Emails: The OU wolves are after Stoops
The new emails are in, and as you would suspect, the wolves are after Bob Stoops.
Pat: “We were fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate) in being able to see the OU-Tech game on TV yesterday here in Utah. They really looked pathetic. I have long believed that if the football administration at OU is content with a team that usually looks good in the Big 12 South (and occasionally in the conference as a whole), then Bob Stoops is a satisfactory coach. But if they want a team that commands national respect, then OU needs a new head coach. What do you think?”
I think if OU hired a new head coach, there is about a five percent chance the Sooners would get better. And a 95 percent chance that the Sooners would do worse. Sounds like desperation to me. Can we deal with this discussion rationally, folks? Pat just said OU “occasionally” looks good in the conference as a whole. The Sooners have won three straight league titles and six this decade. Nobody else has won more than one.
Jerry: “I believe the Stoops era needs to end. They are so predictable and are getting out coached. I know the injuries are a big facto, but come on. I would like to have Shanahan as the new coach. Am I crazy or what? If changes are to be made, then Wilson needs to go and some of the defensive coaches also.”
Yes. You’re crazy. Why settle for Shanahan. Why not go after Belichick?
Charles: “I read your column regularly and appreciate that you are one of the few people that are actually stating some of the truth about Bob Stoops and his performance on the job. I like Bob as a person, he is a good man. But, at OU as far as job performance goes, STOOPS IS NOT DOING HIS JOB that he is getting millions of dollars a year for. It is Bob Stoops’ job to get his team prepared to play. There is no excuse for lack of preparation and discipline, no matter what our talent level is. What the *%)@*@_#()% is Stoops actually doing? Seriously. How many times are we going to continue to give him a free pass for his offensive coordinator calling the same 5-7 plays every game (that even people sitting at home know are coming), to go 3-and-out most of the time, and the defense having to always make up for it. Now the defense can’t even do that with all the talent we have. How many times does Bob get a pass for his team clearly not being prepared at all for big games? Most teams make adjustments on offense when something isn’t working. Not OU. We run up the middle when there are 10 defenders on the line waiting for it. Or, we call passing plays that have routes too long, and the quarterback sitting in the pocket until he gets sacked. What the hell happened to the offense that Mike Leach installed here before he went to Tech that had inferior talent, but put fear in people? Why can’t OU throw short passes and let their speed guys run with the ball. If we still had those types of plays used, Sam Bradford would have never gotten injured in the first place! I think a quarterback sack is a designed play call by Kevin Wilson. Stoops has clearly shown a decline in his ability to keep his coaches and team to maintain basic disciplines that players who are getting free rides to college shouldn’t lose. This team clearly has more raw talent than the one Stoops took over a decade ago. But you know what, the 1999 team had heart, and could probably beat this current team’s ass. It is time for Stoops to be on the hotseat! If he can’t do his job, it’s time for him to go. No more damn excuses!”
Charles signed himself “a very disappointed Sooner fan!” This is what Barry was referring to in the previous email, when he talked about a sense of entitlement. First off, accusing Kevin Wilson of running too much and throwing too deep. This OU offense has two problems. It doesn’t run enough (because it can’t) and it throws too many short passes (because it can’t protect). So sometimes, fans just blather about stuff they have no idea about. They see one play, it sticks in their minds and it goes from seed to weed. OU is not prepared in big games? OU wasn’t prepared in the Texas game? Here’s a simple truth. Some fans never mature.
