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The search for an offensive coordinator likely turns inward after Chaney-to-Arkansas

Kelly Lambert

Last night, it was revealed that former Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, believed to have been one of the primary candidates for the vacant Mizzou offensive coordinator position, would instead be heading to Arkansas to take over Bret Bielema's offense. Here are some general thoughts of mine on the topic.

1. It's disappointing. As I said last night in comments to the last O.C. post, this move feels disappointing because I think a lot of us, even those who thought David Yost was a pretty good coordinator, weren't averse to the thought of change change. I can use numbers to point out that Chaney would not have been a guaranteed upgrade over Yost (and I will do just that in a bit), but in the offseason you are yearning for proof that your struggles from the last season -- even ones caused primarily by injuries -- are going to be alleviated. Bringing in a successful outsider to take over the offense would have been one way to feel like things were ready to turn back around. In that sense, as I told The Beef yesterday morning on e-mail, I was hoping Chaney would end up getting the hire. It would have felt like significant change, and ... let's face it ... the thought of Dorial Green-Beckham playing Justin Hunter and Jimmie Hunt playing Cordarrelle Patterson made me very, very happy. That said...

2. A Chaney hire could have backfired in the short-term. It has long been believed that the three primary candidates for the coordinator position were Chaney, Mizzou receivers coach Andy Hill and Mizzou offensive line co-coach Josh Henson. Hill and Henson are typically regarded as perhaps Mizzou's two best recruiters. If Gary Pinkel had hired Chaney, it could have set into motion a chain reaction that hurt Mizzou's 2013 and, potentially, 2014 recruiting classes. If Chaney got the job, one has to assume that Henson would have left to accept the vacant O.C. position at Southern Miss. And for all we know, Hill may have left, too, now with proof that he is never going to move up to the O.C. chair here. Long-term, i.e. in the next five years or so, Chaney and any other replacement assistants Gary Pinkel had to hire could have probably made up whatever ground Mizzou lost in the short-term. But Pinkel and company are kind of in short-term recovery mode at the moment. Pinkel might need a good 2013 season to save his job, and a short-term ding in recruiting could have had rather negative consequences in that regard.

3. Jim Chaney is not a savior. Because Tennessee looked good offensively this year, and since Mizzou's offense fell apart, we all pretty quickly signed onto the idea that Jim Chaney would be an upgrade over David Yost. But here's the deal: in the four years that each man had been the coordinator at each school, Yost produced a better offense three times.

Off. F/+ rankings, Tennessee (with Chaney)
and Missouri (with Yost)
Year Tennessee Missouri
2009 39 32
2010 52 41
2011 60 19
2012 19 86

The 2012 season was the first in which Jim Chaney's Tennessee offense outproduced David Yost's Missouri offense. Mizzou's offense fell apart in 2012 -- and here's a quick reminder that these are schedule-adjusted numbers so the move to the SEC, and the resulting increased competition level, are factored in -- and the main cause should be quite obvious: Injuries. Mizzou lost its starting quarterback to four different injuries, lost each projected starting lineman for at least two games (and as many as 12), and, of course, never got to put Henry Josey on the field for even one snap. That takes Tennessee's own 2011 injury issues (quarterback Tyler Bray missed some time, and star receiver Justin Hunter was lost for the season in the third game) and triples them. Take out Chaney's 2011 season and Yost's 2012 season, and their per-year ranking averages are 30.7 for Yost and 36.7 for Chaney.

Plus, and this is admittedly a bit unfair but deserves mentioning: the last six team for which Chaney was the offensive coordinator went (going backwards chronologically) 5-7, 5-7, 6-7, 7-6, 5-6, and 7-5. Chaney was not the head coach, and he has nothing to do with the defenses for Tennessee or, in the last two seasons above, Purdue. But this is simply proof that hiring Jim Chaney will not automatically make you a winning team. If Mizzou is going to improve in 2013 -- and with health and normal year-to-year improvement among the personnel, I think it's safe to say the Tigers will indeed improve -- it is going to be because of the on-field personnel and the coaching staff as a whole. Chaney would have come in and put his own interesting spin on the offense, and honestly a Chaney offense Mizzou would have probably been pretty good. But a Yost offense probably would have, too. And a Hill-Henson offense will have a lot of things going for it, as well.

4. For all we know, an outsider still might get the job. Conventional wisdom now has this job going to either Andy Hill, Josh Henson, or both in a "co-coordinators" arrangement. And honestly, I would bet on that happening. But about five days ago, I'd have bet on Jim Chaney becoming offensive coordinator. Things change. There is still a chance that an outsider gets the hire, even if it is unlikely at this point.

5. For all we know, Henson and/or Hill are a better choice than Chaney anyway. Jim Chaney has a track record, and that's why we wanted him. Like I said up top, hiring from the outside feels more like change than an internal promotion. But that doesn't mean Chaney would have been better. As fans, we are wrong ... a lot. (See: Haith, Frank.) And while we're at it, for all we know, Chaney wasn't even Gary Pinkel's first choice here. The Internet buzz is telling us he was, but said buzz is wrong a lot. Mizzou formalities make it impossible for Pinkel to make a hire before the weekend, but there still could have been an informal agreement between Pinkel and Chaney if they agreed to terms.

Chaney's move could suggest that perhaps Pinkel had not yet decided on his No. 1 choice yet. It could also suggest that Arkansas simply outbid Mizzou for Chaney's services. It could also suggest that Chaney simply thought hitching his wagon to Bret Bielema was a better idea than doing the same to Gary Pinkel. We aren't ever going to really know here -- Pinkel's certainly not going to introduce Josh Henson (or whoever) as his new coordinator with "Jim Chaney was our first choice, but...", and Chaney will probably never talk specifically about it either. But while the Internet Freak Out™ has predictably taken hold at other sites, I want to remind readers here that what we assume (both regarding Chaney turning down Mizzou and Chaney being better than Henson/Hill) is simply what we assume. It isn't known fact. Some things will become known in the future, and some won't. In the meantime, all we know for sure is that Jim Chaney won't be pulling the strings for Missouri's offense in 2013. It feels like a negative, but we won't actually know if it is for another nine months or so.