Bob Stoops was brought to Norman, Oklahoma in December 1998 from the University of Florida, where he served as defensive coordinator. Stoops was the man who resurrected Steve Spurrier’s defense after future inmate #G31982 (Lawrence Phillips) and the Nebraska Cornhuskers annihilated and embarrassed his mighty Gators 62-24 in the national title game in January of 1995. So, following nine years of hopelessness since Barry Switzer’s exit in July of 1989, it made sense that Bob Stoops could resurrect the Sooners.
Let us take a look at the strength of the Big 12 at the time of Bob’s arrival. Nebraska was top dog, while Kansas State was the leader of the second tier, followed by Texas A&M and Texas. But, the remainder of the conference really wasn’t anything special. Quarterback Josh Heupel set Oklahoma on fire with offensive numbers that, per today’s standards, would get any OC fired before he hit the showers.
What has happened since then … and more importantly, what has gone wrong? Winning a national title in year two of the Stoops regime could, quite possibly, have been the worst thing to happen to Sooner Nation. This title came against abysmal competition within OU’s conference and in a title game against the wrong team from the state of Florida (the U belonged in that game and would have slaughtered OU).
D-Line U (Missouri) and TAMU, a strong team with exceptional recruits each year, have bolted to the SEC. Baylor, thanks to the national recognition received by their only Heisman winner in school history, RGIII, has blazed past OU in recruiting, on-field play, and most certainly coaching. TCU has joined the conference and, analogous to Baylor, has left Stoops in the dust clutching his pager and VCR tapes rented from Blockbuster Video.
On offense, OU is bipolar, at best. When Stoops’ offense sputtered last season, he did what he does best: he blamed someone else (Heupel was fired). The offense is bipolar because Stoops can’t seem to decide if he wants to run a spread or a pro-style offense. Thus, we saw a major regression in Trevor Knight’s play (remember him looking like Joe Montana against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl?). We also realized Cody Thomas is not the answer at quarterback. OU has a great running game sans Keith Ford, but that only takes you so far when defenses realize you’re afraid of your passing game.
On defense, the line has produced some of the laziest play I’ve seen from the Crimson and Cream in years. The secondary consistently gets beaten like they owe money to Vegas loan sharks. The corners refuse to press, thus, giving up 4-6 yards before contact is made.
Ultimately, players emulate and adopt the personality of their coach and his staff, and that will never change. I say this because Stoops has become complacent, arrogant, and devoid of any blame. When your players accept this mentality, they walk out of the locker room already defeated. And when they lose, they get blown out in most of the losses. Please see the Baylor and Clemson games from last season, which OU lost 48-14 and 40-6, respectively. OU had a 14-3 lead over Baylor at Norman. In the Russell Athletic Bowl against Clemson, the OU players quit on Stoops halfway through the 1st quarter. They quit on Stoops because they do not respect him. I once had a boss who told me, “Josh, it doesn’t matter if they like you, but they have to respect you.” You don’t quit on someone if you respect them.
Who could possibly succeed Stoops in Norman? There’s only one man I would trust to have the nasty boys you need on each side of the trenches, bone-shattering boys who will separate a carrier from the ball, and someone who can get much more than anyone else out of even a mediocre quarterback: Jon Gruden. If you are not sold on the possibility of replacing Bob Stoops in the near future, ask yourself one question: has he been the best man for the job for the last 17 years, or was he the best man for the job 17 years ago?
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