Without a doubt, Bob Stoops has done a fantastic job at returning the Oklahoma Sooners to national prominence, and his accomplishments speak to that.
A National Championship, seven conference championships, two Heisman Trophy winners and a 137-32 overall record are about as good as any reasonable fan can ask for.
However, Oklahoma's loss to Baylor warrants criticism of Stoops as a coach. And the criticism is legitimate not because of his failures in BCS games or lack of more National Championships.
The reason OU fans should question Stoops is because he has failed on numerous occasions to win the games his team should undoubtedly win.
The Baylor game last weekend is an excellent example. Sure, Baylor is a good team this season. Sure, Robert Griffin III is one of the best players in the country. But Oklahoma should have won that game.
For a program that is expected to compete for a National Championship year in and year out, they should be able to prevail over a 6-3 team every time.
There are numerous other examples of this. Let's start with the 2001-02 season. Oklahoma was 10-1 and No. 4 in the nation when they faced 3-7 Oklahoma State. A win would have kept OU on track to earn a berth in the National Championship.
Instead, OSU shocked OU 16-13 and ended the Sooners' National Title hopes. Granted, the Bedlam Game is a high-intensity contest, and regardless of each team's abilities, it is usually a close game. But OU should have beaten a 3-7 team.
The next season, OU was 8-0 and No. 1 in the AP poll heading into Kyle Field on November 9 to face 6-4 Texas A&M. Again, the Sooners were upset. Three weeks later, 6-5 Oklahoma State shocked OU again, winning 38-28.
Does Bob Stoops Deserve to Be Criticized?
To find additional clear evidence of this trend, we skip ahead to the 2007 season. Oklahoma had a perfect 4-0 record until they dropped a 27-24 stunner to 2-2 Colorado. Later in the season, 7-4 Texas Tech ended OU's National Title hopes.
This wasn't the best OU team Stoops has coached, but his team was definitely better than both Colorado and Texas Tech and without question should have won both games.
The 2008 season was a high point in history of Oklahoma football. Both of the Sooners' losses, to Texas and Florida in the BCS Championship, came at the hands of elite teams. OU fought hard in both games and simply came up short. There's nothing wrong with that.
The 2009 season is also free of criticism because of the uncanny number of injuries and the competitiveness of the team. They were in several dogfights and made the most of what they had by beating Stanford in the Sun Bowl.
The last two seasons, however, include more examples of Stoops' squads failing in games they were expected to win.
In 2010, it was 5-3 Texas A&M that killed Oklahoma's national championship hopes by beating the Sooners 33-19 and stifling five OU red zone appearances.
This season may include the most glaring of these losses. After entering the season No. 1 and being a heavy favorite to play for another National Championship, the Sooners looked helpless on defense and somehow lost to Texas Tech in Norman, 41-38. The Red Raiders followed that win with four straight losses and now sit at ninth in the Big 12 with a record of 5-6.
Of course, last week's loss to Baylor is the icing on the cake. Oklahoma was a 16.5-point favorite against the Bears yet failed to keep their dreams of New Orleans alive.
All in all, that's eight blemishes on Stoops' coaching record that simply shouldn't be there. The aforementioned losses came to teams that had a combined record of 39-30.
An elite team competing for National Titles perennially is expected to beat a group of opponents with such a record, no questions asked. Sure, I'm being critical, but expectations are established based on the setting of the bar.
By winning a National Championship in his second season and building a consistent winner, Stoops set the bar at a very high level, and these losses are inexcusable given the standard Stoops has established in Norman.
I'm not saying that Stoops should be fired. He is still one of the best coaches in the nation. But his teams have shown a tendency to come up short when they should not come up short and prematurely end their national title hopes.
And because of this, Stoops can and should be criticized.