As you've likely gathered, or soon will, the floodgates of criticism regarding Bob Stoops and the current state of this Oklahoma football program have been officially opened. Let us just say, we do not expect it to go well. This is a coach who has never had a particularly friendly relationship with the local media, so in that respect he has certainly done himself no favors for what he's about to face. Judging by what appeared in the local papers Sunday morning, following a disturbing loss to Kansas State, it's already begun.
The media are not likely to cut Stoops much slack and to speak frankly, he's done nothing to deserve it. Yes, he's won and done so at an impressive rate. But the expectation of winning, and winning with great frequency, comes right along with his job title and that hefty, ever increasing salary of his. The guy has essentially received a free pass (and said hefty salary) from anything even remotely resembling criticism since the 2000 national championship season, but based on what we saw Saturday night he is about to learn the expiration date on that crystal football is long past due.
I've said it here before and Saturday night was just a depressing reminder of the fact that we've actually seen this already. At this time, it seemed incredibly fortunate (and entertaining) that is was happening to our hated rival, the Texas Longhorns. However, now that it appears our Sooners are headed down a frighteningly similar path it's, um, slightly less entertaining.
Mack Brown was very open about the fact that his program had become complacent with their success, that a sense of entitlement had permeated their program, and that it had become a problem that demanded changes. To his credit, he made those adjustments and despite our hatred for all things burnt orange, he appears to have done all of these things before the ship capsized.
Obviously as an Oklahoma fan, you never want to compare yourself to Texas in anything, but the similarities here simply cannot be avoided. The one glaring difference however, and one that should scare the you know what out of OU fans, is the fact that Bob Stoops has given no indication whatsoever that he's willing to make the kind of program re-defining changes Brown did.
In fact, he's never given anything but the impression that he is much too stubborn to ever make any kind of substantial change let alone those kind of drastic changes. And when you don't have anyone to hold your feet to the fire and/or apply the necessary pressure (which we'll get to in a minute) when those changes are needed, it's hard to envision them ever happening. And make no mistake, those changes are needed.
If nothing is done and serious changes are not made, what OU fans witnessed Texas go through will seem like a vacation compared to where I believe this program is teetering on the edge of , which is potentially a complete disaster.
There have been warning signs well before Saturday night, but we either didn't want to believe them or foolishly took Stoops at his word when he, condescendingly, dismissed them. Whether it's a team that has appeared woefully unprepared to play a disturbing amount of times, the forced purging of problem players from the program, the suspensions, the lack of leadership, or any number of other things we're about to get into, this program has some serious problems and they can no longer be casually brushed aside.
Since it's front of mind, we might as well start with Saturday night. Ooooooooooh, Saturday night. We've heard for years that the coach speak we hear from Stoops publicly is drastically different from what takes places behind closed doors. Yeah, I never really bought that and after Saturday night I'm demanding my money back. That has never really matched up with what we've seen happen on the field and Saturday night was another just another reminder of that fact.
In my opinion, it's as simple as this. If you're not held accountable, what motivation is there for you to hold your assistants accountable? There may be some (maybe a lot) people who would have you believe there are individuals, be they donors or administrators, that have Stoops' ear and can apply that needed pressure for a guy who has very obviously become all too comfortable in his position. Those people would be wrong.
Stoops has built up way too much goodwill, and more importantly power, within the Oklahoma athletic department to ever have his feet held to the fire. The results both on and off the field (by off the field I mean recruiting and we'll get there in a minute) are indisputable evidence that Stoops is all too aware of his untouchability within the program. As a result, he appears to have become complacent and that was evident way before Saturday night. It is a complacency that has seeped into the program as a whole and games like Kansas State are a direct result of it.
I'm not really sure how much mystique Owen Field ever really possessed, but whatever it was or however much of it there may have been, it's now dead. Like buried under six feet of dirt, rotten, stinking corpse kind of dead. Yes, it's just two loses in the last two years but that's all it takes. If Texas Tech can come in and beat you on your own field, teams aren't going to be intimidated coming to Norman any longer.
There have been signs that the recruiting is no longer on the same level as it used to be. Whether it was the coaches waving of the metaphorical white flag by conceding the top Texas recruits, players they used to fight tooth and nail for, to the Longhorns then being happy with the leftovers. Or the shift away from what has always been the lifeblood of the program, Texas recruits, to a more national approach. Or the now evident struggle to acquire commitments from top targets at positions of need. Things have slipped and when it comes to recruiting, it does not take much of one to make a noticeable impact throughout an entire program and rarely, if ever, is that impact a positive one.
Under the watchful eye of Bob Stoops, this Oklahoma offense has become finesse, it has become soft. He promoted an assistant to co-offensive coordinator, a second year play-caller who seems to have very little idea as to what he wants his offense to be. This offense has no identity and is not remotely close to establishing one. They are continue to run a spread system that appears to be falling out of favor with those programs whose goal it is to win a national championship.
And yet, in what can only be seen as the consistent theme in this little play of ours, here we are with a head coach who is too stubborn to change what so clearly is not working. They continue to design game plans almost wholly dependent on the arm of a quarterback, who after four years as the starter continues to prove incapable of such a game plan. Game plans that continue to ignore a running game that could relieve much of the pressure on said quarterback who quite clearly cannot deal with such pressure. These facts are yet more examples we did not need as proof of both the stubbornness of Stoops and his assistants and the lack of accountability he holds them to.
Any single one of these things would be a problem for any program. The fact that Oklahoma is experiencing all of them should be setting off alarms like the Sooner house is burning down around them, which by appearances it could very well be. And yet, here we sit with a coach who appears to be too stubborn and/or rooted in his blissful $5 million denial to even acknowledge that a problem exists.
Aside from the disturbingly obvious of that, the problem with failing to act is that once that ship has set sail it's virtually impossible to return to port. What I'm attempting to say with an admittedly poor analogy is that these problems are not simple ones and create problems that take years, plural, to overcome. The fact that Mack Brown and Texas have appeared to have done so in just three years is a testament many of us I'm quite sure are incredibly hesitant to bestow upon him. However, it is deserved and Bob Stoops would do well to learn from our hated rival to the South.
Sadly, I do not see that happening and as a result I fear where this program is headed. You can call these the incoherent ramblings of a know-nothing fan and you may eventually prove to be right. I am just one person with just one, what many would call, uneducated opinion. We may or may not agree on any number of the issues I've brought up here, obviously time will tell, but I think we can all agree there are problems. Whether or not they are as significant as I believe them to be or whether or not Bob Stoops can correct them, well my friends, we're about to find out.
Regardless, I'll be here because no matter what happens or how bad it gets I'll still be here. So don't take this, well rant I guess, to mean anything less than that.
I'm a Sooner born and Sooner bred
and when I die, I'll be Sooner dead