Fox Sports Mailbag: OU Fans Deserve Better From StoopsPosted: October 22, 2014
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.