Lincoln Riley should continue to command the OU offense

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 15: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

New head coach Lincoln Riley has a much fuller plate heading into preseason training camp for the 2017 season than he has had in his two previous years at Oklahoma.

He now has responsibility for the entire OU football program and not just the offensive game planning and making sure the productivity and execution on that side of the line of scrimmage is the best it can be.

Despite the wider scope of responsibility — and, in some ways, because of it — Riley has said he will continue to call the offensive plays, for the time being, at least.

The newly minted Sooner head coach is going against recent history to some extent in his decision to pull double duty when it comes to the OU offense. There are numerous examples in the college game of head coaches who have elected to retain their coordinator responsibilities when they took over the head coaching reins, and in most of the cases, the outcome has not delivered the expected overall result.

Two coaching examples that should be very near and dear to Riley because he once worked with  both of them, are Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen. Leach, who was the offensive coordinator in Bob Stoops’ first season at Oklahoma (in 1999) called the offensive plays in Texas Tech’s  Air Raid attack in the opening decade of the 2000s.  Holgorsen has called the plays at West Virginia for six seasons, but that is expected to change this season.

NORMAN, OK – DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield
NORMAN, OK – DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

Neither Leach nor Holgorsen have won a conference championship as a head coach. And their are other examples just like that.

With the addition of Ruffin McNeill, another Texas Tech coaching alum, who will serve as assistant head coach under Riley and coach the defensive tackles, there are no other changes on the coaching staff at Oklahoma. This coaching staff continuity would seem like more reason for Riley to feel comfortable giving up the play-calling duties.

Having raised the antagonistic view of this argument, though, let me switch gears and tell you why it would be a good thing for Riley to call the offensive plays, at least for one more season.

Riley is the architect of the Air Raid offense that the Sooners have been running for the past two seasons, and Baker Mayfield, who has a strong relationship with the new Sooner head coach, has been the OU starting quarterback since Riley became offensive coordinator.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

No one knows this offense as well as Riley does, and with one of the country’s best quarterback’s in Mayfield serving as field general and operating behind one of the best offensive lines in college football entering the 2017 season, the Sooners are in the best position with Riley continuing to call the plays this fall.

The offensive continuity is very strong with the key people still in place. Next season is a different story, though, with a new quarterback taking over and Riley having a full season as head coach under his belt to assess the good and bad of holding on to the play-calling duties and the need to delegate additional roles and responsibilities.

“There are definitely some things that I can pass along to those guys (the other OU offensive coaches),” Riley told James Hale, an OU Insider for 247Sports. “I feel like game day will be the easiest part of it.

“I feel like if your preparation is right, then realistically what are you adding on game day? You are not adding anything offensively as far as the game plan, and what on game day you have a couple of decisions on fourth down and a couple of whether you are punting or kicking a field goal. Other than that, go play ball.”

Riley has taken the step to promote assistant coaches Cale Gundy and Bill Bedenbaugh to the role of co-offensive coordinators to help relieve some of the offensive burden, but the play calling will remain with the Sooner head coach.

There is another relevant reason why Riley wants to keep calling the offensive plays for the Sooners: He enjoys doing it and — oh, by the way — he happens to be pretty darn good doing it.