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Gary Pinkel presided over 6 of Missouri's best-ever offenses (and 2 of its worst)

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Yes, the 2015 offense was every bit as bad as you think it was.

Bill Carter

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece about Missouri's best football decades. It was in support of a weeklong series I was attempting at SB Nation, and while that SBN series continued, I fell behind here. But fear not! Let's pick this back up with a piece about offenses. Here's the original S&P+ post, in which I used percentile ratings to determine the very, very best offenses (from a numbers perspective) in college football history. Now let's look at it from a pure Missouri perspective.

Using S&P+ ratings -- actual ratings since 2005, estimated ratings from before 2005 (when I don't have play-by-play) -- and national percentiles, here's a ranking of Missouri's 114 football offenses. For fun, I've bolded the Pinkel-era teams.

MU Rk Year Team Off. S&P+ (Adj. PPG) National Rk National Percentile
1 2008 Missouri 39.9 6 97.0%
2 2007 Missouri 40.0 5 96.9%
3 1960 Missouri 24.6 6 96.8%
4 1978 Missouri 31.3 7 96.5%
5 1975 Missouri 30.2 6 96.3%
6 1969 Missouri 35.2 5 96.2%
7 1976 Missouri 29.9 11 95.4%
8 1940 Missouri 21.1 8 94.9%
9 2013 Missouri 40.4 7 94.5%
10 1948 Missouri 27.1 7 94.4%
11 1997 Missouri 34.4 9 91.7%
12 1939 Missouri 17.6 16 90.6%
13 1942 Missouri 20.6 16 89.3%
14 1949 Missouri 26.8 12 88.9%
15 1984 Missouri 28.3 17 86.0%
16 1980 Missouri 27.3 18 85.9%
17 1968 Missouri 28.0 19 84.8%
18 1954 Missouri 23.8 19 84.7%
19 1941 Missouri 19.1 24 83.3%
20 2010 Missouri 34.2 22 83.1%
21 1947 Missouri 21.2 24 83.0%
22 1998 Missouri 31.8 19 82.9%
23 2002 Missouri 32.0 22 82.2%
24 1983 Missouri 27.6 19 81.7%
25 2011 Missouri 33.6 22 80.0%

Let's look at this in clusters. Among the top 15 or so are three offenses from between 2007-13, three from between 1939-42, and three from between 1975-78. You've got two more from the Dan Devine era (1960, 1969), and two from the post-WWII Faurot era (1948-49). Then you've got two one-offs: 1984 and 1997, basically the start and end of Mizzou's awful no-postseason streak.

Or, to put that another way, you've got five Faurot offenses, three Pinkel offenses, two Devine offenses, two Al Onofrio offenses, two Warren Powers offenses, and one Larry Smith offense.

The most interesting offense here might be the 1984 unit that featured, among others, receiver Andy Hill (a.k.a. Mizzou's current receivers coach). Going 3-7-1 that season got Warren Powers fired and sent Mizzou down a terribly regrettable road of hiring Woody Widenhofer and Bob Stull. But the offense was Mizzou's best in quite a while. The Tigers scored 310 points in 11 games and put up at least 21 points eight times. But while the 1983 defense was incredible, the 1984 unit was ravaged by attrition and allowed at least 30 points seven times. Mizzou went 0-3-1 in games decided by one possession, and Powers was through.

MU Rk Year Team Off. S&P+ (Adj. PPG) National Rk National Percentile
26 1965 Missouri 21.0 30 76.7%
27 1970 Missouri 25.1 34 72.3%
28 1990 Missouri 28.4 25 72.1%
29 2009 Missouri 30.1 33 71.3%
30 1974 Missouri 23.4 37 71.3%
31 1972 Missouri 24.0 33 70.5%
32 2006 Missouri 27.4 34 68.6%
33 1956 Missouri 18.9 36 68.3%
34 2003 Missouri 29.2 39 67.6%
35 1944 Missouri 19.9 31 67.4%
36 1925 Missouri 12.9 30 66.4%
37 1996 Missouri 28.5 39 66.1%
38 1981 Missouri 22.5 47 64.5%
39 1991 Missouri 25.4 34 64.5%
40 2014 Missouri 31.9 47 64.2%
41 1927 Missouri 14.0 34 62.5%
42 2005 Missouri 29.0 42 62.4%
43 1979 Missouri 21.7 56 61.3%
44 1921 Missouri 13.9 32 61.2%
45 1950 Missouri 20.5 42 60.4%
46 1924 Missouri 11.6 41 60.2%
47 1926 Missouri 12.2 32 59.8%
48 1936 Missouri 12.4 52 59.6%
49 1943 Missouri 18.0 26 58.5%
50 1928 Missouri 13.1 38 57.7%

So 11 of Gary Pinkel's 15 offenses hit the 60th percentile or higher. That's not bad. And here we see both the upside and limitations of the Brad Smith era. The offense stumbled at the end of the larry smith era (41st percentile in 2000), and with talent and depth still iffy, Pinkel, Smith, and offensive coordinator Dave Christensen were able to produce decent results in three of four years. And then Chase Daniel took over and went 69th percentile, 97th percentile, 97th percentile.

