A couple of Great Reader Questions on Mike Gundy

Written by Kyle Porter

I don’t get a ton of emails about Oklahoma State things, but the ones I get are usually pretty good. Over the past two weeks, I’ve gotten two exceptional ones. So instead of responding to these folks via email where none of you can see it, I thought it would be fun to do so publicly.

Question No. 1

I was reading everyone’s final takeaways on the year and had this thought. I think Mike Gundy is not who he wants us to believe he is. You’ve alluded to the comp between him and Rickie Fowler. You would know better than anyone else. Both pretty conservative guys who want to be perceived like wild men. It’s just not who they are. I think these two quotes are telling, one of them is what Gundy wants you to believe he is and the other is who he really is:

“There’s nobody in this stadium that’s more competitive than me. You want to go outside and wrestle. You want to play jacks. You want to shoot hoops. You want to play ping pong. I’m going to play until it’s over and somebody pulls me out of there.” That was after Bedlam this year

“What if they said you could tee off from the ladies tees, but score the same? Come on now… They put us on the (back tee boxes), just so you know.” Before the Florida State game in 2014.

Of course Gundy is driven and competitive, you don’t get to where he got without discipline, talent and a competitive drive. I bet the most competitive guy in Boone Pickens Stadium wants to measure himself against the best. I can imagine Saban, Dabo or Urban making that statement. But I’m not sure those two statements can coexist and be intellectually honest.

I think Gundy is Rickie, both talented guys who love their job but have lots of interest outside of their careers. I would like to see Gundy be less Rickie and more Patrick Reed.

Do you have any thoughts?

-Ryan F.

I think it’s difficult when you have a contract in place that will eventually have paid you close to $60 million (at least) to stay as motivated as you were when you were a graduate assistant. That’s just human nature.

But it also begs the question of how you define competitive nature. I think the important word Ryan hit on is “interest.” My go-to for these is always Tiger Woods. Tiger’s entire life was built around being as good as he could possibly be at golf. His entire life. Rickie Fowler’s is not. Rory McIlroy’s is not. That doesn’t mean those guys aren’t competitive. It just means they aren’t obsessed.

One of the primary synonyms for “competitive” is “ruthless.” Mike Gundy is not ruthless. He’s just not. I’m not offended by that. And this sort of gets at a type of fandom I’m uncomfortable with. When you demand for the coaches at your school to build their entire lives around recruiting or scheming or whatever, you fail to see them as human beings. It becomes a little bit insane. I can’t help that other school’s coaches are OK living that way, but I would prefer the people I interact with or root for to not be.

So yeah, I don’t think Gundy is wired like Tiger or Nick Saban, and that’s OK. But the Patrick Reed note is intriguing. Reed has a sense of big moments, even though he’s not really an elite golfer. This is something it feels like Gundy has lacked over the course of his career. Maybe it’s preternatural, and he just doesn’t have it. I don’t know. But when’s the last time Gundy made a chess move in a Big Daddy™ game that made you howl with delight? That’s the part I think he can control and be better at without changing the course of his entire life.

Question No. 2

Hope all is well. I know you and Carson discussed this on yesterday’s podcast but I have a follow-up question about Gundy in the coaches room for the National Title Game that maybe you and Carson could discuss if you do a mailbag later this week.

I watched the broadcast not the coaches room, but you mentioned that Gundy was saying at times that Alabama should run it to the middle of the field on 3rd down to setup the kicker when in reality Bama was getting 1st downs. You mentioned yesterday you thought those comments were pretty funny, but on the other hand, does this not kind of prove the point that Gundy is conservative and is it not somewhat concerning thinking that’s most likely what his philosophy would be in a situation like that?

Obviously you have to take most of his commentary with a grain of salt, but when I read that it made me wonder if that’s how he should be thinking or not. Maybe the best thing to do is setup the kicker on 3rd and longs but also it feels like he’s letting the other team’s defense win in that situation.


This is absolutely how Gundy thinks. It was almost comical that Gundy, with the chips down, was trying to be more conservative than maybe the most conservative program in the country. And this has been one of my biggest criticisms of him. To beat more talented players and teams, you have to have a bigger risk profile (shout out Daryl Morey) than they do. This is a fundamental tenant of business.

OSU is 3-8 against top 10 teams since it won its last Big 12 title in 2011. Some of these games it was favored. Many it was not. But what this record tells me is that A. It’s really hard to beat top 10 teams and B. If you’re a lesser-talented team like OSU (just look at the crootin rankings), then you must take risks to put up wins. For all the praise I’ve given Gundy over his ability to morph and become what he has needed to become, he seems unwilling to change in this area. And I think it’s cost OSU some wins over the years.

In a lot of ways, these two questions and answers go together. I like Gundy and think he’s a really good program-builder. But he’s left a lot on the table when it comes to pressing buttons with bullets flying late in the conference season. I think (hope?) that’s correctable, but the older and more obstinate he gets, the less convinced I am that it will ever change.

