If the turmoil in which Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops and his program are in seems familiar, that’s because they’re beginning to feel very much like the end of rival Texas’ run with Mack Brown at the helm.
Stoops and Brown are part of that exclusive college football club of coaches with national championships, and the two were arguably the premier sideline generals of the 2000s. But for all Brown accomplished in his tenure at Texas, the Longhorns’ stagnation for almost a half-decade forced him out after last season.
Bob Stoops isn’t just the architect of restoring Oklahoma football to prominence: He’s the foreman, the cement mixer, the electrician. Put simply, the reason Oklahoma expects to win championships after an abominable run in the 1990s is Bob Stoops.
Likewise, Mack Brown resurrected Texas after John Mackovic did John Mackovic in his run with the Longhorns.
At a certain point, however, complacency can set in. That was apparently the case at Texas, Mack Brown told The New York Times in 2011:
He said the program took on the attitude that “we’ll win our 10” games.
“As I look back, I can’t remember not working,” he said. “I can’t remember not being excited about spring and all that. But obviously, there was something that I missed.”
Whatever Brown missed, there was no recapturing it following a 2010 season rife with historic misfires.
Oklahoma’s 8-5 2014 season is certainly not as ugly as Texas finishing 2010 5-7, but the immediate fallout and impending sense of doom are similar.
The writing was on the wall for Brown three years before his dismissal, as he began a carousel of coach-swapping following the abysmal 2010 season that didn’t stop turning.
Oklahoma is not in the national championship race year-after-year as it was a decade ago, but the Sooners are always good for Big 12 contention. At least, they were.
After Stoops out-coached Nick Saban in last year’s Sugar Bowl, 2014 was to be the year Oklahoma football was back — much in the same vein Texas football was repeatedly back after it met Alabama in the 2010 BCS Championship Game.
Stoops is cleaning house after the Sooners’ dismal finish to the 2014 season. Former national championship-winning OU quarterback Josh Heupel is out as offensive coordinator, following co-OC Jay Norvell to the unemployment line.
The Oklahoma offense ranked No. 21 in the Football Bowl Subdivision this season at 36.4 points per game, yet was stagnant in high-profile losses to Baylor (14 points) and the bowl-game defeat vs. Clemson (6 points).
Quarterback Trevor Knight failed to meet the lofty expectations set for him after his breakout performance in last January’s Sugar Bowl, and the Sooners system looked downright archaic at times, when compared to the free-wheeling style of Big 12 counterparts Baylor and the retooled TCU scheme implemented by Doug Meacham.
From Stoops’ press conference, via SoonerSports.com:
“I just want to also say I’m more determined than ever to get Oklahoma back in the position to competing for national championships like we have so many other times,” Stoops added. “I promise you I’m as dedicated and committed as I ever have been since the day I walked in here. I have a lot invested in this program and no one cares about it more than I do, and I’m anxious and excited moving forward to make improvements and get us back in the position where we’re competing for national championships like we have so many other times.”
More glaring than Oklahoma’s offensive woes, however, was its defensive ineptitude. In losses, the Sooners gave 37, 31, 48, 38 and 40 points. That 40-pointer came against Clemson, and, juxtaposed with Oklahoma’s six in that game, the end result is simply NSFW.
Compounding that 34-point beatdown is that coordinating Clemson’s defense was Brent Venables — the same Brent Venables who, after eight seasons on staff with Bob Stoops, was allowed to walk to CU in favor of Bob’s brother, Mike.
Mike’s defenses the last three years have been less than stellar, but this year’s incarnation was particularly porous.
Re-adding Mike and fellow Arizona refugee Tim Kish to his staff was Bob Stoops’ way of getting the band back together. Mike oversaw the championship-caliber Oklahoma defenses of the early 2000s.
But, as was the case during Mike’s final seasons as head coach at Arizona, his inability to adapt to the evolving offensive styles prevalent today became a liability. Mike Stoops’ defensive genius is a relic of a past era.
The need for a fresh perspective prompted Bob Stoops to promote Jerry Montgomery to co-defensive coordinator. Montgomery would presumably hold the job solo if rumors of Mike Stoops entertaining other offers comes to fruition, a la Will Muschamp after Texas’ disastrous 2010.
In the aforementioned New York Times piece, Brown says “there was something that I missed.” He never quite found that something. Can Bob Stoops find it, or are we seeing history repeat itself?