There are two kinds of attrition in football: the inevitable graduation of players into the next plane of life, and the graduation of assistant coaches into bigger and better jobs. Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State have suffered immensely from both of late.
And it's showing.
The Cowboys are 5-3 this season and 3-2 in the Big 12 following consecutive losses to TCU and West Virginia in which Oklahoma State scored 19 points combined.
Brandon Chatmon addressed the situation for ESPN.com, and he listed out the number of offensive assistants that Gundy has lost over the last half-decade. It's not a small number.
You simply can't expect to have that sort of brain drain and not expect to suffer the consequences at some point.
“It’s a huge process,” Gundy said of losing a lot of assistants at once. “That’s the one area people don’t understand. It’s like, ‘you lost a coach, just go find a better one.’ Well, you have to find one that understands, teaches and believes like I do, my philosophy and development of kids. The second thing that caught me off guard was the effect it can have on your recruiting and evaluation.”
Chatmon deftly points out that mass departures following the 2010 season, headlined by Dana Holgorsen taking the head-coach-in-waiting job at West Virginia, had a negative consequence on what turned out to be a disappointing 2011 recruiting class, with Oklahoma State taking chances on guys they maybe otherwise wouldn't have signed. Many of those chances didn't work out and - voila - the 2014 Oklahoma State team is one without much experienced depth.
The Cowboys lost eight offensive starters from a team that came within a few plays of winning the 2013 Big 12 championship, and then lost starting quarterback J.W. Walsh in September after he helped Oklahoma State play within one point of Florida State in the opener.
Gundy famously struck well off the beaten path to hire Mike Yurcich as offensive coordinator from Shippensburg in 2013 and, predictably, started the season at a walk before hitting a full sprint midway through the season, as the Cowboys averaged 42.2 points a game during a mid-season seven-game winning streak. This season, scoring is down nine points a game, total offense is down 46 yards a game and half a yard per play.
Find me a team that loses the majority of its starting offense to graduation and/or the NFL draft, then loses its starting quarterback and loses an elite offensive line coach in Joe Wickline and doesn't see a dip in production.
Gundy is on a string of nine, nine, 11, 12, eight and 10 wins at Oklahoma State. So, yes - to answer my own question - Gundy absolutely deserves patience and the benefit of the doubt during the Cowboys' trying times.