The other day, my coworkers and I were debating the idea of steadiness vs. volatility. The premise was easy, and I didn't bring it up: If you're going to average X wins per year, would you prefer to stay right around that number each year or reach that average through peaks and valleys?
Missouri wasn't the original topic of this question, but Mizzou is a virtually perfect example. Over the last four regular seasons, the Tigers have gone 31-17, almost exactly eight wins per year. Considering the move to the SEC, and the uncertainty that came with it, I think a lot of us would have accepted eight wins a year if offered back in 2012.
Mizzou, however, has never actually come close to winning eight games -- the Tigers have gone 5-7, 11-1, 10-2, and 5-7, a crazy, up-and-down span that has stretched the fan base's already frail sense of sanity.
(Auburn is another good example. Over the last six years, these Tigers have also average just under eight wins per year in the regular season: They've gone 12-0, 7-5, 3-9, 11-1, 8-4, and 6-6. Surge, regress, regress, surge, regress, regress. They nearly won the national title in 2013, and they're already considering firing their head coach, just as they did two years after winning the national title.)
This is an unstable way of going through life. But in my opinion ... it's also kind of worth it, yeah? Granted, the offseason can be maddening following the bad seasons; there was absolutely nothing fun about the 2013 offseason, and this year would have featured a ton of complaints about Gary Pinkel's "stubbornness" had he a) not retired and b) not fired pretty much the entire offensive coaching staff sans Andy Hill.
Still, I think the frustration has been worth it considering the highs.
Let's put it this way. Here's Alternate 2012-15, in which Mizzou goes either 7-5 or 8-4 each year. I flipped the closest results to get the Tigers to that record.
- 2012: Mizzou's SEC debut now features wins over Vanderbilt, Florida, and Syracuse and an 8-4 finish. The Tigers go to, say, the Music City Bowl, likely beating NC State and finishing 9-4. Sheldon Richardson's Syracuse suspension no longer costs the Tigers a bowl bid, and the Tigers wreck Florida's BCS bowl plans as well. Good year!
- 2013: Mizzou no longer beats Georgia, Ole Miss, or Texas A&M, finishing a frustrating 8-4 after showing so much promise. There's no more Shane Ray rumbling down the sideline in the Cotton Bowl -- now the season ends with a meeting with Nebraska in the Gator Bowl. We'll say the Tigers win. But maybe they don't.
- 2014: Mizzou no longer pulls off the late comeback against South Carolina, and Markus Golden no longer saves the day with the late fumble recovery against Arkansas. The Tigers lose both of these games to finish 8-4, and they end up playing Miami in the Independence Bowl. Again, they probably win, but who knows?
- 2015: Hooray! Mizzou now beats Georgia (for the first time) and Vanderbilt on the road! The Tigers finish 7-5 despite the offensive messes and finishes the season, say, in the Quick Lane Bowl against Central Michigan.
The most exhilarating and frustrating moments of the last four years are gone, but Mizzou heads into 2016 a steady winner, a proven hand in the strongest conference in the land.
Worth it? I say no. I say the frustration of the Syracuse 2012 loss and the Vanderbilt 2015 loss are worth the bliss of Henry Josey crossing the end zone against Texas A&M and looking to the sky, of Marcus Murphy scoring late against Arkansas, of Michael Sam sacking Clint Chelf. Still ... I understand the urge here. For some, the bitter losses are more painful than the blissful moments are blissful.
What say you? Which scenario do you prefer? Steadily solid seasons or crazy ups and downs?