Greg: “I am going to be so disappointed if you soft pedal this Tech loss. It is not just another loss. What has gone on since the USC game continues and is now accelerating. Why do we always wait until it is totally broken to admit a change must be made. We should donate money to Notre Dame to pay off Weis and hire Stoops. And for that matter, all of them, and I mean even Heupel. A clean slate is needed. No one wants to admit this, but OSU is going to wax our ass and we deserve it. I retract every good thing I have ever said about Stoops. This whole game result, the whole season result is on him. A commander is ALWAYS responsible, and if he thinks he is buying his stature off by some one-sentence mea culpa he is wrong. A sea change in fan attitude has occurred today. It is not a one game occurrence. I am driving 1000 miles on Thursday to be in Norman on Saturday. I am figuratively one of the 86,000 Roman senators sitting in the senate house waiting on Caesar. His fate is sealed as far as I am concerned. My email is littered with OU fans, season ticket holders and donors. No one, among 50 or so, has any of the milk of human kindness running in our veins.”
And so it has come to this. I’ve always likened OU football to gladiators and imperial Rome, and here is confirmation. There is an easy way to slay Caesar. An easy way to bring on Caligula or Nero or whoever the heck followed old Julius. Don’t buy tickets. Don’t go to the games. OU administration will get the message real quick. But I don’t think fans have the stomach for that. I think they want coaches to be tough and disciplined but don’t demand the same from themselves.
Sam: “Although I stopped reading the Oklahoman online a year ago, this morning I sought out your column and really enjoyed your video interview of two other experts. I can find no real analysis — from either players or coaches or journalists — except for yours. I’m not really an OU fan and can’t figure why Bob Stoops isn’t thrown to the wolves the way two or three other OU coaches have been. When I was in the eighth grade, I attended the only OU football game I have ever attended. Notre Dame won 7-0. I enjoyed the game, but not the histrionics of the fans (which lasted for years). I look forward to the game next week with Oklahoma State and hope the Cowboys win.”
OU throws coaches to the wolves when those coaches don’t win. Gary Gibbs went six years without a title; three three-loss seasons, three so-so years. Schnellenberger and Blake, I assume everyone knows about. Gomer Jones went 8-11-1. And you wonder why Bob Stoops isn’t asked to march in their shame after six Big 12 titles this decade, including three straight currently?
Echo: “Isn’t it about time that the head coach take the responsibility the way the Sooners are playing? Time to get rid of Wilson, get some new life in the staff.”
You know, in some ways, this entire discussion is very backwoodsy. Almost like Salem, Mass., in the pre-colonial days. Or really primitive cultures. Something has gone wrong, even terribly wrong, and rather than working to fix it, they try to appease gods by cutting off the head of some perceived culprit. I would bet a doctoral student could break some serious ground with this topic.
Johnny: “Sure, we have had success in the past decade, but we have consistently stubbed our toe at crunch time. Chokelahoma, as we were referred to in last year’s championship game, in the minds of a lot of people, pretty well describes our big game play in the past few years. Lost of people, including myself, question the players’ mental toughness and the crunch-time coaching of not only this year’s team but also for the past several years. Switzer’s teams won who knows how many big games in the fourth quarter, many on their last possession. Other than the Holiday Bowl of a few years ago, I can’t remember a single big game in recent years OU has won late. I realize we have underachieved this year due largely to attrition (graduations and injuries). In past years our teams with superior athletes and few injuries were able to succeed, I think, because they were consistently superior to their opponents in ability — except against peer teams (Texas, Florida, USC, LSU, etc.). When they beat Texas A&M, Nebraska, Alabama and Miami in recent years, those teams were substandard at the time. I think Stoops has a losing record against Texas. I don’t believe we can lay the blame for five losses this year entirely on inexperienced players. We could have won every game except Tech with only one additional successful play in each game. I like Stoops and think he is what we need at OU. However, I believe he may not be objective in his selection of assistants. I always thought his buddy Chuck Long was a poor offensive coordinator and a terrible play caller. His later experience at San Diego State seemed to bear that out. I am getting the same feeling about Kevin. As with Chuck’s offense, there is very little misdirection used, and sometimes you just shake your head at play selection at critical times (for example, the 54-yard field goal try against BYU by a kicker who had never attempted a field goal in college; mathematical odds says we had at least a slim chance to pick up a first down via pass but had zero chance of making that field goal). I wonder if Stoops’ loyalty to old friends may be clouding his judgment in selecting assistants.
