Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts on the OU loss

It is unfortunate but fitting that my first blog post about the OU Sooners would be on the heals of defeat. As I hope to explain in a later post, it is the rare events that receive our attention and thoughts whether warranted or not. Here are some brief thoughts on Sooners football.

Landry Jones is not an NFL quarterback. In fact, he is not truly good enough to be OU's multiyear starting quarterback. Unfortunately, it has taken until his senior season (fifth-year senior at that) for us to discover that fact. Well, there was reason to believe that was the case often times last year, but in truth and in the defense of the coaches paid handsomely to make these determinations it is a loose, vague, and indeterminant type of decision. There is nothing very cut and dried about it. Only after the fact do we even have a chance of seeing the error or virtue of our prior decisions in these matters. And it is not as if there were a lot of alternatives. The only option that seems likely to have been true is an alteration in the offense the past couple of seasons especially the fuller integration of Blake Bell into the fold. More on that below.

In the Stoops era the following quarterbacks have proven to be worthy of unconditional starter status:

  • Josh Heupel
  • Jason White
  • Sam Bradford
In that era these quarterbacks proved to be worthy of solid backup status:
  • Nate Hybl
  • Paul Thompson
  • Landry Jones
Any others didn't have enough time at the helm for a proper decision to be made. And a change in a few circumstances might move any of the above from one list to the other. 

It is with careful consideration that I place Landry on the second list. He certainly had his shot at the first. Many times he made a case for being on it. But I believe the entirety of the evidence rightfully places him on the lower level. He is making more critical mistakes as a senior than Bradford made as a sophomore. Which leads to my evaluation that he is not an NFL-level quarterback. By that I mean a serious contender to play an extended role (>1 season) in the position. 

Landry has the following shortcomings:
  1. He exhibits poor decision making.
  2. He cannot reliably hit the deep pass.
  3. He does not handle pocket pressure well.
My prediction is he goes in the late second to early fourth round in the draft and is out of the league within 2 years. I certainly don't wish him ill. I very much admire what he has accomplished--holder of numerous, significant OU records, which says a lot about how close he has been from being elite. I believe he is a good person of strong character and a great athlete. The difference between very good and great is sometimes a lot of little things that add up.

One corollary thought is how the success of the starting quarterback has affected the coaching staff and in particular the offensive coordinator position. The prior OU offensive coordinators, Leach, Mangino, Long, and Wilson probably were overly esteemed, recognized, and rewarded as a result of terrific quarterback play. Heupel, the current coordinator, is probably underappreciated at this point for the same reasoning. 

Back to Blake Bell. How could he be better utilized? As a fan, I viewed Landry's return for his senior season postponning the NFL draft as potentially a very good thing (best of both world's with an experienced QB plus an opportunity to bring Blake Bell along slowly for maximum play in 2013) or a very bad thing (a disappointing 2012 season and a poorer 2013 as Blake Bell would be much less prepared, some might say squandered). I fear we are well into the latter. What I'd like to see is Bell now incorporated into the offense much, much more. That would give us the chance to move back toward the optimistic senario. Alas, the notable stubborness of company Stoops, a trait that serves him well in much decision making, and the general reluctance of coaches to take proper risks when the risk is perceived as unorthodox stands in the way.