  • AC

    I won’t lie. While everyone else was happy watching the mullet on TV, what he said worried the heck out of me. His conservative nature has, without argument, lost us multiple games over the last few years. By coaching scared or, in Boynton’s words, gutless, we have gone down to teams that we should not lose to. That he would be that conservative in a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP means that he fundamentally does not understand how to beat elite teams. Maybe it’s doom and gloom, but after seeing that, can you REALLY be sure he has what it takes to get OSU another Big 12 title, much less a national one?

    • swaggypaw

      ….clapping from the 13th hole……

    • Chris Baker

      Conservative meaning offensive play calling? Our offense cost us nothing this year.

      • Guest

        Chris you are completely missing the point. How sure are you that any of the unwarranted conservatism you saw from the offense out there this season didn’t at least in some part come from Gundy? How about in the last 5 years? I know Bedlam last year sure sticks out to me. The deep ball was working to 100% success but we only try it 3 times? Look I’m not saying the defense was bad but you can’t say the offense cost us nothing. They went NINE drives without any points against K-State. NINE. And they only put up 13 points on Texas. AND WE STILL WON. Lol. Sure we may have made a ton of mistakes on defense this year but I stand with AC on this one and do not agree with you.

      • Chris Stover


      • Doc Holliday

        Uhhhhh they had the ball to beat OU and K State

        • John Bax

          Doc is right. We had the ball, we score we win both games. Period.

          • OKsailor

            You forget OU scored after we turned it over on downs. No reason to assume that if we had scored instead of turning it over that they wouldn’t still have scored also, winning the game. Now if we had scored and the defense gets a stop…but that’s kind of what we are here talking about isn’t it?

          • John Bax

            Uhh yea… so you recognize how bad your D is, you manage the game clock, run the ball since they haven’t stopped us all day…and score with Not enough time for your D to blow it.

          • OKsailor

            And then if you do that and it doesn’t work, you get criticized for conservative play calling.

  • And this is why he needs to stay out of the ears of the coordinators and veto whatever they plan on calling. His job as head coach should be to motivate the players, be in the ears of the refs, and manage the clock/timeouts. He should not be calling or suggesting plays except in the rarest of circumstances.

    • Forever 14

      Yes. Hire the right risk-takers, like Monken and Holgorsen, and then let them do their thing. Since MY, you can tell Gundy just doesn’t have the same trust/respect for MY as he had for Dana and Todd, probably for good reason, but it does give us the results we’ve been seeing.

      • Chris Baker

        What’s Holgi’s record at WVU v. Gundy’s at OSU? Our problem has not been on the offensive side of the ball. Sure we can look to specific play calls that were awful, but the offense as a whole, is so far beyond the defense, it’s laughable to point a finger at what the offense isn’t doing without railing on what the defense has never done.

        • Guest

          Chris your point is off base once again. Holgy was an awesome offensive coordinator when he only had one job to worry about. It’s a different story all together when you become the head coach and have hundreds of things to worry about and coordinators working under you who may have their own approach to the game and philosophy for how they are going to run the offense. The best way to make your point would be to compare what Holgy did as offensive coordinator for us against what he did as offensive coordinator for another Big 12 school. But since that didn’t end up being the case then you can’t make the point you did. You’re also wrong about the defense never doing anything. Plenty of times this season they stepped up when the offense looked lost. And in seasons past they were one of the best units nationally. Forever 14 is right on the money with his take. Except I don’t think it’s because Gundy trusted Monken and Holgy and doesn’t trust Yurcich. Rather I think Monken and Holgy just didn’t care about Gundy’s input.

          • Andrew

            Defense wins championships… 2nd best offense in the country gets you a 10-3 season.

          • Usetobe Cowboyfan

            Question, defense ” one of the best units nationally”? When?

        • Chris Stover

          Fair but also you have to be a realist. If you know your defense is average best you have to go for it more on offense to beat Top 10 teams. You have to be aggressive in play calling. Gundy coaches at times like he has a Top 15 defense and he does not. That is the point. Of course we all recognize we need to improve some on D.

          • Pistol Pete

            Not trying to start anything but can you explain this to me…’Gundy coaches at times like he has a Top 15 defense and he does not.’

        • John Bax

          I don’t think Holgi has T Boones money and facilities. And a natural recruiting base on the other side of the river. 95% of the pedestrian coaches out there would have out performed Gundy the last 10 years

    • Andrew

      If your head coach isn’t calling plays on either side of the ball, what is the point? Shouldn’t you have a coach who has his job based on football expertise and calling plays? Love Gundy but we’ve got to be one of the few programs in the country running this kind of mess

  • swaggypaw

    He won’t get it there. I’m sorry, I know everyone will jump on this, but he’s gotten it as far as he can. He’s a great coach, can’t be fired, but….this is it. To go higher will require a change that no one can credibly make. Idk what to tell you…but it’s not happening. Sometimes….you have to set aside the good for a chance at the great…

    • Dogbert

      Because all any program needs to win a national championship is the right head coach…..nope, I’m not buying that. What you see at the “elite” programs is a long history of winning, which feeds better players into the system.

      • swaggypaw

        well…Georgia seems to think otherwise…but we’ll see.

