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Oklahoma football: J.C. Watts was ahead of his time

COMMENTARY — The 2012 NFL season and Super Bowl have left former Sooner great J.C. Watts wishing he'd been born later. "Had I been born (after) 1970, I'd be making a lot of money today, either coaching that read option or running it.”
by Berry Tramel Modified: February 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm •  Published: February 5, 2013

Tom Osborne recently was talking to J.C. Watts. Two lifetimes ago for both, Watts twice took down Osborne in epic OU-Nebraska games.

Those Big Red results, and a few before them, convinced Osborne something had to change in Lincoln.

“He said, ‘we could not compete with Oklahoma … until we made the decision to become more athletic at our quarterbacking position,'” Watts said.

Thus Nebraska recruited Turner Gill. Then Steve Taylor. Eventually Tommie Frazier. A Cornhusker dynasty ensued.

Now we're seeing the same decision made on multiple gridirons. Bob Stoops is committed to getting more athletic at quarterback. So are various NFL ports, including San Francisco, which dang near won the Super Bowl with a wunderkind in Colin Kaepernick making his 10th career start.

“Quarterbacks that can throw the ball like a Landry Jones but can move around like a Thomas Lott, you're going to have a real magic there,” Watts said. “There's going to be a special sauce.”

Watts was a special sauce himself. The best thrower of Barry Switzer's wishbone quarterbacks — I know, damning with faint praise — was a winner. A two-time Big Eight and Orange Bowl champ who had a knack for leading comeback victories in 1979 and 1980.

Watts was an excellent optioneer but threw well enough to be a four-year starter for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.

Watts stopped by our office this week, and we discussed the NFL's newfound fondness for multidimensional quarterbacks.

“Had I been born (after) 1970, I'd be making a lot of money today, either coaching that read option or running it,” Watts said. “But I've always thought there was a place in professional football, not for running quarterbacks, but for mobile quarterbacks.

“Joe Theismann back in my day. Steve Young. Warren Moon. Guys that could kind of extend the play as we say. But at the end of the day, you want somebody throwing the ball 15-18 yards downfield, not someone running the ball 18 yards downfield.”

That's what Stoops keeps saying. OU is moving to a mobile quarterback system — perhaps the Pistol offense invented at Nevada for Kaepernick? — but the QB's primary weapon will remain the pass.

Watts made a clear distinction between a running quarterback and a mobile quarterback.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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