After reading some of the Pac-10 media day quotes, we stopped for a moment at this one from Arizona coach Mike Stoops-
"There are very innovated offenses," he said of the Pac-10. "The quarterback play was shocking to me. The ability to throw the ball down the field ... I never saw that really until we came here."A couple of thoughts here.
First off, this reinforces our thoughts about style of play. As the article notes, Stoops "grew up on Big Ten football and then came up through the coaching ranks in the Big 12 at Kansas State and Oklahoma". In that time, he'd been exposed to the styles of play of two significant conferences, then moved to a third one in the Pac-10. He's faced a good struggle so far in the Pac-10, surrendering 30 points a game in-conference (third worst mark in the conference last year), and contributed only 16.3 points a game in-conference (second-worst mark). Some of Arizona's struggles must strongly be credited to experiencing inherent post-Mackovic lumps. But the numbers also indicate Mike Stoops' current style of play will not overwhelm the Pac-10 the way it has the Big Twelve.
However, we do think, given Mike Stoops' quote above, and others we've noticed in the past year, praising the conference and its styles of play (remarking about tight end play, etc.) that he "gets it". In this, he is much unlike his brother Bob, who after last year's Orange Bowl did not even hint at his opponents' superior style of play. Instead, he blamed his players and really didn't come up with a coherent answer beyond coach speak. This was telling.
Yes, Bob Stoops has won a national championship, is 67-12 in his career, has appeared in three BCS title games overall and owns the University of Texas Longhorns. Yes, he runs a pretty good defense and owns his conference. But something's amiss. Those two bad BCS game appearances and a handful of other odd losses and close calls gives CFR the impression that Bob Stoops may not get it.
Instead, he's a fine defensive coach who has figured out the Big Twelve conference and when given a shot against a lesser opponent out of conference, will come through. Good stuff, but there's a ceiling to his performance, and we've witnessed it the last two seasons.
His apparent incoherence after last year's Orange Bowl loss is evidence to us that Bob Stoops is either unwilling or unequipped to confront the next level of opponent he will face from time to time.
On the other hand, given the above quote and others similar to that, it appears brother Mike Stoops may, in fact, "get it". He has a solid track record as a very good defensive coach, and has now been exposed to the styles of play of three conferences over three decades (80's, 90's, 2000's) of playing and coaching. He has a lot of experience and exposure to draw from, and he appears to be willing and cognizant to confront the challenge.
Last year Arizona finished 2-6 in the Pac-10, knocking off Washington and rival Arizona State, both late in the season. This is indicative to us of a first-year coach who inherited a mess and was able to coax two late-season wins in the most competitive top-to-bottom in America. Stoops could have performed far worse last year (think 0-8 conference mark, failure to distinguish 2004 team from 2003 Mackovic team), and the late wins give us a hint at an improving coach. It has long been Resource's opinion that good coaches and good teams tend to win their fair share of late season games, because good teams take a bit longer than most to get going early in the season in exchange for strong late finishes. That may have happened last year for Arizona and Mike Stoops.
Just so we're clear, this entry wasn't about praising the Pac-10, although its significance in this example is tangential and significant. Resource feels that given some of the evidence presented, Arizona coach Mike Stoops may be better equipped to be a better football coach than his brother.
Unfortunately, his head coaching career is nascent and we don't have a lot to draw from, while his brother's is universally considered a success. It's a tough case to make, but one that may be worth making. Arizona is not Oklahoma, and in starting his career there, Mike Stoops is going up against (arguably) a more competitive conference, with a school with far less tradition than Oklahoma, one of the all-time elite programs in college football history. Already he's handicapped in comparison to his brother. But maybe he will soon be hired at some other elite program, or maybe he resurrects Arizona the way former boss Bill Snyder did at Kansas State. Or maybe he uses Arizona as a springboard the way Urban Meyer parlayed a solid Utah performance into the Florida gig. If not, he's still at Arizona doing what he can to win ball games. We feel his open mind, one that has a good degree of accuracy and honesty in assessing his peers, can take him far. Perhaps farther than his brother, who appears stalled right where he is, incapable of recognizing the style of play differences that leave him no longer able to reach the game's greatest height.
Another way of saying all of the above, is that Mike Stoops has a bigger hill to climb than his brother, Bob. But given some evidence presented, and his approach to assessing the game, we believe he may in fact have a higher ceiling than his brother. His challenge lies in gathering the resources at his disposal (coaching background, recruiting assets at Arizona) to reach the national stage his brother has often played on and then prove to us that he is in fact superior to his brother if given the same high level games against superior foes.
We shall see.