Barry Odom may not have been a complete disaster at Missouri, but Jim Sterk made the decision that in four years he still wasn’t the coach the Tigers needed him to be. In your opinion, what was Odom’s biggest failure as Missouri’s head coach?
Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: It’s something we’ve discussed since the beginning of this season — the lack of player development. How many times did we see freshmen set Faurot on fire only to fade away in their sophomore or junior years? Odom and his staff could scout talent, no question. But with few exceptions — and mostly on the defensive side of the ball — it felt like no one on the Tigers ever got any better than they were when they arrived.
Nate Edwards, Football Editor: Statement wins, wins over ranked teams, wins over teams with winning records.
Ryan Herrera, Lead Football Beat Writer: As Jim Sterk said in his press conference Saturday, Odom just failed to build on momentum at almost every turn. In 2017, Missouri went on a six-game winning to end the season, going from 1-5 to bowl-eligible in the process. But it didn’t seem like the Tigers were ready for that bowl game, and they lost by 17 in the Texas Bowl. In 2018, Missouri’s record improved and the Tigers again went on a winning streak to end the season but, just like 2017, Missouri once again lost in its bowl game. Of course, Odom had the most offseason momentum he’s ever had heading into 2019 after landing Kelly Bryant, returning a number of skills players and having one of the easiest schedules an SEC team can have. Yet the Tigers lost in Week 1 to Wyoming. After building that momentum back up with a five-game winning streak, Missouri dropped five straight for the third time in Odom’s tenure.
As much as some things went right in Odom’s four years, as much if not more went wrong. But that failure to build on momentum is one of the main things Sterk pointed out, and I’d have to agree.
Tim Bussen, Staff Football Analyst: Consistency and on-field discipline both come to mind, but what was most striking to me was the failure of some of the younger players to develop this year, especially on the offensive side. Jalen Knox took a step back, and Kam Scott didn’t capitalize on the promise he showed last year. Albert O didn’t come close to realizing his potential. The team was depending on a few young offensive linemen who couldn’t rise to the occasion (and SHEESH! did the veteran guys seem to regress).
Perhaps the most significant problem was the lack of a lynch-pin quarterback. The Pinkel blueprint was to mine for under-the-radar recruits, do a great job of developing them, and — most importantly — always have a difference-maker at quarterback. Bryant didn’t pan out as a guy who could ignite the attack, and four cycles worth of high school QB recruits didn’t produce a guy who was ready to step in. That’s on the coaching staff.
The talk of the town is that Jim Sterk wants a new coach with head coaching experience and an offensive background. How about you? What’s the one thing you want to see from Missouri’s next commander-in-chief?
Josh Matejka: Boring answer, I know, but I just want to see a guy who knows what he’s doing. Odom’s tenure was pocked with in-game missteps and occasional mismanagement of the program overall. Forget the talk of getting a guy who “built a program.” If you can nab someone who clearly has experience running and maintaining the day-to-day operations of a Division I football team, that should be the baseline.
Nate Edwards: All I need is someone who has been a successful head coach before. That would be a giant step up from where we are. Offense or defense doesn’t matter, as long as he knows how to manage a staff and run a program effectively.
Ryan Herrera: I would like to see a coach with an offensive background brought in, especially if they keep parts of the defensive staff in place. Odom wasn’t a play caller. That was Derek Dooley’s job, and obviously it didn’t work out. But Ryan Walters, Brick Haley and the defensive coaches put together the most formidable Missouri defense in years for most of the season, and it would be a shame if those coaches don’t get the chance to build on what they’ve done on that side of the ball. Without Drew Lock, we saw a lot of the Tigers’ weaknesses get exposed throughout the second half (especially once Bryant was hobbled). I can’t see Dooley being the long-term answer to run the offense, so I’d like to see what an offensive-minded head coach can bring to the program.
Tim Bussen: Coaching hires are often reactions against the previous guy’s profile. That he mentioned these attributes suggests that’s what Sterk has in mind for this hire — a kind of anti-Barry. I think these criteria are generally prudent — especially head-coaching experience — but as guidelines, not strict requirements.
In other words, I don’t think there’s any particular attribute that should be non-negotiable. If Brent Venables was interested, would Sterk refuse to consider him because, as a defensive coach with no HC experience, Venables doesn’t fit the profile? I’d certainly invite him for a chat, and I think Sterk would too.
We’ve obviously seen this whole thing go on its head, and there’s now a sense that all possibilities are open. If you were leading the search and had the resources at Sterk’s disposal, who would be your No. 1 choice for the 33rd coach of Missouri Football?
Josh Matejka: I’ve rewritten this answer THREE TIMES NOW. First I had Lane Kiffin, then I went to Bryan Harsin. Now that the Board of Curators blew up the search and went public with it... I have no clue. Who knows how I’ll feel about this the second after it’s published?
I really only wanted to give one answer here, but there are no rules in a college football universe governed by chaos. I think I’d be most excited about Will Healy — he’s young, brings a lot of energy and seems to be the next hot thing on the HC circuit. If Healy’s not interested though, I suppose I wouldn’t mind Willie Fritz. He’s a proven winner and celebrated tactician. At the very least Missouri can get back to winning 6-8 games a year... wait, didn’t Barry just get fired for that?
Nate Edwards: Billy Napier is my clear cut #1. Bryan Harsin and Willie Fritz would also be excellent.
Ryan Herrera: If I had to give my No. 1 choice, I’d probably have to go with Mike Norvell from Memphis. Over the past 13 seasons, Norvell has worked his way up from wide receivers coach to recruiting coordinator to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach and, finally, to head coach. His Tigers currently have an 11-1 record, they rank No. 7 in offensive SP+ and will play in the AAC Championship game Saturday. His recruiting classes haven’t been ranked amazingly as head coach, with an average ranking of 66th in four years, but being in charge of an SEC program instead of an AAC program should automatically give him a leg up with recruits.
Who knows if Missouri even has a shot to land him [editor’s note: they don’t], but if Sterk can pull it off [editor’s note: he can’t!], the Tigers’ rebuild may not take all that long [editor’s note: it may].
Tim Bussen: My original answer was Lane Kiffin, the thinking being that he would bring much needed sizzle to a deflated program. Now I’m most hopeful about the hyper-energized but very-green Will Healy. It would be a dice roll, but at this point...who wouldn’t be?