I’ve heard offensive coordinators blamed for everything from the leaves turning early to the price of petroleum. But now you want to blame the BYU field-goal try on Wilson? Uh, that’s a head coach’s decision. Not that there was anything wrong with it. The chances of a booming field goal were much better than the chances of converting 3rd-and-long.
Jim: “Enjoy reading your column very much. Know you’re tired of this topic too. Anyway here goes. Do you think there is any chance that the powers that be at OU will come to their senses and start a house cleaning at OU football. Starting with Stoops, Wilson and Bobby JackWright? This disaster waiting to happen, didn’t just start this year, it’s been going on for the past nine years at least. This Castiglione isn’t any great shakes either. Didn’t he come from the University of Missouri. When did that school ever have any thing in sports that amounted to anything? Maybe Paul Christman, back in the early ’40s. Sorry about my ramblings. I’m just sick about what’s happening to this school’s great football tradition.”
Now we’re rooting this all the way back to where Joe C. came from? Castiglione is the problem? See what I mean about finding blame? There is nothing wrong with OU’s football tradition. It has not been dented or slighted. The Sooners have had a bad year. That’s no reason to start heating up the stake.
Jerry: “I have been watching OU football since the early ’70s. Also, I certainly understand the tradition from the Wilkinson days. I live and work in Florida so all I can do is come back for a couple of games a year and unfortunately I have gone to almost all of the bowl games in the Stoops era. Since I’m long distance and can only watch on TV and read some of the message boards, it seems to me we have more problems than just injuries. I’m not impressed with this offensive coaching staff even though they set records last year. I was at the Florida game and Charley Strong kicked Kevin Wilson’s behind. The defense played well enough to win that night, but I assume that was Bob’s scheme more than Brent’s. It seems to me the program has regressed to just a little better then when Bob and crew arrived and the coaching staff with the exception of Bob is far worse then what he started with. Sorry for the negativity, but I like a lot of folks bleed crimson and cream, and I’m very concerned about the state of the program now.”
This program is back near to where it was in 1998? You’re not impressed with offenses that score 60 points a game against quality competition? Here’s what you need to do. Stay off the message boards. They are a feeding frenzy for bad attitudes. They will lower your character level. A letter like this doesn’t indicate any bleeding of crimson and cream. It indicates bleeding instant gratification at the very cost of that which you claim to love.
Jeff: “I just want to put in my two cents worth. Just because the Sooners have failed a lot this season does not mean anything. Sooners have lost, it seems like, most of their first stringers this year. This season is not anyone’s fault. How can a team win if the starting lineup changes every week? No consistency means that you have to have the most basic game plan in place, otherwise the Sooners would have lost every game. Give the coaches some props for at least winning a few games.”
Well, I won’t give the coaches any props for beating Idaho State and Tulsa, but you’re basically right. In fact, that’s a direct quote from Stoops this week. “It’s not anyone’s fault.” Sometimes things just happen.
Larry: “Good article on the Tech game. Lou Holtz was saying yesterday that one of the problems with Notre Dame was lack of mental and physical toughness. I think the same might apply to OU. It’s been a long time since we played smashmouth football! Do you think the coaches might be a little complacent, reading their own press too much, or maybe reading too much into other teams performance against common opponents and letting their intensity slip? Just a thought I’ve had several times over the past five years.”
No, I don’t think OU coaches are complacent. And OU was playing smashmouth as recently as January. That’s what OU’s offense was last season. But you can’t smash mouths if your mouth is getting smashed.
