If he doesn’t play his cards right, Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops will walk away from a BCS game as a loser yet again.
However, this time around, it’ll be for his performance off the field, not on it.
Following their surprising upset of the two-time, defending BCS national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, 45-31, in the 2014 Sugar Bowl, Stoops and his Sooners captured the attention of the college football world. Even the NFL took notice.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, both the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions are taking a long, hard look at Stoops to fill their head coaching vacancies:
Brace yourself for a few days of Bob Stoops and NFL links. Source says Cleveland and Detroit in play. Is this the year? "Time will tell."— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) January 4, 2014
To make matters worse, Stoops didn’t do much to derail the speculation. When approached about the rumors, he stated, “You never know,” via Yahoo! Sports’ Aaron Wilson.
And although his name has recently been taken out of the hat for the Browns’ position, per The Associated Press, nobody but Stoops knows where his heart truly lies.
But if it’s with chasing a career as an NFL head coach, then he is jumping the gun.
That’s because the 53-year-old is coming off arguably his best coaching job since leading Oklahoma to the BCS title in 2000.
Entering the 2013 season, a cloud of doubt hung over the team.
It didn’t take long for disappointment to strike, as the Sooners dropped the annual Red River Rivalry game to the Texas Longhorns, 36-20, as two-touchdown favorites. A month later, the team received a thrashing from the longtime Big 12 cellar-dwelling Baylor Bears, 41-12.
Paired with inconsistencies at the quarterback position—a situation that was left unfixed until Trevor Knight’s recent performance in the Sugar Bowl—Oklahoma seemed headed toward one of its worst finishes in recent years.
But like a magician who pulls a rabbit out of his hat, Stoops reached deep into the pockets of his trademark khakis and delivered yet another 10-win season and appearance in a BCS bowl.
However, with the Sooners as low as 16-point underdogs, their magical ride was expected to come to a screeching halt against the mighty Tide.
Except it didn’t.
|2013 Season||vs. Oklahoma||vs. Other 12 Opponents|
|Points Allowed||45||11.3 (per game)|
|First-Half Points Allowed||31||52|
|Points off Turnovers Allowed||28||20|
Instead, the team everyone loved to poke fun at was now being considered a dark-horse contender for the 2014 national title. Suddenly, after nearly a decade on hiatus, “Big Game Bob” was back in the saddle.
Those BCS woes of seasons past? Forget about ‘em.
All that mattered now was that Oklahoma had just toppled college football’s iron-fisted ruler handily on the national stage. There were no ifs, ands or buts about it.
The Sooners lined up opposite of Alabama and outplayed the Tide for 60 minutes.
So why should Stoops leave now of all times?
Sure, some may see it as riding off into the sunset. However, I see 2013 as just the tip of the iceberg.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no head coach in college football that is more deserving of a shot at the NFL than Stoops.
For 15 years, he has been the definition of consistency. He has racked up more wins (160) than any other head coach in Oklahoma history, recorded 12 10-win seasons, captured eight Big 12 titles and made an appearance in nine BCS bowl games, including four for the BCS title.
Should Stoops make the jump to the NFL?
But at a football program that measures success by championships won, Stoops still has some unfinished business. He’s just 1-3 in those four BCS title games.
For someone with as much pride as Stoops, returning next season has to be the answer.
Maybe the Sooners will win the national title in 2014. Or maybe they won’t.
Either way, one thing is clear: Oklahoma is a much better football team with Stoops at the helm.
And if the feeling is mutual, that elusive championship No. 8 will be making its way to Norman a lot sooner than we think.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.