  • Pistol Pete

    Ill make it quick. As much as I liked Monken and Holgerson and what they did for our university and the football program, they are gone. Holding a séance, conjuring up their spirits on a ouija board or saying their names three times into a mirror are not going to bring them back. I trust that Coach Gundy is going to do what is best for this university and this football program and I, for one, am not going to question his football knowledge as a player or a coach over anyone else who has an opinion on this board. Let Monken and Holgerson go already. Yurcich has done as good of a job as either one of them considering that he has had success without a very stellar offensive line during his tenure.

  • Rocky Dean

    I iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii….another fantasy professional…Madden gm…smh

  • Nicholas D.

    Kyle, the second paragraph of your response to the first question really resonates; you nailed it.

  • looking up

    It takes “swagger” to win National Championships. I’ll stick to my previous comment…”Swagger starts with the coaching staff. If you wear a mullet but coach like a comb-over there will be no swagger.” A change of DC is a step in the right direction if Gundy gets someone with swagger and doesn’t put them under his thumb. But we will need some swagger on offense too!

    • T-Bone

      “If you wear a mullet but coach like a comb-over there will be no swagger.”


  • Chris Stover

    Yes! I said the same thing when I watched it. Gundy has done a good job but it proves what i’ve said for a while. He has become too conservative. Let the OC do his job and get more Monkenlike and Holgy. If he wants to beat OU- he has come out guns a blazing. Say what you want, in 2017 Bedlam first two drives he wasn’t conservative. To be fair the Hill run scored a TD but after the holding call it was still running. Dumb. Settled for field goal. Gundy centering the ball comment. I hated it. INdicative of why we don’t win many bigtime games. After Monken left they have been few and far between. I think it’s like Gundy the problem not Yurcich. Time to change Gundy. HE’s done a good job but if he wants to take the next step. Take some chances at times.

    • Dogbert

      Time to change Gundy? Are you smoking crack?

      • Usetobe Cowboyfan

        2-11 How long do you want to give him to become competitive for the conference title? This program is about to start losing to Texas, TCU and Iowa State consistently if there is not some major changes. Just changing the DC is not enough. You’ve got to take chances. If the other team has more talent, it’s your only chance. That goes for both sides of the ball.

  • Chris Stover

    One word! Swagger!! We need it.

  • Bbjd

    I think Gundy believes he lost bedlam this year at the end by getting out of his box and I think his commentary on that game shows it.

    Playing for the touchdown instead of trying to get to field goal range against OU turned out to be a mistake. Don’t get me wrong I applauded it like everyone else did but they needed 40 yards for the touchdown and only 8 or 9 for a shot at a field goal. I think it has kinda been overlooked since we are a fan base that has been dying for aggressiveness but 3rd and 8 they threw a 15/20 yard pass to Stoner. If they run and pick up 4 or 5 so many more options would’ve been available on 4th down including a field goal.

    That play is going to haunt Gundy also he was right about Alabama the problem they had was they lost focus and their last 10 seconds became chaos.

  • stepdaddy

    “This is absolutely how Gundy thinks. It was almost comical that Gundy, with the chips down, was trying to be more conservative than maybe the most conservative program in the country.”
    When you make completely moronic comments like the quote above it makes it really difficult to take you seriously. You think Saban is conservative because you don’t understand football. Is it conservative to change to a true freshman QB in the 2nd half the national championship game? Saban like any good football coach knows that championships are won in the trenches. If can control the line of scrimmage then you can control the clock and you can control the game. Because Saban recruits the best he control the line of scrimmage against most teams. GA was the exception. They needed to deep threat option so the brought in a true freshman in second half! This type of balls out coaching is why Saban has 6 titles and Gundy will never have one! Did you happen to notice that Saban was up the [email protected] of his players all game long? What do we get from Gundy…. a deer in the headlights look!

    “And this has been one of my biggest criticisms of him. To beat more talented players and teams, you have to have a bigger risk profile (shout out Daryl Morey) than they do. This is a fundamental tenant of business.” The first part of what you said is correct, but When have you ever criticized Gundy? You generally shout from roof tops “he is best OSU will ever get, so be satisfied and don’t expect more.” “See Texas” you say.

  • Spencer Thomas McIntosh

    Did anyone watch the Coach’s Film Room? The last 35 sec of the 1st half was quite telling I thought.
    1. Pat asked him when he stopped calling plays…blah,blah then referring to OCMY he said “ I bet hewouldn’t say that”, meaning he is likely in his ear quite a bit directing whether we run, pass, draw, etc…
    2. Gundy was saying with 28 sec or so that he would set up for the field goal as they had a good kicker, yet GA goes down and gets a TOUCH
    3. After the touch, they’re discussing 2 pt conversion and Gundy remarks “and as a head coach you don’t have to answer questions about that decision” telling me that must be in the back of his head, and he is more apt to make a conservative call to prevent criticism for taking a risk.

    I like how much social media and, subsequently, the media started pressuring Gundy about playing conservative in Bedlam. I thought he let them play that night, and it was quite refreshing to see.