NORMAN — Bob Stoops hasn't won a national title in 12 years, he's lost nine conference games since October 2009, he's making $4.5 million a year and he's moving into that castle you can spy from I-35.
You know what that means. Stoops has gone soft. Stoops has lost his edge. Stoops has lost his competitive drive. Content to count his coin when the losses mount.
Except I don't believe it. I see the bulging veins in Stoops' neck when a DB gets burned or a field goal sails wide or a lieutenant doesn't get the play in quickly enough.
I see those eyes that glared darts in Youngstown and Iowa City and Manhattan, doing the same now that Stoops is on the back side of 50.
So amid the wailing and gnashing of teeth over Kansas State's 24-19 victory, remember this. No one is more hacked off than Bobby Stoops. Losses still eat at him the way they did when he was a Cardinal Mooney safety or Steve Spurrier's Kato or a 39-year-old whippersnapper newly arrived on the Oklahoma plains.
“Heck, yeah,” Stoops said. “Absolutely. Can't stand it. It's the worst.”
But going bonkers at your players or staff or self does little good. Kicking a hole in the wall of that new house doesn't help the cause.
“You gotta correct what isn't right and keep what the positives are and keep building on them,” Stoops said.
That's not what Sooner fans want to hear during Festivus, which always is celebrated after an OU losses. The airing of grievances kicks into high gear.
My busiest days of the year are the Sunday after Sooner defeats. I'm like Charlie Brown's Lucy, opening up my psychiatry booth via email, trying to talk OU fans off the ledge. Difference is, Lucy gets a nickel for her services. I don't get a dime.
Here's the truth about these Sooners. The talent has dipped. OU has a roster loaded with good players, but great players are in short supply.
Who's OU's best player? Tony Jefferson, I suppose. Excellent safety. But a game-changer?
Who's next? Demontre Hurst probably. Or even Aaron Colvin. Solid cornerbacks. But difference-makers?
Flanker Kenny Stills has been superb this season, but he's a little bit of a flake. Can you count on him? Gabe Ikard is a fine offensive lineman, but not a dominator.
The Sooners are going through a transition, after the loss of the talent-loaded 2008 and 2009 teams, the latter of which was ruined by injury. Stoops is trying to restock on the fly. Trying not to let the results lag.
He won't admit that, of course. You can't tell your guys they're not good enough, even if it's true.
But whereas Texas after Colt McCoy went 5-7, 8-5 and we'll-see-this-year, and Florida after Tim Tebow went 8-5, 7-6 and we'll-see-this-year, the Sooners after Sam Bradford went 12-2, 10-3 and we'll-see-this-year.
“A year ago, it's catastrophic, we win 10 games,” Stoops said. “From my standards, yeah, I don't like it either.”
But, Stoops said, “We're not far off here. Are we going undefeated? We're not. But in the end, with all the new pieces, we'll see where we go.”
I think the Sooners could go splat, or they could rally and win a wild Big 12. Just about anything's possible.
I asked Stoops if there was anything he could say to make the fans feel better.
“I don't think there is,” Stoops said. “That's how fans are.”
Sorry, he's not opening any psychiatric stand. But maybe instead of giving you what the mobs demand — Blake Bell's promotion, an off-week switch to the wishbone, burning that new mansion to the ground before the boxes are unpacked — you can take solace in what Stoops believes.
“We've been operating here for a long time,” Stoops said. “We've had a lot of success. It hasn't come overnight. A lot of people here were part of how we have had success and how we have built it and how we'll continue to build it.
“You're going to have your ups and downs when you go through so many years.
“I feel strongly the way we built this and have developed this program for a large number of years … I know how to do it,” Stoops said. “And we'll continue to do it in a positive way. I've never been able to please everybody, but that's OK. It's been more so than any other Big 12 team.”
I told you. He's not going to give in. Competitive people are like that.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.