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September 25, 2012
OU's season will define Jones' legacy
Where are all these playmakers on gamedays? Why is this offense struggling so mightily to get all these unbelievable playmakers making plays in an actual game?
Landry Jones was posed that very question as well.
"You do scratch your head. You wonder and you think," answered Jones. "It drives me nuts that we're kind of underachieving right now. I feel like especially for myself, I've definitely been underachieving this whole year."
Jones held what has to be considered his most honest, forthcoming and insightful press conference of his career Monday afternoon following the Sooners 24-19 loss to Kansas State.
It was a loss Jones put squarely on his shoulders, even after have a day to stew on things.
"I just feel like I'm kind of underachieving… definitely for this offense, I have to get a lot better," he said. "There's no doubt about that."
It's not that Jones isn't progressing as a fifth-year senior and fourth-year starter for the Sooners. An argument can be made Jones is actually regressing, particularly when you compare him to the quarterback who led the Sooners to big wins in Stillwater, a Big 12 Championship win over Nebraska and a Fiesta Bowl win over Connecticut in 2010.
The biggest difference between Jones then and now is his offensive coordaintor. Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell have served as Jones' co-coordinators since that Fiesta Bowl in 2010, following the departure of Kevin Wilson to Indiana.
So why has it all gone wrong for Jones since he seemed to be emerging as one of the nation's elite quarterbacks at the end of his sophomore season?
"It's the same offense, really. Just different personnel," said Jones of 2010 versus 2012. "It's different people playing but it's not a factor of, 'yeah I wish we could go back to 2010', or 'I wish we had the guys that we have now back in 2010'.
"They're two different years and they're two groups of different players that we had back then. We've got the guys that we've got now and I'm fully confident that those guys will pick it up."
But Jones understands the criticism is on him. For many, the key to OU turning around their fortunes offensively rests with Jones.
A fumble that resulted in a touchdown for Kansas State. A late interception deep in his own territory that led to another touchdown for the Wildcats. A huge difference from a veteran quarterback with a mountain of expectations on his shoulders heading into the season.
How does this team, and this offense, and this quarterback rebound?
"I know Landry is a bright guy that when he watches it will see that maybe he's trying to make a little too much out of something," said Stoops. "The opportunity to throw it away at times is a good play instead or trying to force it. He'll see that. Landry gets that.
"It's a process working with some of the new pieces, but he has to make better decisions in some areas."
It's a process which has Jones rethinking how he's approaching the game right now.
"Maybe I'm just trying to make a big play down the field and not just taking (the incompletion) and not being patient," Jones said. "It's just one of those deals of getting too greedy on what's actually out there."
With an off week, it's up to quarterback coach Heupel as well as co-offensive coordinator Norvell to find that balance for Jones.
Stoops said Monday his starting quarterback, and four-year starter, isn't in danger of being benched after the miscues against Kansas State.
Jones knows the whispers are out there. He heard the reports Kansas State players planned to flush him out of the pocket. He heard the scouting report that other teams believe he is mistake prone. He knows that reputation has some merit now.
"Unfortunately I proved them right so I'm just going to have to get back to work and get back to the basics and making plays when I have to," Jones said.
With all these potential playmakers that keep coming up, this offense has been derailed by the one player responsible for putting the ball in their hands. Now they'll be looking to their senior quarterback for answers to how they get it all back on track.
"I guess they're looking to me just to kind of see where we're going with this offense and find out what we're going to be," said Jones. "We've been in this position before and have come out with a whole lot of good seasons.
"That 2010 season was a really successful year for us and we had two losses on the record and 2008 we go to the national championship, we lost to Texas that year. So this isn't foreign territory for us. We've been in this situation before and we're going to bounce back and we're going to play some good football in the future."
Jones' role, and his legacy, will be judged by how good that football really is from here on out.