Bigger Year 1 flop: Brent Venables at Oklahoma or Mario Cristobal at Miami?

Mario Cristobal, Miami Hurricanes. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
Mario Cristobal, Miami Hurricanes. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

Brent Venables and Mario Cristobal had awful year ones at Oklahoma and Miami, respectively.

Oklahoma and Miami fans cannot be impressed with what they saw out of Brent Venables and Mario Cristobal in year one.

With Lincoln Riley leaving for USC, OU decided it was time to bring back a failed former coordinator of theirs in Venables. Although he totally redeemed himself as the star defensive coordinator for Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers for around a decade, Venables went a disastrous 6-6 (3-6) for OU standards in his first year on the job. At the very least, they were able to preserve bowl eligibility…

As for Cristobal, who answered the call to come home back to Coral Gables, the former Oregon head coach struggled mightily in year one. Initially picked to win the toothless ACC Coastal, Miami went 5-7 and did not even achieve bowl eligibility. Star quarterback Tyler Van Dyke may have gotten hurt, but Cristobal’s first year back at The U was not any better than Manny Diaz’s worst.

Although they are not going one-and-done, who was a bigger year one flop: Venables or Cristobal?

Bigger year one flop: Brent Venables at OU or Mario Cristobal at The U?

The case for it being Venables is he inherited a far better situation than Cristobal. Oklahoma had regularly been a Big 12 title favorite throughout the 21st century, as well as a College Football Playoff contender throughout most of its existence. The fanbase is exceptional, the resources are fantastic and Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterbacks want to play for this perennial Big 12 power.

Venables may have started his OU head-coaching career out 3-0, but the Sooners succumbed to the preventable Nebraska flu and then lost its first three conference games. It put the Sooners into late 1990s John Blake territory. Nobody wants to go there. At least OU was able to salvage a wasted season by getting to 6-6 before losing on the road to Texas Tech in a Saturday to forget.

Overall, this was Venables’ first stab at being a college head coach. He had to learn things on the fly. Unfortunately, he took over a high-profile job in a place where the expectations can tend to border on unrealistic. Winning Bedlam over little brother Oklahoma State did take some pressure off him, but Oklahoma will need to be around an 8-4, 9-3 football team next year under Venables.

As for the case with Cristobal, Miami is his alma mater, a place where he played for national championships as an offensive lineman in the early 1990s. After failing at nearby FIU, Cristobal got the Nick Saban treatment in Tuscaloosa before totally reinventing himself at Oregon. While the Ducks never got to the playoff under him, they would around win 10 games and go to Rose Bowls.

Cristobal assembled a great first staff at Miami, prying Josh Gattis away from Michigan, Kevin Steele from … Tennessee? and Jahmile Addae off national champion Georgia. Well, the Canes could not move the football for the life of them, were only better than the Virginia schools in the Coastal and they did not even achieve bowl eligibility. It was not Cristobal’s first year being a head coach…

Overall, Miami is more of a rebuild than a reload at Oklahoma. Cristobal may need another offseason to churn through his Miami roster to get this puppy going. The university seems to be finally investing big time in athletics, so he will have more resources than any of their previous national championship-winning head coaches. There are no excuses for this thing not to work out.

Admittedly, this is a paper-thin discussion between two high-profile head coaches who massively underachieved in year one. One went 6-6, while the other went 5-7. If you combine the two, you almost have as many wins as Sonny Dykes had in year one at TCU and just as many as Riley had in year one at USC. However, there can only be one who can be the biggest flop of the 2022 cycle…

It may pain Sooners fans immensely, but Cristobal did worse than Venables in year one. This is because Cristobal had nearly a decade more of head-coaching experience over Venables and could not win six games at his alma mater in a down conference, in a lousy division, with an NFL Draft-caliber quarterback. Venables will be so much better prepared for next year. Cristobal just sucked.

Mike Elko won three more games in division at Duke as a first-time head coach than Cristobal did.

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