Oklahoma State has let go of Glenn Spencer as its defensive coordinator for 2018. This would have been Spencer’s sixth year at the helm, but now Mike Gundy is looking for his fifth defensive coordinator at OSU, following Vance Bedford, Tim Beckman, Bill Young and Spencer.
This wasn’t a shocking move, and the timing makes sense (more on that in a minute). I saw a lot of “you got the wrong coordinator” chatter on Twitter, which is hilarious considering Oklahoma State had a top-two offense last year and not even a top-50 defense. Spencer did lead what was probably the best defense in school history in 2013, but his other four defenses have fallen somewhere between above average and below average. Not exactly the championship zone.
It’s a good time for Gundy to shake things up, too. With Spencer Sanders presumably ushering in a new era in 2018, you might as well hit reset on a defensive philosophy as well. And it gives us another huge storyline to discuss for the rest of the offseason.
Here are five thoughts on Spencer’s firing in Stillwater.
1. Underrated … but not good enough
The bottom line here is that Oklahoma State’s defense was not good enough to contend for championships in either the Big 12 or nationally. I know points per drive is not the preeminent statistic when it comes to defensive success, but it is meaningful. OSU’s average ranking over the last four years nationally was No. 66. Not good, Bob!
OSU’s defenses have actually largely been statistically worse then most of Bill Young’s (and you guys wanted him tarred and feathered and dragged down Hall of Fame).
His defense hasn’t been inside the top three in the Big 12 in any of the last four years in terms of points per drive (although it has finished fourth in consecutive years). The conundrum for me is that I always thought Spencer was pretty severly underrated by most OSU fans who thought OSU had the worst defense in the Big 12 (not even close) but not good enough for the new OSU standard. That leads us to…
2. Gundy’s Bar
Can you imagine telling 1999 you that OSU just went 10-3 for three straight seasons and fired one of its coaches for that? (related: can you imagine telling 2013 you that Mike Yurcich outlasted Glenn Spencer in Stillwater?) The renewed standard in Stillwater is that Oklahoma State wins championships. That’s how it should be. That’s what you would expect from a head coach making $5 million a year. That’s what this firing signifies. Gundy values continuity on his coaching staff above almost all else. Apparently one of the “else” is marked improvement from being a top-four defense in the Big 12.
3. Timing is Nice
The timing might feel a little bit odd, but it makes sense. With the new early signing period in December and most of OSU’s 2018 class already in the fold ahead of National Signing Day on February 7, Gundy let go of Spencer right around the time of the AFCA Annual Convention in North Carolina (I believe Spencer actually made a last-minute trip out there).
If you’re going to be fired, this is the best time for it to happen. Other coaches are hobnobbing and you can take your TCU 2016 or Texas 2017 film and walk around with an iPad around your neck with it playing for the sake of promotion. All terminations suck, but it seems like Gundy did Spencer a solid by not waiting until after National Signing Day in February.
4. Philosophical Shift
I think Oklahoma State is going to step outside of Oklahoma State world for this next hiring. Three of Oklahoma State’s four defensive coordinators had either played or coached previously in Stillwater. I agree with Carson that OSU needs to make its Dana Holgorsen hire on the defensive side.
With a new era of football about to begin for Gundy and Co., why not bring in some hope and change with it on the defensive side? I don’t know that you’re ever going to realize the transformation of the program like you saw under Holgorsen, but it’s at least worth stepping way outside of OSU world to try and make it happen.
Spencer made $675,000 in 2017 and was the 47th-highest paid coordinator so you certainly have some money to play with. And if what Gundy said after Bedlam about being offered more resources from various boosters is true, then you might have a lot of money to play with.
5. A beloved man
*Steps outside of media bubble*
Glenn Spencer is the man.
I’m going to miss his warrior poems and him as an adult with grown children giving flying chest bumps to 300-pound athletes. He always gave a damn about his players, his coaches and everyone around him. He even cared about his relationships with people in the media. That’s not a foregone conclusion. Not all coaches are like that, but he was.
My favorite memory of him will probably always be when he stared Kyle Boone in the eyes last year at Karsten Creek (I started packing up my stuff thinking we were going to get kicked out) and he said, “You do a good job, man.” Terrifying.
I talked to one former player who said he was “more sad than anything” and that the football offices wouldn’t the same without him. I think that’s where most folks who celebrate or cover OSU are right now. Spencer seemed like a good dude whom his players loved and was awesome at times, but ultimately didn’t do a good enough job. Sometimes that’s OK. I think he’s going to be fine with that legacy.
Hopefully he lands at a place where he doesn’t have to scheme for Big 12 defenses anymore.
*Steps back inside media bubble*