Not so long ago, some wondered if Bob Stoops had it in him to make difficult decisions. Had it in him to fire a coach, if he deemed it necessary.
Seems so quaint now, with the guillotine freshly oiled. Three Stoops staff members gone in the last week, on the heels of a firing and a demotion a year ago.
Perhaps the reign of terror is over for now. Robespierre rests. But there's no rest in the OU football office. The staff is on alert. The lion has roared. The Sooners' current status is unacceptable.
So gone are James Patton, Jackie Shipp and Bruce Kittle, joining Willie Martinez and Brent Venables from the purge of last winter. Extreme Makeover: OU Football Edition.
As the Sooner coaching roster stands now, Stoops has four holdovers from his 2010 staff and three veterans of the mighty 2010 Arizona staff. And with two openings left, who's to say the 'Zona Revolution won't continue? Mike Stoops' imprint on the program is gaining momentum by the second.
Will the staff upheaval change Sooner fortunes? Who knows? It's not like OU is in the dregs. The Sooners are 40-13 since losing to Florida in the Big Bowl four years ago. That's an average season of 10-3, which will get you a statue built in Waco but a For Sale sign in your Norman yard.
The Sooners aren't so much in a slump as they've grown stale. The defense leaks like every other team's in the Big 12. The offense is productive but no better than the third-most perennially feared in the conference.
Stoops, a steady Eddie for his first 13 years on the job, no longer preaches calm. No longer declares that everything is fine and hey, even if it's not, the Longhorns aren't tearing it up themselves.
Coaching changes often help. Often don't, too, witness the 2012 Sooner defense and even Mack Brown's own reign of terror a couple of years back.
But it's not like new blood has been in short supply in Norman. Let's see. Josh Heupel and Patton in 2006. Jay Norvell in 2008. Kittle in 2011. Mike Stoops and Tim Kish in 2012. Through free-will attrition, the OU staff has been anything but stagnant.
So why the dismissals of longtime lieutenants Patton and Shipp? Had to be recruiting related. Patton coached up his patchwork offensive line about as well as a guy could. Shipp's defensive tackles seemed solid, considering that for three straight years, not a one of them was G.K. McCoy.
And the firing of Kittle was necessary. Stoops hired his longtime friend with virtually no coaching experience — not OU-level, or Big 12-level, or college-level experience; virtually no experience — and it just didn't work.
Those close to the program say both coaches and players grew frustrated at Kittle's lack of coaching acumen. When Stoops' critics say he's gotten complacent and soft, the best evidence is Bruce Kittle. Stoops would have little credibility in his own staff room had he kept Kittle and jettisoned Patton and Shipp.
Like it or not, the historic words of everyone from George Lynn Cross to Barry Switzer ring true. This is a monster that must be fed.
OU doesn't pay Stoops $5 million a year for his boyish charm. It pays him $5 million a year to win big, which he did for more than a decade and still does to some degree. Just not quite as big.
The natives are restless, and I don't mean the Chickasha plumber or the Shawnee druggist or the Oklahoma City writer. I mean influential boosters and donors and decision-makers, who still are loyal to Stoops but want to know why he's not winning like the Sooners did not so long ago. Which is why the guillotine was sharpened.
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.