Sixto: “Well, that is one hell of a debacle. Thankfully, I was out celebrating my birthday so I didn’t watch this train wreck. I did record it, but maybe it’s best to just bury this one and never look at it again, eh? I am not feeling too positive for the future of the Sooner program. Maybe it’s time us season ticket holders to send Mr. Castiglione a loud and clear message: do something before this kind of misery becomes a season in, season out trend. I am not one of the alarmists who think Stoops needs to go. But, I do believe the program needs some tweaking in order to get things humming again. Bob should look at Mack Brown’s success: he went through various coordinators until he finally found the right combination. And now Texas is riding a hell of a wave of good, positive momentum. It seems Mr. Stoops is loyal and reluctant to make tough changes; I don’t know the man and may be totally wrong, but that is what I sense.”
Mack Brown fired one coordinator. Carl Reese, defense, after the 2003 season, when the Longhorns hadn’t won anything in five years. Brown kept going through d-coordinators because he kept losing them (Greg Robinson, Gene Chizik). Brown kept Greg Davis on offense, despite annual cries from UT fans to make a change. And as for loyalty, you didn’t even watch the game. You went to your own birthday bash. That’s your right, but now you’re talking about too much loyalty on Stoops’ part. Seems like loyalty isn’t such a bad thing.
Dave: “I have been a Sooner fan since I was 13 years old (1966). Did the Sooners ever lose six games under Chuck Fairbanks or Barry Switzer. As best I can remember prior to OU’s 1985 championship year, Barry Switzer was on the hot seat for going two years in a row with four losses. I know Stoops has a good reputation for integrity and honesty, but the only thing that counts in Sooner Nation is wins. Do you believe Bob Stoops can weather another season like this? Will the university cut him loose?”
Fairbanks’ worst year was 1969, 6-4. Switzer went three straight years with four defeats, 1981-83. Yes, I think Stoops can weather another season like this. Probably not some assistants, though.
Bruce: “I don’t think we need to over-analyze the Sooner woes. To me, it’s as if OU is fielding its JV team on offense and hoping for the best. Tech did to OU what OU usually does to Tech and others. OSU will follow the very same game plan. Landry Jones may be the answer, but you have to think the coaches have begun to look past him a bit. He reminds me much of a young Chris Simms, cannon arm and pop gun pocket presence. Now more cerebral QBs with slightly lesser arms seem to be all the rage. What’s worse: The offense. Except for the insertion of the Wildcat, the offense hasn’t adapted to match its talent or innovated in ’09 as well as the defense. What’s better: The defense: You have to take your hats off to the coaching staff on the defensive side of the ball, bearing in mind they haven’t had to deal much with the injury bug - Venables did improve and innovate in ’09. Special teams has improved as well. OU will be fine, but the retooling effort may take time to complete. Texas will also have to retool in 2010, but if you look at the level of talent they have consistently recruited when compared to OU (if you believe the star averages), UT’s task may appear far easier and OU’s climb back to a elite status more daunting.”
I don’t see how OU can adapt much more than it has. No line, no running game. So you’re reduced to flat passes to Broyles and Murray.
Kent: “I told you many weeks ago to get ready to go to Shreveport. OU should turn down any bowl game and lock the balls up and figure out why these high profile recruits STINK. OSU should pound a lowly OU squad. This is easily the worst Stoops team at OU. Pitiful performance against Tech, probably the worst ever under Stoops. When the highlight is a new kicker, you know you are really bad. You have to love Broyles throwing the ball.”
Let me get this straight. OU’s offense is predictable, but when Broyles throws a pass, OU’s offense is too wild. And don’t jump off a building yet. OU can’t fall as far as Shreveport.
