Tough year. Crossroads off-season.
At the risk of repeating too much of what Bill said in his intro to 2013, it's worth taking a minute to put a bow on a pretty sucky football season.
1. We learned some things.
I NEVER bet on sports, especially college sports. But this past off-season I'd have easily wagered a couple bucks that Missouri's wide receiver unit would be among the three best in the SEC.
Things quickly Chinua Achebe'd.
My justifiable optimism for 2012 weakened a bit in training camp with Franklin's injury, but then injury turned out to be the theme for the season (barely beating out crazy snaps from center that were amazing in their consistency--either "high and hard" or "soft and low"). Some seasons just never get off the ground despite everyone's hopes, but they still furnish us with informative data. As loyal RMNers our task in the coming days and weeks is to figure out what the data tells us, and what it doesn't, about this season and seasons to come. (Note: I use "data" in the broadest sense. Stats are one kind of data; systematic observation is another. Both can enlighten.)
Here are a few points where I think both observational and statistical data will eventually tell the same story once everything is all tallied: (a) Missouri ran the ball in the SEC (if you ignore the silly practice of subtracting QB sack yards) with a beat up QB and backup offensive linemen in constant rotation*, (b) "running the ball" is perhaps not the unassailable virtue many make it out to be, (c) the talent at the top of Mizzou's roster, players 1-5, is competitive with all but the three best teams on the schedule (Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina**), (d) but, we absolutely need more talent throughout the roster.
Items (c) and (d) are based on my observation. Your mileage may vary.
*There is absolutely no compelling reason to doubt whether our basic schematic approach to offense can work in the SEC. There will always be questions about personnel, play-calling and tweaks, but the basic approach is fine. The end.
2. Coaching transitions happen but the market is fickle.
Coaches get fired or just move on. That's the biz. It's a profession of migrant workers. I do not see coaches as "fungible", but the market supplies plenty of good (not great) ones. So if there are staff transitions at Mizzou, it is hardly the end of the world. Just remember what you felt like when Mike Anderson became Frank Haith.
As for potential transitions, no sense being coy. Now that it appears Gary Pinkel will return in 2013, the bulls eye moves squarely to offensive coordinator David Yost. To be clear, I believe Yost should stay. I see him as a considerable asset. Others will disagree, and are not unreasonable for doing so. However, any critique premised on the notion that David Yost is a bad offensive coordinator is just not grounded in fact. Yost has fielded good-to-very-good offenses several years running, both run- and pass-oriented, often making change on the fly to suit personnel. Now even good coaches like Yost are replaceable, but when you're a good-not-great program like Missouri the market is riskier. The market supplies plenty of good coaches, but few are clear upgrades if you already have a good coach. On the other hand, the risk of a poor fit is quite high. If you're smart you only go to the market when you are forced to clean house; not for upgrades. It's a much better deal to develop an already good staff than to go to the market to upgrade it.
Now, the offensive staff doesn't get entirely off the hook. Player development seems a legitimate area for an eyebrow raise over the past couple seasons. Development has been the hallmark of this outstanding coaching staff, so much so that I'm pretty sure I'm being blatantly unfair to raise the issue. No need to recount the names of lightly-recruited players who came here and blossomed, but the past couple years what sticks in my mind is the growing list of players who seem not to have taken a step forward. Jerrell Jackson, Rolandis Woodland, and Nick Demien (and to a lesser extent Chris Freeman) come to mind. Jackson was obviously a major contributor, but never a consistent one. (By contrast, I thought once we understood what Wes Kemp was he really maxed out.) Woodland and Demien for whatever reasons never developed. This year I think we all expected Marcus Lucas and L'Damian Washington to take a step forward. They improved by season's end, but not enough to offset what seemed like dramatic regression early. "S'up with that?" seems to be the question of the off-season.