Football expert Lindsey Prather discusses the firing of the OU defensive coordinator.
Following a nearly-unbelievable loss to Texas in the Red River Rivalry, Oklahoma football parted ways with defensive coordinator Mike Stoops on Monday. News of Stoops’ departure first surfaced on Sunday night, following multiple outlets reporting he was either fired or resigning from his post. Oklahoma confirmed the firing on Monday morning, naming Ruffin McNeill as interim defensive coordinator.
This decision to fire Stoops comes on the heels of the latest of many pitiful performances from the Sooners defense. Mike Stoops had previously been bailed out by explosive offense performances by the Oklahoma offense, led first by Baker Mayfield and now Kyler Murray. However, the Sooner offense found itself outscored in the end as their defense was embarrassed drive after drive, unable to keep up with a Sam Ellinger and the rest of the Texas offense.
Following Oklahoma’s loss to the Longhorns, its defense ranked 52nd nationally in yards allowed per play, but the primary issue is their inability to finish off a drive. The Sooners rank 98th in the country in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert around 40 percent of the time. Perhaps the most baffling statistic is in the red zone: Oklahoma’s opponents have scored points on 100 percent of their red zone possessions. That includes a touchdown-allowed rate of 85 percent, which ranks 124th in the country, tied with football powerhouses Rice and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Mike Stoops’ coaching career began as an assistant at Kansas State under Bill Snyder from 1992-98. He later moved on to be head coach at Arizona from 2004–11. In 2012, he joined his brother’s coaching staff at Oklahoma. Since then, the Sooners defense has finished in the top 30 nationally only once. This year’s unit is currently ranked 96th nationally, giving up an average of 421 yards per game.
Oklahoma has won three consecutive Big 12 titles and made two playoff appearances in the last four years. However, they were far from fruitful; just last year Oklahoma blew a 31–14 first-half lead against Georgia in the Rose Bowl semifinal. In the second half of the Rose Bowl, it was painfully obvious that the Sooners defense had some fundamental coaching issues, even struggling to line up correctly.
With issues being prevalent for the Oklahoma football program, why was Mike Stoops not fired sooner (pun intended)? I can find no other reason other than good ol’ fashioned nepotism. Bob Stoops has been the darling coach of Oklahoma football for almost two decades, and that power doesn’t come without a cost. While Oklahoma is undeniably a blue-blooded program, its unbalanced team is currently a shadow of its former self.
Oklahoma is facing a cannibalistic Big 12 conference, one that has been consistently un-rankable throughout this season and about as unpredictable as it can get. Ruffin McNeill has until Oct. 20 to make some changes before the Sooners take on TCU in their next conference game. Although, I can say with relative certainty that any improvement whatsoever will justify the firing of Mike Stoops. By continuing to employ Mike Stoops, generational talent and championship-worthy offense has been wasted. Now, the only question that remains is whether or not dismissing Mike Stoops will be good enough in time to make a legitimate playoff run. If not, the Big 12 can kiss a playoff spot good-bye.