Shlomo: “You said everything that needed to be said. That said, what does your ‘less rosy 2010′ comment mean? If you are suggesting that Landry Jones is not the quarterback we thought he was, or that the O-Line doesn’t show a lot of promise, or that the D is inconsistent, then we are in a rebuilding phase. But, great programs don’t so much as rebuild as reload. What we are dealing with is questionable recruiting, failure to motivate and to discipline, and bad coaching. The fish stinks from the head and Stoops cannot escape the reality that the program has some serious flaws. Now, it is certainly true that the Sooners have had a tremendous amount of success over the past decade and I’m not saying to throw the baby out with the bath water. But, there is something seriously wrong with the inner workings of a program that plays the way they did today. John Blake lost his job over such play. Gary Gibbs, a winning coach, couldn’t beat Texas, Nebraska, et. al. and he was gone. As former OU president Cross said, “It’s a short walk from the penthouse to the outhouse.”
Sounds like you indeed want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Maxwell wrote about my Bob Stoops column, in which I supported Stoops’ assistants: “Giving up Bob Stoops would be a drastic mistake, but so would writing about revolution in the OU program, even insinuating it as you did. There aren’t that many good coaches in the NCAAs. And that goes for a decorated assistant, Kevin Wilson. Of course, you end your article with the one-liner about waiting for another season, but don’t you think that this guy should not even have these stupidities mentioned, considering that he was in the championship game the year before and has a devastated O-line and, might I also mention, a shell of a team? You make it seem like heads should roll. All this talk is even shameful, to tell you the truth. Write columns about the Thunder and give Bob a pass. He’s had problems with Tech a full year before he hoisted the national championship trophy. Don’t add fuel to the fire. And this talk in one of your articles about expecting a worse team in ’10? This is ridiculous, really. Can you guys not get ahead of yourselves? You write columns as if you want to impact destiny, and you don’t. Instead, maybe you can give Capel a hard time that three McDonald’s all-Americans can’t get it done on the basketball court. Or should we give Capel a pass too?”
Uh, Maxwell, that’s not too Smart. I think you mis-read. A bunch of OU yahoos are upset with me for not coming down hard enough on Stoops. They think I’m giving him a pass. I didn’t call for any coaches’ heads. And I didn’t say 2010 was going to be worse. I did 2010 is a question, with this November performance. But you want me to come down on Jeff Capel after three losses. I’ve barely seen them play and nobody else has either. Let’s stay on point, my man. Football. Football.
Gene: “I don’t have the answer to all the problems OU has had this season, but in my opinion the majority of the criticism the coaching staff is receiving is unjust and uncalled for, and the solution is not firing anyone. Like you point out, 10 months ago the same staff had them playing for the national championship, But that was then, with different personnel, and not now with barely a shell of the former team. You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken manure. It would appear that a part of the kicking game problem is corrected, but that still leaves punt protection, punt coverage, kickoff, and kick off coverage to be addressed, plus penalties. If Stoops is coaching the kicking game, I suggest he consider hiring a special teams coach, not because of an inability to coach the kicking game, but due to time constraints and other matters calling for his personal involvement.”
You know, the Sooners split up the kicking-game coaching duties, but I think a special-teams coach is a fabulous idea. The pros all have one. OU has a coach for defensive ends and another coach for defensive tackles. Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson coaches fullbacks and tight ends. I’d hire a special-teams coach and try to make the kicking game the force it was in the early Stoops days.
Jim: “Excellent article on Stoops and this year’s troubles. Can you define ‘red flags’ in your article after the Tech game?”
Oh, nothing specific. Just in general. Play that poorly and I don’t see how there can be too much optimism for 2010. Defensive lapses. No run game. So-so quarterbacking. All the usual suspects.
Don: “I agree completely with your analysis — that the calls for coaches’ heads are unwarranted. However, they aren’t unprecedented. In addition to those “down” years of Switzer, I also would like to point out the horrendous record, by Sooner standards, of the sainted Bud Wilkinson in ’60 and ’61. He went 8-11-1 in those years, which I remember well as I was a student at OU then. 1959 and ’62 weren’t so hot either, with three losses each year. Then there were the calls to “Chuck Chuck” after Chuck Fairbanks had suffered three consecutive four-loss seasons — and this on the very brink of the ascent to glory. Could it be that nothing obscures memory, and taints the logic, quite so much as success?”
