Bradford NFL decision biggest at OU since Stoops and Switzer hires

Saturday, January 10th 2009, 9:52 pm
By: News 9

OU's then, fresh-on-the-job OU Athletics Director Joe Castiglione, made the call to give John Blake one year after his arrival to prove he could handle the job as head coach at Oklahoma and then to let him go.

The tougher job was to locate and then to trust his gut and put his fate and that of the storied but nadir-nearing Sooner program in the hands of a young Florida defensive coordinator by the name of Bob Stoops. Looks like an easy call now but it no way it was in late 1998.

Despite the Sooners losing a third straight national title game, the home run hire is clearly the most impactful since the post 1972 promotion of Barry Switzer in the modern era of OU football.

The Switzer move was almost a no-brainer. But the Stoops hire was an out-on-a-limb gut call by from the thorough, astute Castiglione.

Which brings us to the newest "most important" decision? And important it is.

One that will determine if OU is capable of making another run at titles in 2009 or if they could slip as low as an 8-4 season.

What will Sam Bradford decide? Stay at OU or leave for the NFL.

If he's like the Mel Kipers of the world say and anywhere from the number one overall selection to number five, his decision is a no-lose one for the reigning Heisman trophy winner.

But the more I'm hearing from multiple people close to the situation is that the draft experts may not have it right.

Insiders and multiple NFL people are saying that Bradford will not be selected until the middle of the first-not No. 1 to Detroit or anywhere in the top five, which is the slot Stoops is on record as saying his QB should head to NFL riches. A business decision, the no-nonsense coach espouses.

There's another major factor in Bradford's decision. What do the tried, true and crusty NFL veterans believe? How much input does Bradford and his mom and dad care to hear? How hard do they seek it? They have phone numbers of people that I know for a fact that are more than happy to give their opinions. People who've made the decision before. Completely unbiased opinions.

One guy with an impeccable track record has let it be known to those in charge of things in Norman and perhaps first-hand to Bradford that he should stay in school another year. That he is not physically ready for the collision course of Sunday football. That he needs to get thicker both above and below the waist.

I'm altering my previous thinking that Bradford would come out. I don't feel strong about it because I personally don't know how the Mel Kipers of the world could be so wrong. Could guys who predict these things for a living say a guy is anywhere from the first or second pick to the middle of the first round? My reasoning is based on the fact that the loss to Florida stung him deeply and that his competitive juices are telling him to do what Jason White was able to do: stay in school and get back to the big game for another shot.

If he stays you can look for others to stay as well. He has that big an influence.

Perhaps TE Jermaine Gresham a first-rounder. Gerald McCoy would be more inclined to return to the defensive lined spurging a first-round selection (he'd not filed NFL paperwork as of Friday night.) OL Trent Williams is important and a first day pick and RB DeMarco Murray would be drafted and is apparently basically so frustrated with another season-ending knee injury and saying ''if I'm going to be hurt I'm at least going to be paid to be hurt.'' going to be top five picks.

Bradford is the consummate teammate. Tough leader void of the "I'm better than you" side of most stars. He knows he is and he surely enjoys the respect he's earned and the camaraderie among his mates. It is rare for a sophomore to be in his position and he must know that he'd love to experience the college experience one more year before going to the money-driven dog-eat-dog world of the NFL.

Bradford is not like several former Sooners. I've learned the facts behind the decisions of the Malcolm Kelly's of the world. They've been influenced by their friends who are in the NFL to make the move.

A few unlikely former players feel so strongly about where they are now and the financial situations surrounding their decisions that they are more than happy to pass along those feelings. And that matters to many.

But that kind of stuff will have absolutely zero impact on Bradford, because he neither wants nor needs their input. What's right for one is not necessarily right for another. And speaking of an ego mindset, not many players earning huge bucks in the NFL would ever say they were wrong for leaving.

NFL guys tell me that "Mel Kiper says you are a top ten pick you leave..."set up your decision....look at Matt Leinart....look at guys who get hurt....the agents have long lists of players who got hurt or made the wrong decision to stay that ended up costing them huge money." But each to his own. Situations are different. A kid from a single family home where the momma holds two jobs to put food on the table is different from the middle-class background of Bradford. Many kids hate school and the decision to make big money and not have to get up and go to class is easy. Not a factor for a guy who has made one B in his college career. The other guys may have made one B. But the other grades Sam made are A's. The other fellas were more like C's and a few D's.

Then there's the pride factor of having the chance to go down as the greatest player in OU history. Something well within his reach if he returns.

How cool would that be to earn that exalted status at a program littered with mega-stars and alongside Notre Dame, Alabama and USC as the greatest programs in the history of college football? Very tempting.

And what about the BMOC position the guy is in. Everyone loves him in Norman. You don't hear students say bad things about Sam Bradford. Humble, respectful, actually shy.

His unsought popularity seems unanimous. Greek, non-Greek, the well-to-do and the average Joe all love the guy. Not easy. Would be hard to leave.

Being BMOC is a once-in-a-lifetime position. A position not many outside of grounded superstars like Peyton Manning have savored. The big man on campus would be an ego boost to anyone. Anyone that is, with the possible exception of Sam Bradford.

Another factor supporting my hunch is that Sam Bradford is smarter than smart. Kent and Martha Bradford trust their only child and are not ones to tell him what to do. Not the types to tell him he should move on in part because of it would benefit them financially. Unfortunately, that oftentimes happens. No chance here. If anything my guess if my former teammate would love to see his son nearby and trying to bring his alma mater another championship. But business is business. And unemotional decisions that are objectively intellectualized will win out with the Bradford's.

Slingin' Sammy is once again where we'd all like to be. A place that makes some envious. It's what all dream about: a win-win, can't-lose proposition.

What's my biggest reasoning that goes against the grain of popular opinion-and maybe against the grain of reason? Returning for another year of growing physically and as a player would be a wise thing to do. If he improved as much in the coming season as he did under his hero coach Josh Heupel as he did this past year he'd become a player ready to move on and star in the Sunday League. In that regard, it's the smart thing to do.

Smart guys with incredible ability tend to put themselves in those positions more than us pedestrian types. There are not many pragmatic, B-type academic and athletically superior Sam Bradford's. He deserves to be in this position.

While you and I ponder whether to walk the dog or stay inside today, the Bradford's have a little more to consider. Not only the biggest decision for Slingin' Sammy but one of the biggest that's been made within the OU program in many, many years.