COLUMN: Jones' bowl legacy defines his career
Defining a quarterback’s career through the legacy he leaves behind him is a practice nearly as old as the game itself.
Numbers can say only so much, and with an ever-evolving game, the effect a quarterback’s career has on those who follow him seems to be the best way to measure his impact.
For instance, Sammy Baugh proved the forward pass was a viable, sustainable part of an offense — revolutionizing the game in the process and paving the way for legendary Cleveland Browns quarterback Otto Graham, who was Baugh’s backup at TCU.
Tim Tebow won a pair of national championships at Florida, was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy and set the SEC record for most touchdowns in a season — leaving Gainesville as perhaps the greatest, if not the most polarizing, college football player ever.
Sam Bradford led a record-setting Sooner offense to a national championship game, claimed two Big 12 championships, won a Heisman Trophy and became the first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft — earning recognition from many as the best quarterback in OU history.
So when approaching a career as complex as that of senior quarterback Landry Jones' career, where does one start? His accomplishments or his missed opportunities?
Of the former, he’s the winningest and most productive quarterback in OU history, the Big 12’s all-time leader in career passing yards and a Sammy Baugh Award winner in 2010.
And of the latter, he had a zero-to-seven touchdown-to-interception ratio during the final three games of the 2011 regular season — losing two out of three — three home losses in the last two seasons — more than every other Stoops quarterback combined — and only one trip to a BCS bowl game in four seasons.
The merit of Jones’ career can be argued one way or the other, but in the interest of timeliness (and to avoid opening a can of worms), this column will focus on Jones’ performance in bowl games, which is a legacy all its own.
After the final gun sounds at the 77th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic, Jones will have completed his fourth consecutive bowl game, a feat no other OU quarterback has accomplished. He already is the first Sooner signal caller since J.C. Watts (1979-1981) to win three straight bowl games, but with a win against Texas A&M, he will become the only OU quarterback to go 4-0 as a starter in bowl games.
Jones also has averaged 336 yards passing and more than two touchdowns in each of his bowl appearances, a statistic skewed by his pedestrian 161-yard one-touchdown performance against Iowa in last season’s Insight Bowl — he threw for 429 yards and three touchdowns against Connecticut in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl and 418 yards and three touchdowns against Stanford in the 2010 Sun Bowl.
The happy feet, the poor pocket presence, the rash decision-making — all of those characteristics still exist in Jones’ play, and there’s plenty more fodder out there for his critics.
But as far as bowl games go, no other OU quarterback has been better. And with a win against the Aggies on Friday, Jones can leave a legacy of postseason perfection.