I think you’re onto something, Don. There is something noble about struggling to succeed. Winning can make everyone fat, sassy and ungrateful. Including the fans.
Charlie: “I was amazed at the picture display with your column today. It included Kevin Wilson. Anyone who watched the Nebraska and Texas Tech games and fails to realize he needs a new line of work wasn’t paying attention. Those young players on offense should sue for non-support.”
You’re exactly right. OU needs an offensive coordinator who can call plays that mask false starts and holding penalties.
Larry: “Really, an important, absolutely right-on column. It’s good that you can remind us that Stoops and staff aren’t panicking along with us passionate, but spoiled by success, fans. And as we tend to be short sighted and remember about as far back as the last game, it’s will be even more important for you to remind us again next year, as it surely will be rebuilding, not reloading, season.”
I don’t really recommend a rebuilding season in 2010. If I start preaching patience in 2010, I don’t expect many sympathetic ears.
Harold: “Ever since since seeing OU lose the national championship to the Florida Gators and Tim Tebow with OU’s no-huddle offense, I am a firm believer that OU will not get back to where they should be until they junk that system. During that game, when they ran their hurry up/no-huddle offense, they ran all over the Gators and seemed to score at will.”
Uh, I’m a little confused. You say they ran all over Florida with the hurryup, but you want them to junk it. I’m confused. I’m very confused.
Mike: “The Tech game. No character, no leadership, no intensity, no execution, no fight in them, no pride. Coaches: No clue, no fight? Embarrassing.”
It was a bad day at Black Rock. But here’s a question I have. When OU beat Tech 65-21 last November, or popped Texas back in the day, was that a lack of character on the opponents’ part. Or lack of clue by the coaches? What goes around comes around.
Alex: “Sometimes they just lay an egg outright. There is an old saying to the effect that football isn’t just x’s and o’s, but Jimmies and Joes. The receiving corps of Johnson, Iglesias, Gresham and Broyles made it look way too easy. Don’t underestimate how much we miss our center from last year, too.”
Excellent point. OU hasn’t adequately replaced Jon Cooper. If OU had just replaced Cooper, it would be far better. Habern has been OK but nothing special, and now even he’s gone. The truth of the matter is, the coaching problem on this team is lack of development of younger guys. Receivers and offensive linemen. It has nothing to do with playcalling and schemes.
Daniel: “This has probably been discussed to death, but I’d thought I’d say something anyway. I agree Landry Jones hasn’t been good this season, but I think some context is necessary. Right now, Jones is 23rd in the nation in pass attempts, and that is with one less game. OU as a team is 14th in pass attempts. The only team with a freshman QB who has passed it more than OU is Miami-Ohio, and he has two more games than Landry. The next major team with a freshman QB is Clemson, which is 75th as a team in passing. Barkley with USC is 99th. Clemson’s freshman is 18 TDs, nine interceptions, with 55 percent completion. USC is 11 TDs, 10 interceptions with a percentage of 57. Jones is 23 TDs, 13 interceptions with a percentage of 58. Bradford’s freshman year, OU was 66th in pass attempts. Jones has already passed it 20 more times without OSU, the Big 12 Championship and a bowl game. Bradford did, however, have a great percentage and 36 TDs. I’m not saying Jones is as good as Bradford. Bradford was on a team, however, that was 15th in rushing attempts and 12th in rushing TDs. The 2009 Sooners are 52nd in rushes, 68th in yards per game and 79th in rushing TDs. Not that this team is built to run the ball, but don’t you think a defense would have to play the run a little more if Jones had the offense Bradford had his freshman year. Not that he would get the same number of touchdowns, but would the reduced pressure help. When Bradford did poorly in Colorado, Bradford threw it 19 times. We asked Jones to throw it 58 times in Nebraska. Aren’t we asking a freshman QB for a little much?”
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