, even before they upset Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. A year later, a bunch of AP and coaches poll voters who read way too much into that out-of-character bowl performance put them in the top five to start the year, so now the Sooners have “underachieved” or “choked.”
Of course, Stoops set such a high bar himself by winning a national championship in his second season, 2000, and playing for three more in 2003, ’04 and ’08. The Sooners have finished sixth in the AP poll twice since ’08 but they’re certainly not the year-in, year-out elite team that they were earlier in Stoops’ tenure. But does that mean Stoops is “complacent” and will “never be truly exceptional” again?
This year’s team could easily still turn around and win 10 or 11 games. After all, if one of the most reliable kickers in the sport, Michael Hunnicutt, didn’t miss a late 19-yard field goal against Kansas State, we might not even be having this conversation. Their losses have been so close that Jeff Sagarin’s ratings still have Oklahoma at No. 6.
But there are a couple of valid concerns worth raising after six years of good-but-not-great Sooners teams. For one thing, Stoops enjoyed a tremendous run of quarterbacks over his first 10 seasons, with two Heisman winners, Jason White and Sam Bradford, and a runner-up, Josh Heupel. So far we haven’t seen a worthy heir apparent. Landry Jones set of a lot of records during his four seasons, but he wasn’t Bradford. Trevor Knight set expectations soaring with his Sugar Bowl performance, but that’s clearly turned out to not be a realistic reflection of his ability.
More troubling, though, Stoops and his brother, Mike, continue to struggle with the new reality in which nearly every opposing Big 12 offense is explosive. This year’s defense was billed as the Sooners’ best in years, with pass-rushers like Eric Striker and Geneo Grissom and a budding star corner in Zack Sanchez. But the Sooners are once again average on defense, currently 54th nationally (5.22 yards per play). Maybe that’s unavoidable playing in the Big 12, but then you better have a big-time offense. OU’s is good, but it’s not Baylor’s or TCU’s.
It was never realistic that Stoops would keep playing for national titles virtually every other year, but Stoops as of last year was one of the five highest-paid coaches in the country. I don’t think it’s being unreasonable to ask for “truly exceptional” once in a while.
— Pete Moris (@PeteMoris) September 20, 2014
Best reveal from Stoops' First Take appearance — Texas HS coaches have told #Sooners recruiters how much they enjoyed Sugar Bowl win
— Guerin Emig (@GuerinEmig) July 23, 2014
Stoops on OU's near departure to Pac-12: “We’re not tied to Texas. The world changes. It was real possibility. It was very real"
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) July 23, 2014
“I appreciate you bringing it up, Stephen A. I have to be honest, it felt good. Because I know everybody’s screen savers, everybody had their notes down, everybody was ready to jump on us, on me in particular, what I had to say, if it had gone the other way. That all had to be deleted. I was a little validated in what I had to say. I still believe in what I said.
“At the end of the day we can play with anybody. That was fairly evident.”
On taking pleasure, part 2:
“I heard from more Texas high school coaches, on how pleased they were on how that all went. We go down there through Texas recruiting. I was surprised at how many Texas high school coaches pulled me aside because they felt validated. Because half of our roster or more is from Texas. We’ve got good football players, too.”
On taking a chance by adding Dorial Green-Beckham:
“All situations are well-thought out. We had a lot of conversations with Missouri personnel and our people. What do you believe in the young man? I believe in the young man as an individual, as a person.
“We deal with guys on our team, on other teams, that are going to make some mistakes. That’s part of the maturing process. Some are so egregious you have to part ways. Others, you feel that you can work with them. And I believe in Dorial, the person that he is and what he can be.
“I’m not one to ever cast away young people. To me that’s part of the job, to help them mature and grow in the right ways, to be great citizens. I believe in Dorial, that he has an opportunity to do that. We believe in second chances.”
On whether Missouri overreacted by dismissing DGB:
“I’m not saying that at all, because we have dismissed players multimple times through the years. Every situation is a little bit different. Sometimes you’re able to work with the young man and feel the potential is there to move forward and sometimes you’re not.”
On Bob Bowlsby’s assertion that cheating pays in this era of broken enforcement:
“I believe that anyone that’s intentionally skirting the rules and cheating or doing things the wrong way needs to pay for it and needs to be penalized for it. I can’t speak to what Commissioner Bowlsby had to say, or what specifics he may have. But I do believe in a fair game.”
On the days of OU football dominance of OKC’s talk radio market being over thanks to the Thunder:
“I feel relieved. It isn’t just us they’re talking about all the time, and picking on us.”
On Bayless’ assertion that he’ll rip Stoops “only if they lose to Texas”:
“Or anybody else.”
Big Game Bob is back!
Bob Stoops fired surprising shots at the SEC last offseason, calling out the nation’s power conference and causing his sanity to be called into question in most corners of the country.
“They’ve had the best team in college football. They haven’t had the whole best conference,” the Oklahoma coach said in May 2013, just months after Alabama had won another national title, the SEC’s seventh straight national championship.
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