Heavy criticism of Landry Jones is undeserved, OU teammates and coach say
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 3:43 AM
NORMAN - Someone was yapping about Landry Jones again. Only this time, one of Jones' fellow Oklahoma football captains was listening.
This time, Tress Way was fed up enough to yap back.
"I was in the gym back home in Tulsa over last winter break," said Way, the Sooners' senior punter. "Landry hadn't decided if he was coming back, and I heard a guy speaking about him in a pretty bad way. He started talking about his character in and out of the locker room, and how players don't like him.
"I said, 'Man, you need to keep your mouth shut. That's not true. We all love him. We'd play for him any day.'
"That stuff bothers me. I understand people are going to criticize. That comes with playing at Oklahoma. But with Landry, it's so over the top. It always has been."
Here is a quarterback about to play his final home game before what should be an adoring public. Jones enters Bedlam on Saturday having won more than any OU quarterback ever did. He has beaten Texas three times and Oklahoma State twice. He has won all three of his bowl games and removed a BCS monkey from his head coach's back. He owns nearly every one of his school's passing records.
No doubt Jones will be cheered when he is introduced to 85,000 fans before Saturday's 2:30 p.m. kickoff. He is certainly no villain.
It's just that he is also no hero, or at least not the hero Sam Bradford was. Or Jason White was. Or Josh Heupel. Jones has their old records, but not their old respect.
He claims it's no big deal.
"People are going to say what they say, and people are going to like different quarterbacks for different things," Jones said this week. "For me, it's more how can Landry Jones be the best person and player he can? ...
"There were some high expectations of me here. But at the end of the day, I wanted to be who I was. I didn't want to be Sam. I didn't want to be Jason. If you try to do those things, you aren't going to live up to the capabilities of who you are as a player and as an individual ...
"At the end of the day, you have to be who you are."
Who he is and who he has been is pretty obvious to Jones' teammates, and particularly to his classmates of the past 4 1/2 years.
"From our redshirt freshman year when Sam went down, Landry has basically carried the team," defensive tackle Casey Walker said. "He won us a bowl game for the first time in a while, then we won the Fiesta Bowl. You've gotta give him some props."
"He's the winningest quarterback ever at OU," defensive end R.J. Washington said. "You can love him or hate him. As long as we're winning I don't care. He's my quarterback. I love him regardless."
"The craziest thing about Landry is that dude works really hard no matter what," Way said. "He's always the first one in to our Monday morning workouts doing foot ladders, stuff to get his footwork better. He's always staying after and throwing extra routes. That guy is just so consistent in the locker room, outside of football. He's the most consistent guy I've ever met in my life, especially with his work ethic.
"It doesn't matter if he's come off a game with five touchdowns or five interceptions."
There's the rub, the source of a lot of the mixed feelings surrounding Jones. The same quarterback who saved Bedlam two years ago with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown bombs threw three first-half interceptions, one a pick-6 that let OSU get back in the game.
The same quarterback who threw for a record 554 yards and six touchdowns last week at West Virginia, and gutted out a game-winning scoring drive in the final two minutes, threw an up-for-grabs interception with OU protecting a 38-30 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Jones has won 37 games, and he has lost 10. He has beaten Texas three times but lost to Texas Tech twice. He has beaten OSU but lost to Nebraska. He has won at Florida State but lost at home to Notre Dame.
"I feel like that's where people kind of begin to doubt him, some of the games we've lost, the big ones, they've put on his shoulders," wide receiver Kenny Stills said. "But they haven't all necessarily been his fault.
"I feel like to the outside world it's easy to say, 'Well, it's the quarterback's fault.' Just like with the Cowboys and Tony Romo. You get the guys that really break it down, it's the protection that's messing up, or the receivers that are dropping balls.
"I feel like his legacy deserves a lot more than he's getting, and will get. But that's just how it goes."
Maybe if Jones had spent the past four years grabbing face masks and butting heads ...
"He's not really emotional, a Tim Tebow, a screamer or a yeller," left tackle Lane Johnson said. "But he is a leader. He leads more by example. Some people might not be turned on by that, but it's just his personality."
Maybe if Jones showed more daring with the ball in his hands and a linebacker in pursuit...
"Maybe you've got to be more like Matt Barkley at USC, or Robert Griffin," Walker said. "Landry don't run. Give him a good pocket, he can throw it all day, though."
Maybe if Jones hadn't followed the most popular Sooner of the Stoops era ...
"I think it's because he came after Sam," Washington said. "Even though he's got more wins, more this, more that, it's like the fans just ... they love Sam."
"I think it might be the way he started his career," fullback Trey Millard said of Jones' replacing the injured Bradford just as the '09 season had begun. "It was supposed to be Sam's year to shine, and Sam gets hurt. And Landry was the new guy who took his spot when everybody wanted Sam there."
It didn't help that the Sooners finished 8-5 in '09, never mind their collapsing offense around Jones. Or that they wound up in the Sun Bowl, never mind that Jones threw for an OU bowl-record 418 yards to help win it.
He has fashioned 37 wins out of what might be considered a no-win situation.
"I think so," Millard said. "He's a teammate and a close friend. He's won a lot of games here and still doesn't get the positive credit that he deserves."
It drives his head coach mad.
Informed that Jones faced some criticism coming out of West Virginia, Stoops said: "You've gotta be kidding me. There's a lot of ignorant people. People don't know. People are pretty foolish in what their opinions are, and/or how they understand football ...
"They may be right in whatever they do, but they're not very bright in football."
Maybe Jones gets his due down the road. Maybe as soon as next year, when he's making money playing ball and it's someone else's turn to try to please the OU crowd.
At any rate, he takes one last shot in front of them Saturday afternoon.
Asked how he prefers to be remembered in saying goodbye, Jones said: "As a guy who came here and wanted to play for God and wanted to affect his teammates to live for His glory here. That's kind of how I want to be remembered, someone like that. Hopefully they'll remember me well."
Teammates, more familiar than fans with Jones' rough road and his overdue credit, are pretty certain.
"Some people aren't appreciated in their own time," Washington said. "When Landry leaves, they'll appreciate him more."
BEDLAM FOOTBALL: OSU (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) AT OU (8-2, 6-1 Big 12)
2:30 p.m. Saturday
Owen Field, Norman
Radio: KMOD fm97.5, KTBZ am1430, KFAQ am1170
Original Print Headline: Enduring the Heat
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Oklahoma's Landry Jones throws a pass against West Virginia on Saturday night in Morgantown, W.Va. Jones will play his last home game Saturday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Oklahoma's Landry Jones throws the ball under pressure from Terrance Lloyd of Baylor earlier this month. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World