COLUMN: Cotton Bowl is Jones' final game performance for NFL scouts
IRVING, Texas — Oklahoma football senior quarterback Landry Jones has been under a microscope since he was thrown into the fire in 2009 when then-starting quarterback Sam Bradford went down with a shoulder injury at Cowboys Stadium.
And when Jones takes the field at Cowboys Stadium on Friday — three-and-a-half years and 50 games later — he will end his career on the same turf it began.
This time, though, he has more on the line than stabilizing an offense that just lost its leader. At this year’s 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, Jones is playing for his future.
It’s no secret the Artesia, N.M., native will be taken in the upcoming NFL Draft. He’s been listed as one of the top quarterbacks since his junior season — and for good reason.
Jones — listed at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds — has prototypical NFL size, a strong arm and can make almost any throw on the field. He's also won big games — three bowl games, every OU-Texas game he’s started and two Big 12 titles (one shared) — and has carried an offense that was in catch-up mode in two key games — West Virginia and Oklahoma State — late this season.
But, he also has been a point of frustration ever since he was named the team’s official starter midway through the 2009 season.
He continues to make questionable decisions in key moments of key games — see his third-quarter interception that lead to the go-ahead touchdown against Kansas State — and still shows signs of happy feet within the pocket — something Texas A&M defensive players have noted and hope to cause by bringing pressure.
When Jones is on, he’s shown signs of greatness. But when he’s off, he makes people question if he’s OU’s best option.
Although this Cotton Bowl is about ending on a high note for Jones, he knows it has a lot of personal importance for his professional career.
“Hopefully it will raise (my draft stock),” Jones said. “If you get picked high, you get picked high, but if you don’t, it’s kind of one of those things you’re going to have to roll with. For me, it has been really competitive.
“For me in this kind of game, I’d like to raise my draft stock a little bit.”
Although this game will not define Jones’ legacy at OU — it’s a mixed one based on whom you talk to — it will act as a last chance for scouts to see Jones in legitimately competitive game action until the draft in April.
And Jones knows he better not waste this opportunity.
Jono Greco is a journalism graduate student. You can follow him on Twitter during the game at @jonogreco13.