Oklahoma Sooners: Trent Dilfer

When quarterback Landry Jones was selected on the final day of the 2013 NFL draft, Trent Dilfer pulled no punches when it came to the Sooners' offense.

Among other things, the ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback called Oklahoma’s offense “a joke” and its receivers “brutal.”

[+] EnlargeLandry Jones
AP Photo/Alonzo AdamsFormer Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones put up huge numbers in the Sooners' offense.
In a phone interview with SoonerNation, Dilfer stood by his sharp comments.

“I was talking in the context of developing a quarterback to be ready to play at next level -- and it was very hard for me to stomach,” Dilfer said. “That’s the context. The context of quarterback development, the context of a draftable quarterback and an evaluation of him. You can’t evaluate a quarterback without an understanding of what he’s asked he to do, and how that’s going to allow him to flourish or somewhat stunt his development.

“As I studied Landry Jones’ 2012 film, it was constant frustration with him being asked to do something that’s not realistic. It wasn’t conducive to quarterback development.”

While Dilfer was focused on evaluating Jones, who was drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, he also pointed out Oklahoma’s offense wasn’t conducive to scoring against tougher defenses, either.

“They can do whatever they want to do. I have no right to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. Bob Stoops makes a lot of money, he’s won a lot of games. However they justify it being successful, go for it,” Dilfer said. “I stand by what I said. And if the answer is, ‘We don’t care, we’re trying to score points, and we think that’s the best way to do it,’ keep doing it. But in games against good defenses, that formula did not work.”

Dilfer has a point.

With Jones at the helm last season, Oklahoma ranked 15th nationally in points and 12th in yards on the way to a 10-win season. But the Sooners sputtered offensively when facing the better defenses on their schedule. Against Kansas State, Notre Dame, TCU and Texas A&M, Oklahoma averaged just 17 points -- three touchdowns less than its season average.

“That’s all that matters. All that matters is how you play against good teams,” Dilfer said. “The same thing showed up against the poorer defenses, but you get away with it against those defenses.

“If they think it’s the best way of playing, they get to choose that. I’m simply coming from a quarterback developmental context. People get so sensitive when their paradigm is challenged. What were they, 10-2? 10-3 with the bowl game? That’s a really good record. A lot of teams wished they had that record. And I understand that. My job is to thoroughly evaluate the quarterbacks at every level. And I know you can’t possibly do it if they’re not asking them to do to things that translate to the next level of where they’re trying to get to.”

While evaluating Jones, Dilfer said three things stood out that he believes stemmed Jones’ growth: the lack of tight ends in the Oklahoma offense, the use of the “Belldozer” package in the red zone, and the Sooners’ skill players, whom Dilfer termed “incredibly undisciplined.”

“From a talent standpoint, they’re talented kids,” Dilfer said of the Oklahoma receivers. “The word I would use is 'unorganized.' They lacked the crispness, the discipline, the precision it takes to trust where they’re going to be and when a quarterback can cut it loose.”

The Sooners did have two receivers taken in last week’s draft in Kenny Stills and Justin Brown, who combined for 155 receptions and more than 1,800 yards last season. Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders also had a big year statistically with 62 catches and 829 yards receiving.

Dilfer, however, said those numbers masked several flaws.

“Statistics, that’s what we reduce everything to; because they put a lot of yards up and are productive, that they’re good,” Dilfer countered. “I talked to a couple of NFL personnel guys that I really trust to see if I was missing something with (Oklahoma’s) receivers, and they said, 'No.' "

Jones was also hurt, Dilfer said, by not having a tight end to work with.

“When you don’t have the presence of an inline tight end, your quarterback is not being developed,” Dilfer said. “Thirty-five percent of how NFL football is played is tight end-centric. Whether it’s working the middle of field, whether it’s play-action. You’re just not learning a type of football from a quarterback’s perspective that’s transferrable to the NFL.”

Dilfer believes Jones didn’t properly develop his skills in the red zone, either, a critical part of NFL quarterbacking.

“That was the biggest thing that me drove nuts, taking him out inside the 20-yard line,” Dilfer said. “Landry does all the work to get you to the 20, then you take him out -- you never develop the red-zone passing game. I can’t tolerate that. When you do that in the red zone to a quarterback, there are so many other things that you are limiting because you’re not developing your quarterback in the red zone.”

“In the red zone, everyone knows (the Belldozer package) is coming. It works against the bad teams. Against the good teams, they load up and blow it up.

“All that lowers the quarterback development to the lowest denominator. It’s really a glorified version of 7-on-7.”

Ultimately, Dilfer said, that negatively impacted where Jones went in the draft.

“If Landry had played at USC he would have been a first-round pick,” Dilfer said. “I know Matt Barkley was a fourth-round pick, that’s not what I’m saying. You develop a quarterback in college by running multi-dimensions of offense. That’s what you have to do in the NFL. When you have a pure passer in Landry who can move around for a big man, is smart, is tough, you have to give him all the dimensions in which to operate. What he did at Oklahoma was operate in just a few dimensions to the point you couldn’t really evaluate or project what he’d be in the NFL. You didn’t get to see him do it. That really hurt his stock.

“What I saw with Landry is now an NFL coach is going to have to teach him stuff, develop stuff, that should have been developed his junior-senior years.”

OU officials declined to comment.

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