Friday, October 2, 2009

Leaving Sooner? Oklahoma Media Hints Bob Stoops Hurt Sam Bradford's NFL Chances

Sam Bradford is not starting against Miami. This we know.

It's a shame, sure. Here's a kid with all the potential in the world. He has won the Heisman. He led his team to the national championship game as a RS So, and then sprains his shoulder in the first half of the first game of what could be his final collegiate season. He's been on the bench since then.

So, what should we do? Should we lament the fact that he doesn't have a chance to win the Heisman Trophy two years in a row?

No, let's not do that. No need to cry over freshly spilt milk. Instead, let's cry over milk that was allegedly spilled a long, long time ago.

Sound like a bad idea? Then you can bet the media has it covered.

In a press conference held on Tuesday, head coach Bob Stoops was asked whether Bradford should have even come back to Oklahoma after all his success last season, insinuating that Stoops convinced the QB that returning to school was in his best interest.

It's likely, depending on the trajectory of Bradford's career from this point forward, that this question would have eventually come to pass. Were Bradford to return to play and have a terrible finish to the season and become an NFL bust, the second-guessing would be inevitable. Now, however, is not the time.

"Ridiculous," "insulting," and "foolish to say" were the three phrases Stoops used to describe the accusation against him.

"Everybody's entitled to their opinion, but for me to force a guy to go out and then what if it isn't the right decision? I don't need to tell you how things can always go in the draft," Stoops said, referring to the infamous uncertainty and guesswork involved in entering the draft.

"In the end, it's not my job to force a guy to come out. It's my job to educate my players on all the possibilities and then it's up to the individual and his family to make that decision."

Spoken like a true coach.

Just to give you some background, Bradford was finishing the spring of his third year when he decided to forgo the draft—he redshirted in 2006. He's a finance major, and an honor student at that. Last year he made the All-Big 12 Academic first team and ESPN the Magazine's Academic All-American second team. He's no dolt.

On the downside, returning to school would mean having to deal with professional autograph seekers pestering him constantly. He'd have to deal with all the hype of trying to match the success he had last year.

He'd also have to keep going to class, although that didn't seem particularly difficult. And in doing all this, he'd willingly take a pass on the seven-figure salary that was all but guaranteed should he have jumped to the NFL.

On the upside, he'd have a second shot at the BCS Championship.

Which would you pick?

In this age of take-the-money-and-run economics, a lot of players may have scrapped the schoolwork and taken the money while they still could. Bradford came back. He deliberately made a decision for which he knew he'd catch flak if he struggled.

Maybe he thought he wasn't ready. Maybe he wanted to spend the occasional spring weekend attempting to be lazy like the rest of us college kids. Maybe he wanted to get his degree. Whatever his reasoning, he's still in Norman, and that's admirable.

Which begs the question: Why the criticism?

Every year, more and more kids leave college early to play professional sports; American or foreign. Some don't even go to college before they try to get paid.

Then, when one of the superstars finally decides to stay, he gets criticized.

And it's such a mystery why we don't listen to our parents...

I'm getting off track. This whole incident is very wrong on at least two levels:

Firstly, why blame Stoops? Sure, he's a big influence on Bradford, but Sam's an adult, and he's making the decision.

Secondly, it's too soon! Who's to say he doesn't come back in the second half of the season and resurrect OU's bid for a BCS bowl with a bum shoulder? Another Oklahoma QB and Heisman winner, Jason White, made his reputation playing well on two bad knees.

For goodness sake, OU hasn't even started conference play! They can still run the table in the Big 12 and end up playing in January. This makes no mention of Bradford's NFL prospects were he to come back with a strong showing after his injury.

I'm a long way from being an Oklahoma fan, but my respect for Stoops just doubled. You can do what you like, but I'll be pulling for Bradford for as long as he's wearing crimson and cream. When many leave, he stayed, and he shouldn't be criticized for that. Especially not right now.


*Credit to and the Associated Press for quotations.