Missouri Tigers fans probably never envisioned a start to the SEC like the one they encountered this past season. Tiger Nation highly believed they would put a monkey wrench into the SEC East by powering away defenses with their finesse, space eating, crooked number scoring offensive play. That thought was far from the case in their inaugural season.
Missouri ended a seven-year bowl streak in their inaugural season in “that” conference, picking up only a pair of victories in SEC league play, over Kentucky and Tennessee in division. Kentucky and Tennessee both went a combined 1-15 in the league. The brutal schedule quickly made first impressions on Missouri, being outscored in a season for the first time since 2001.
Mizzou head coach Gary Pinkel had single handedly one of the toughest jobs of any coach in 2012, trying to micromanage a team full of the injury bug in the nation’s toughest conference. A rash of injuries contributed big time to mediocre second-half play in late game losses to Vanderbilt and Syracuse at home. Quarterback, James Franklin, was lost to three full games in 2012, while shifty back Henry Josey being was out the whole season due to a severe knee injury. Usually coaches get a free pass after enduring an injury riddled campaign as long as they can make some sort of improvement the next year.
Even though that’s normally the rule of thumb, it might not be in Pinkel’s case this season. Pinkel will need to far exceed five wins and show a way better product than 2012. 2013 should be put up or shut up time for him in his 13th season.
Regardless of how many injuries this team endured, finishing 10th in total defense and 11th in total offense in your league can’t be described. A team’s success in the SEC is every bit predicated on the trench play from both sides of the ball and having only one starter on the offensive line start every game will never help offensive production. However, it’s strange to think that a team fielded on playmakers like receivers, Dorial Green-Beckham, T.J Moe, L’Damian Washington, with the addition of running back Kendial Lawrence on offense, not to mention linebackers Wil Ebner, Zaviar Gooden and NFL first-rounder defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson on the defensive side could be one game bowl ineligible.
To make matters worse, in three defeats — Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Florida — Missouri were tied at some point in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t slip past either one of them. Most Mizzou fans would argue the point that the performance down the stretch in those particular games equaled a failure of pure coaching from Pinkel.
For Missouri’s sake, throughout his career, Pinkel has been a good coach but not great by any means. The last two seasons, the SEC has seen head coaches like Bret Bielema, who took Wisconsin to three straight Rose Bowl games and Butch Jones, a 19-game winner the last two years in the Big East join their conference. Not to mention the likes of Hugh Freeze and Kevin Sumlin, both far exceeded expectations in their first year in 2012. Programs in the SEC especially lower tier teams such as Kentucky with Mark Stoops are a lot better off than year’s past based off of richer coaching talent. Even Gus Malzahn at Auburn was an important part of winning a championship as an assistant at his present school. The Tigers simply can’t afford to fall too far behind the rest of the SEC, coaching wise.
If Missouri was to axe Pinkel, it would be better to reshuffle the deck sooner rather than later. Mike Alden and Missouri potentially would be the only SEC school on the coaching market. Bobby Petrino would be there for the taking.
Also, the Athletic Department now has the financial support in place to begin a major overhaul of the program. That’s what the SEC sticker does to you.
Gary Pinkel has had great success but he has failed to win a conference championship ever in his 12-year career at Missouri. How many current coaches in any conference have been given 12 years without winning a conference championship? It’s clear that Pinkel will need to hit his career average of 7-8 wins just to survive, and that could still not be enough.