Arena football. Madden on Rookie difficulty. Saturday in the Big 12. The modern NFL.
What does this unlikely quartet have in common? They're all in the brotherhood of 40 points be rendered meaningless thanks in an influx of offensive heroics.
Defensive struggles still have a place in the NFL (just look at Super Bowl LIII). But, perhaps guided by a deity known as "fantasy football" offense is king. A quarterback reaching 300 yards in a game is almost commonplace, as is a running back reaching 1,000 yards in a season. Games like last season's Monday night thriller between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs (a 54-51 win by the former) are almost the new normal. A scoreless first quarter drives fans to social media to demand the offensive coordinator's firing.
Lincoln Riley would be right at home in that world.
The Big 12 and the NFL is usually a not-so-tasty mix, especially when it comes to offense. Great quarterbacks of conference past have either not panned out (Josh Freeman, Ryan Tannehill), beset by injuries (Robert Griffin III, Sam Bradford), or never even got a true shot due to the so-called "red flags" like size and strength (Jason White, Graham Harrell, Kliff Kingsbury, Josh Heupel, etc).
Yet, that trend is changing behind a healthy diet of Patrick Mahomes and, to a lesser extent, Baker Mayfield. Their skills translate perfectly in a league that racks up the yardage like a pinball machine. In the NFL, it used to be an anomaly to see scores in matching 40s. In Norman, Oklahoma, that's just Saturday.
Riley carries on a Sooners tradition of racking up the points and hoping just enough defense is played to properly get the job done. Bob Stoops may have patented this so-called ritual, one that has come back to bite OU in the past (evidenced by a mere single claimed national title since the turn of the century, as well as an 0-3 record in the College Football Playoff).
Quarterbacks have come and gone, each replaced by a noticeable talent. Riley has helped ensure there's been little to worry about in terms of turnovers, both on and off the field. Mayfield gave way to Kyler Murray, who in turned passed the torch to modern option Jalen Hurts.
We will be four games deep into the NFL schedule after Monday, the end of the proverbial first quarter. Social media general manager will be making moves, an early version of "Black Monday" that typically ends the season. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, by no means an armchair decision-maker, added an interesting twist to the early proceedings prior to Saturday's college football commencement.
An Oklahoma head coach making the NFL step-up has been discussed for quite some time. Stoops' name was floated around during the Dallas Cowboys' searches years ago. In today's changing NFL, Riley is the rightful front runner when it comes to potential vacancies.
Yes, the names he's convinced to come to Oklahoma have brought no small amount of talent with them. But if Riley can have this kind of progress with am ever-changing cast (the Sooners seem once again destined to reach the CFP), what could he do with a consistent unit? It'd be interesting to see what kind of offensive magic he could make.
It would almost be a hire before its time, a gamechanger like Chip Kelly in Philadelphia was supposed to be. Best of all, it would shed the traditional NFL pomp and circumstance we're used to seeing, luster that makes the crash and burn all the more entertaining. Riley would be in a position to succeed immediately.
Patrick Mahomes cracked the NFL's perception of the Big 12. Riley can break through and shatter it entirely.