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GUNDY'S GREATNESS: Ability, Accident, or Both?

As the Cowboys struggle through the end of what will likely be only the 2nd losing season in Gundy's tenure, I ponder just exactly what we should expect from a program lead by the former OSU QB.

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

No OSU coach has gone this long without a losing season.

No OSU coach has had this many consecutive winning seasons, nor gone to this many consecutive bowl games.

And in this modern era of TV and social media, it's a virtual certainty that no OSU coach has generated so much drama and debate.

Oklahoma State right now is enjoying a period of unprecedented success for the football program. Prior to Les Miles taking over in 2001, in 100 seasons of football, the Cowboys had registered only 41 winning seasons (54 losing records and 5 at .500). That's easy math...OSU had a "season" winning percentage of 41%. That's 4 winning records every 10 years...8 every 20. The longest winning streak the Cowboys had previously enjoyed was 6 consecutive seasons during the heydays of the 1980's. The most consistent success, decade to decade, came prior to 1960, but the best 20 year span of football came from 1969-88, when OSU would register 14 winning seasons. However, after 1960, the Cowboys were feast or famine. While enjoying the best 20 year period in the history of the program, they also endured the two longest losing streaks...9 consecutive losing seasons from 1960-68, and 8 consecutive from 1989-96.

Then came Les Miles in 2001, and he immediately produced back-to-back wins over the Sooners and three consecutive winning seasons. Along with Miles came Mike Gundy as the offensive coordinator, then Les made a rather unceremonious departure for LSU after the 2004 season, and Gundy was promoted to Head Coach in January of 2005. In September of 2005 Mike Holder would assume the role of Athletic Director, and later that year T. Boone Pickens would give a donation of $165 million (this followed $70 million in 2003).

Gundy famously booted a bunch of players left over from Miles' program, then struggled through his ONLY losing season as a head coach. Since then, OSU has enjoyed 8 consecutive winning seasons, won a Big 12 championship, and came within a game of playing for a national championship in 2011. Fans were enjoying "winning" football, but after 2011 the expectations went through the roof. Now we expected to compete for conference championships every season, and occasionally a national title.

While 2012 was a step back, it still produced a winning record.  in 2013, the Cowboys came within an agonizing final regular season Bedlam loss of winning another Big 12 title.

Then came 2014. While the season is far from over, the preseason expectations of anywhere from 9-3 to 7-5 are suddenly in the dumpster.

So how much of this is on Gundy's plate?

The Cowboys entered the season as one of the youngest in the country. Joe Wickline famously departed for Texas, and two senior offensive linemen decided to forego remaining eligibility after graduating. A season opener against defending national champs Florida State, along with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at QB, awaited the Cowboys with so many questions.

Then OSU came out and almost beat the Seminoles, and we all said "Wait a minute, are the Cowboys past rebuilding?"

That would be a resounding "NO."

Little did we know that TCU and West Virginia would be better. Kansas State was again solid under Snyder.

Many will point to injuries, primarily Walsh, as having a hand in derailing the season. I'm sure JW Patton's mishap had a significant impact, but it couldn't have happened at a better time, with two consecutive wins on the schedule, and a weak start to the Big 12.

But all you have to do is look at the difference between Texas and OSU this past weekend to determine that Walsh's broken foot had nothing to do with the product we are seeing on the field.

I'll give Gundy props. Through 2009, he definitely turned the program around, although some of that began with Miles. Boone's money and the upgrade in facilities also helped, but you still have to recruit, hire, and scheme, and up to that point the Cowboys were continuously improving.

But here's where I jump off the wagon, because 2010-11 were major accidents, and you don't have to look any farther than Brandon Weeden.

Without Weeden, who's the QB? Remember, the greatest QB in school history was a former professional baseball player walk-on that Gundy and crew admittedly tried to run off (heard that before?), and was sitting behind the infamous Alex Cate...

-Clint Chelf, FR
-Jase Chilcoat, FR
-Johnny Deaton, FR
-Nathan Sorenson, FR
-Brayden Stringer, SO

Face it, Weeden bailed Gundy's ass out BIG TIME, or 2010 would never have been what we saw, and you might not have seen Dana Holgosen at OC. Oklahoma State most definitely would not have experienced 2011, and Justin Blackmon would never have won back to back Biletnikoff awards.

So just think about what happens to this program if the complete accident that was Weeden never happened.

Don't get me wrong...I'm not saying OSU wouldn't necessarily be an overall winning program under Gundy, but OSU would NEVER have experienced 2010-11 without Weeden. Yes, Blackmon had a big hand in that success, but he doesn't have as much impact (much like Dez didn't) without a QB who could consistently deliver the ball exactly where he needed it to be.

Many of  you will point to 2013 as a prime example that I'm wrong, as the Cowboys came within a game of winning the Big 12. I'll come back with....they didn't, did they? The Big 12 was down overall, and Gundy's squad still spit the bit when they actually had the better team in Bedlam, a game that has been Gundy's Achilles Heal.

All you have to do is compare this team to the post Colorado team of 2009. Knowing there would be limitations based on injuries and personnel, and still a ton on the line, NO CHANGES WERE MADE TO THE OFFENSIVE SCHEME.

The Cowboys continued to roll out the same weak product, and much like the end of 2009, are getting crushed. We are watching first hand a team of talented athletes get worse. Yes, the offensive line is young, but they're getting worse. Daxx was inexperienced, but he's getting worse. The play calling looks EXACTLY the same as it did two months ago. The young defense is out of gas because there is nothing to play for given that the offense can't stay on the field, and is apparently content to ride it out for next season. Ask around, and most fans are pretty confident we couldn't beat Tech or Kansas if we had to play them again.

Boone, I hate to tell you, but you've also been fooled by the accident of Weeden.

Gundy is a 9-3 / 10-2 regular season coach AT BEST, but will probably give you more 8-4 or 7-5 seasons than anything else, especially if UT returns to prominence and TCU and Baylor continue to build. You'll get the odd 5-7 or 6-6 season, much like we'll see this year.

I mean, Texas improved as the season has progressed. That's coaching.

So prepare yourselves folks. Next season is the same old season that a slightly improved program can expect. If things fall the right way, 10 wins might be a possibility, but we'll be grateful for a winning campaign and a bowl, or just a win in Bedlam.

I'm not out on the team. I've always been into it, and will still live and die with every win or loss. But my expectations have been brought back to reality.

Travis Ford, here's you chance. Don't look the gift horse in the mouth.