By Clay Horning
NORMAN — Looking back on a college football season in which Oklahoma managed to snare another Big 12 championship yet still leave the Sooner Nation with a bad taste in its mouth, there are a few thoughts.
One, Texas A&M may rule the game for a little while, because I'm not sure how Johnny Manziel keeps from winning another Heisman Trophy or two, the guy being for college football what a teenage Wayne Gretzky was to the NHL a long time ago.
Two, sorry Sooner fans, but its unclear how OU gets better between this season and next. Assuming Blake Bell isn't Sam Bradford or RGIII or something in between, how does the Sooner offense keep on keeping on?
Three, the fate of the Sooner defense is more questionable. A new season means a fresh start, but if OU already had better defenders on its roster they should have been playing. They didn’t and how much difference can one recruiting class make by September?
Four, there's never been a better time for Bob Stoops to go rediscover himself, take a page out of 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004, when “No excuses” really was the order of the day and get everybody back on board with his program.
Much has been written and said about why Stoops has grown so defensive about his team, so much more willing to tell you why something happened as though it's a matter of fate rather than tell you how something happened, why it can't happen again and what’s going to be done about it.
I think it goes back the Rhett Bomar ghost employee soap opera, when the Sooner coach felt burned by coverage that recalled OU's outlaw past and decried any movement by his Sooner program that same direction.
Since then, Stoops has watched his words so carefully. He has tried to keep himself out of second-guessing range when he should know there’s no such place, leaving transparency and honesty as the best policy not because it won't come back to bite you, instead because when it does, you won’t appear insufferable or blind to the facts.
Do that and the vast majority of observers, fans and media alike, will patiently give you the benefit of the doubt, because full disclosure is always the sympathetic course.
Not to mention, a team might respond better to a coach who's consistent, in message if not delivery, between the locker room and microphone.
That is, unless Stoops has been consistent, seeing too much sunshine and missing the clouds on the horizon, not only for public viewing, but internally, too. If so, he really has to recalibrate. But only Friday he was talking about the need and expectation to get back on the national championship radar, so that's something.
It's strange but true, and feel free to draw the connection, the Stoops era stretch in which OU put its best teams on the field were the first several seasons.
If the Sooners were bounced out of the picture, they were bounced late. It was those years, too, when Stoops was harder on his team, more nitpicky than he's ever been since and far more willing to address issues facing his program head on.
The phenomenon of his picking his story and sticking to it, of being slow or unwilling to acknowledge problems on the field everybody can see, like the lack or underdevelopment of talent among his defensive front seven, is a recent one. Basically, he's been harder on his best teams and easier on those that fell short of expectation.
Tomorrow is a new day.
Next season could be a long one.
Against that backdrop, there's no better time for a reboot. No better time to invite scrutiny and answer every question. No better time to once again become your own toughest critic.
It has worked before.