NORMAN — Sooner Nation, raise your hand if you want Mike Stoops out.
Wow, that’s a lot of hands.
Judging by social media feedback, message board posts and sports talk radio callers the last two days since watching Texas Tech rewrite numerous major college football records on Saturday night in Lubbock, OU fans want answers at the very minimum, although seeing their defensive coordinator on a train headed out of town probably would suffice.
Sorry, people. Not happening.
Bob Stoops is not firing his little brother.
Now, is that because Mike Stoops is still the same defensive firestorm that he ever was?
Or is it because the defensive coordinator’s name is Stoops and firing him means Bob would have to answer to their mother?
Blood is thicker than water. Thicker than the OU secondary, too, though what isn’t these days? So maybe Norman is Mike’s safe haven because his boss also happens to be his big brother.
“That’s not true,” Bob Stoops said Monday during his weekly press conference. “It’s the same coordinator that also we led the league in every defensive category a year ago, and made it to the (College Football Playoff). We’re not running a new defense. He didn’t bring in something different. It’s the same defense. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again, and I’ve got confidence in it.
“And I’m also part of what we’re doing.”
Listen, Stoops went from never firing a coach the first 13 years of his career to remaking his entire staff in a four-year stretch. So he’s trying.
Then again, part of that makeover was to make sure little brother had a job after he’d gotten himself fired at Arizona. Cries of nepotism in Norman have been heard ever since, and they’re louder than ever since Saturday.
And while OU did win the Big 12 Conference in 2015 and led the league in every major statistical category and led the league in total defense in 2013, do those defensive high marks now stand as the exception during the second era under Mike Stoops, rather than the rule?
Don’t forget Mike Stoops’ first year back in 2012, when the Sooners set an all-time record for defensive futility by allowing 398 yards per game.
Think about this: that’s less than half of what Texas Tech got on Saturday, 854, bringing this season’s average to a putrid 476 yards per game allowed.
What OU fans today wouldn’t give for 398 yards per game.
The Sooner defense is currently yielding 36.7 points per game.
The school record for points per game allowed is 35.6, set in 1996. That’s right. Once again, the Stoops brothers are closing in on a record set during the John Blake era.
This OU defense ranks 115th in the nation in points allowed, 116th in yards allowed and 127th — out of 128 FBS teams — in passing yards allowed.
“It’s not all the players, it’s not all the coaches,” Bob Stoops said, “it’s all of us.”
As OU fans will recall all too painfully, Mike Stoops similarly had no answers back in 2012, when West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen moved diminutive wideout Tavon Austin into the backfield for a game in Morgantown. Austin rushed for 344 yards that night.
Saturday night’s 66-59 OU victory looked a lot like that 50-49 Sooner triumph.
“The defense was not nearly good enough,” Bob Stoops said on Monday, though many former players, such as Brian Bosworth, Tony Casillas and others used other descriptives, like “embarrassing,” “deplorable,” and “unacceptable.”
Bob Stoops chose instead to praise Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes and the Red Raiders for making competitive plays. But come on. Such praise only goes so far when the other team is shattering NCAA records on you.
On the recurring issue of defenders loafing, however, Stoops did have a stronger opinion.
“Very discouraging,” he said. “We’ll address it.”
So, Oklahoma’s defense, coordinated by a man whose salary is $950,000 a year, is abysmally bad. Historically bad. Why? More importantly, what can be done about it?
Bob Stoops said there are answers, though he offered only that the players need to play better.
He did say it’s on the coaches, too, though he ultimately declined to hold his brother accountable. Mike Stoops is the defensive coordinator, but hey, everyone shares the blame.
“It isn’t just my brother and I,” Stoops said. “It’s all Coach (Kerry) Cooks, Coach (Calvin) Thibodeaux, Coach (Tim) Kish, everybody in there.”
Asked about taking on more responsibility himself to help his brother out, or elevating someone to co-coordinator, or even making the staff stay later to study film or self scout or game prep, Bob Stoops said there was no need for such moves — despite an obvious state of emergency for which commonsense demands some kind of change needs to be made.
No, Bob Stoops will not fire Mike Stoops. Not under any circumstance. He might try really hard to get him another job somewhere else, like he did two years ago with Les Miles at LSU, but he will never, ever fire his brother. Not when he explains away 854 yards and 59 points by describing how amazing the other team was.
Mike Stoops looked whipped on Saturday night, pale and frazzled.
“Well, you would,” Bob Stoops said. “I would think all our defensive coaches would. He’s not the only one. In the end, we’ll stick to what we can do and improve on it and keep confident in our players. It’s your only choice.”
Bob Stoops has been harping on staying positive all season, but what defensive positives could possibly be extracted from the Lubbock nightmare?
“In a lot of cases, we’re in a lot of good positions, but we’ve got to complete the play,” Stoops said. “I believe we can. We’ll just have to keep pushing for that and challenge the guys to be more aggressive in what they’re doing.”
Stoops said the Sooners tried zone defense and man defense, tried blitzing and tried covering, but nothing worked.
Even if his brother won’t hold him accountable, Mike Stoops seemed to acknowledge after the game that he is at least part of the problem.
“I’ve never seen that in my whole life,” Mike Stoops said Saturday night. “It’s unacceptable at so many levels, I can’t even begin to try to define it to you all. … I was very disappointed in our effort, and our coaching. It’s unacceptable. It’s disappointing, when we thought we were making some improvements, to really fall on our face like this. We’ve got to re-evaluate a lot of things we’re doing.”
That starts at the top. And it starts with Bob Stoops’ honest evaluation of his brother.
Sooner fans won’t forget or apparently forgive Mike Stoops’ demeaning and condescending comments after a troubling loss to Ohio State, when he said, “The normal person’s not gonna understand what happens during a game.”
That gem from just a month ago gets trotted out repeatedly on social media every time the Sooner defense gets roughed up.
Maybe Mike Stoops’ scheme is too complex for today’s players to understand. Maybe he’s too inflexible at times. Maybe he’s just not that good a defensive coach any more — remember, his heyday was well before the proliferation of spread and up-tempo offenses. It used to be a whole lot easier to coach defense when offenses were conventional. Maybe this generation of offensive coordinators is just too good for an old Youngstown lion like Mike Stoops.
Or maybe Mike Stoops has been back at OU long enough now that players have effectively tuned him out. When your shtick is a constant screaming and yelling and cursing (remember why Bob Stoops kicked his brother off the sidelines and into the coaches box last year), maybe Millennials can simply figure out how to ignore you. Maybe Mike Stoops, once a demanding, even threatening figure to his players, has just become Crazy Old Mike.
And if any of that is the case, then maybe it’s time Oklahoma players hear a different voice.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “Further Review with Hoover & Rew” and can be heard on The Franchise Tulsa from noon to 3 p.m. every weekday with co-host Lauren Rew and most mornings on The Franchise in Oklahoma City. Listen on fm107.9, am1270 on the 107.7 Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page.