MU Rk Year Team Off. S&P+ (Adj. PPG) National Rk National Percentile
51 1922 Missouri 13.0 45 57.5%
52 1988 Missouri 24.7 40 56.9%
53 1999 Missouri 26.4 52 56.8%
54 1951 Missouri 19.9 47 56.5%
55 1938 Missouri 12.0 53 56.4%
56 1962 Missouri 17.1 51 55.7%
57 1945 Missouri 16.8 38 55.6%
58 1909 Missouri 9.9 32 55.4%
59 1958 Missouri 15.9 50 51.4%
60 1973 Missouri 21.2 62 50.2%
61 1977 Missouri 20.5 75 49.0%
62 1908 Missouri 9.6 30 48.1%
63 1920 Missouri 11.5 44 47.0%
64 1957 Missouri 15.0 58 46.8%
65 1946 Missouri 15.3 61 46.6%
66 1993 Missouri 23.5 56 45.5%
67 1952 Missouri 17.6 61 45.2%
68 1964 Missouri 14.3 67 44.7%
69 2012 Missouri 27.9 65 44.4%
70 1906 Missouri 7.5 31 43.6%
71 2000 Missouri 24.3 75 41.2%
72 1963 Missouri 14.5 77 39.8%
73 1931 Missouri 9.6 62 39.6%
74 1907 Missouri 9.6 35 39.6%
75 1987 Missouri 20.9 66 36.0%

The Bob Stull era was ... unique. Stull came to town with a run-and-shoot reputation, and at times Missouri indeed put together some pretty prolific numbers. But consistency was non-existent: 19th percentile in 1989, 72nd in 1990, 65th in 1991, 29th in 1992, 46th in 1993.

MU Rk Year Team Off. S&P+ (Adj. PPG) National Rk National Percentile
76 1912 Missouri 10.6 47 35.9%
77 2001 Missouri 24.3 77 35.7%
78 1935 Missouri 8.8 82 35.2%
79 1982 Missouri 19.1 78 35.0%
80 1913 Missouri 10.7 46 34.2%
81 1917 Missouri 10.3 58 33.7%
82 1959 Missouri 13.4 75 33.1%
83 1902 Missouri 6.9 48 32.3%
84 1901 Missouri 7.5 29 31.3%
85 1930 Missouri 8.2 77 29.6%
86 1992 Missouri 19.4 78 28.9%
87 1953 Missouri 13.9 82 28.5%
88 1932 Missouri 7.3 88 27.9%
89 1919 Missouri 7.2 75 27.6%
90 1985 Missouri 18.9 76 27.1%
91 1961 Missouri 12.4 79 26.8%
92 1986 Missouri 18.9 75 26.5%
93 1933 Missouri 6.7 98 23.5%
94 1905 Missouri 7.1 64 23.1%
95 1955 Missouri 11.9 82 23.1%
96 1914 Missouri 8.4 69 22.0%
97 1911 Missouri 4.8 54 21.9%
98 1929 Missouri 7.9 79 21.7%
99 1995 Missouri 19.6 87 20.7%
100 1994 Missouri 18.6 87 20.2%

Lots of early-1900s offenses here, lots from the dreadful transition from Gwinn Henry to Frank Carideo in the late-1920s and early-1930s, and lots from the dead period between 1984 and 1997.

MU Rk Year Team Off. S&P+ (Adj. PPG) National Rk National Percentile
101 2004 Missouri 21.0 97 19.5%
102 1989 Missouri 18.5 87 19.3%
103 1910 Missouri 4.6 63 18.4%
104 1966 Missouri 12.2 99 18.3%
105 1971 Missouri 13.9 109 17.5%
106 1934 Missouri 5.6 107 16.1%
107 1915 Missouri 5.6 75 15.5%
108 1967 Missouri 12.1 99 15.3%
109 1916 Missouri 6.7 79 15.0%
110 1923 Missouri 3.6 100 9.3%
111 1937 Missouri 3.9 118 9.3%
112 1904 Missouri 1.0 75 8.3%
113 2015 Missouri 16.5 120 5.0%
114 1903 Missouri -2.0 70 3.2%

Behold, the spectacularly awful offense of 1903: After whipping Missouri-Rolla, 40-0, to start the season, your Tigers scored six points the rest of the way. They fell to Grinnell, 15-6. They tied Washington (Missouri), 0-0. They lost to Iowa, 16-0, and Kansas, 5-0. They lost to Washburn, 6-0.

That's what it took for an offense to grade out worse than the 2015 offense.

When it didn't work for Gary Pinkel's offenses, it really, really, really didn't work. During the "turn Brad Smith into a pocket passer" experiment of 2004, Mizzou went from 39th in Off. S&P+ in 2003 to 97th in 2004. Then the Tigers rebounded to 42nd the next year.

Meanwhile, when you adjust for opponent, last year's offense was, incredibly, the second-worst Missouri offense of all-time. It grades out worse than the 1904 offense that scored 37 points against Transylvania (!) and 13 against everybody else. It's worse than the 1937 offense that averaged 4.2 (unadjusted) points per game -- 26 against Kansas State and Iowa State, 16 against eight other opponents. It was worse than the 1971 offense that scored just 93 points and led to a 1-10 collapse. It was worse than ... okay, you get it. It was really, really bad, maybe even worse than we realized (and anybody who watched had a pretty good idea of how bad it was). Mizzou was undermanned from the start, then lost its starting QB to suspension (replaced by a true freshman) and watched its two best players (Evan Boehm and Russell Hansbrough) limp around for a good chunk of the year.

The most encouraging thing I can point out here is that, after collapsing in 2004, Mizzou rebounded to basically 2003 levels the next year. With the defense the Tigers are probably going to have, I don't think anyone would complain if the 2016 offense resembled even the flawed 2014 unit.