, Muskogee, OK


November 22, 2012

COLUMN: Jones’ final chapters need to be better than the book

— NORMAN – Only a few days ago I wrote about Landry Jones’ opportunity to define himself once and for all over his last four games as a Sooner.

That even though championships appeared out of reach, should he play victorious football and leave the Sooner Nation happy, he’ll be rewarded by fine memories.

He couldn’t have gotten off to a better start, throwing for a program record 554 yards and six touchdowns at West Virginia

Too bad the Sooner defense appears to be conspiring against him. The way Oklahoma State’s been rolling, Jones could throw for 450 yards and four touchdowns and still lose Bedlam.

Yet before any of that can happen, Jones will take the field with his family, alongside his Sooner senior teammates who will all be playing their last game at Owen Field.

Interesting will be Jones’ reception, whether it’s polite golf-clap applause or the boisterous response typically saved for Barry Switzer when the king’s image pops on the giant video board above the south end zone.

It depends how you look at it.

Remember, we’ve been wrong about Landry Jones so many times.

The story of his first season was about his big-moment struggles away from home. Nonetheless, closing with a jim-dandy Sun Bowl, the Sooners were propelled into the 2010 national championship race.

Jones ran hot and cold as a sophomore. Though OU struggled against the likes of Utah State, Air Force and Cincinnati, it nonetheless debuted atop the BCS standings. Everything went to heck with losses at Missouri and Texas A&M, but mostly because the Sooners couldn’t punch it in from short. But Jones wasn’t great, so he took the heat.

Next, he was great at Bedlam and steered a Big 12 championship comeback over Nebraska.

In two seasons, he’d been bad, good, bad and good again.

Last season, OU still couldn’t punch it in. That led to the Belldozer, marginalizing Jones in many eyes. The biggest problem was a defense that couldn’t stop Robert Griffin III or Brandon Weeden, but Jones retained a penchant for the stunning mistake and Bob Stoops offered no favors by defending him at every turn with dreaded votes of confidence like the coach who cried wolf.

So Jones took the heat.

This season, Jones really was awful against Kansas State. He took the heat again and deserved it. But he didn’t just take it so much as embrace it and wallow in it, live it and breathe it in a fresh and uncommon way.

He ran away from nothing.

It’s a cliché, that character is exposed amidst adversity. Also, it’s assumed adversity clears in the face of it.

Only it hasn’t worked that way for Jones. OU lost to Notre Dame. It struggled, even though its quarterback did not, against Baylor and West Virginia. Jones never has and never will fully escape his most unforgiving critics.

Still, he has offered a clinic in how to accept the bad tidings, from sportswriters, including this one, and naysayers, who may frequently have good points but tend lose themselves and their credibility in their vehemence.

Earlier this week, Jones was asked how he’d like to be remembered.

“I hope they remember me as a guy who came here and wanted to play for God and wanted to affect his teammates and live for His glory here,” he said.

That won’t happen.

Even the holiest roller around here is more interested in Jones’ performance on the field than what’s in his heart, on it or off. But maybe there’s room to remember how he’s handled it all.

He’s rewritten the record book, which hardly anybody cares about. He’s played fantastic games, none better than last week, yet previous bad decisions and bad throws are certain to linger for many.

And still, survival and longevity are virtues too, often underrated. Achieving those without rancor, regret or any misgiving are very rare and nice tricks.

Considering Landry Jones, that seems like that’s a pretty good place to start.

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