posted on December 17, 2012 11:29
It's not official yet, but it really doesn't need to be. Soon, Missouri will announce Josh Henson as its new offensive coordinator and the promotion of Andy Hill to quarterbacks coach.
In the end, after a few weeks of speculation and national names tossed around, Gary Pinkel stayed in-house. Maybe it's unfair to say he went with the safe route, the expected route, because there's no telling if those national names -- Jim Chaney, for one -- turned down Missouri, or if an offer was even extended.
Yet that's how it looks. It looks like the "We Do What We Do" crowd, those Pinkel-bashers who slam their heads against the wall in frustration because of the perception that Pinkel doesn't evolve, were right.
I can't say I disagree with them. As I've said on this site before, I thought the best move would be an in-house promotion with the caveat being the new position coach would bring youthful energy and SEC connections to Missouri's recruiting trails. Instead, Pinkel made sure he kept Henson, a highly regarded young football mind, and Hill, his best recruiter, on the staff. It would hurt to lose either, but now there are plenty of doubts if that opening for a wide receiver coach will be filled with a safe or a risky name.
In this case, Pinkel has to take a risk. It's an opening that demands a high-risk, high-reward hire. It needs that youth, that energy, those connections. Those SEC connections are even more important now, as Henson -- the lone coach with significant SEC ties -- will have more pressing duties than the recruiting trail.
Maybe Pinkel will make that move. But a larger part of me believes that won't happen. Instead, that opening will be filled with a name familiar to Pinkel, from his small-but-growing tree of assistants, none of which recruit heavily in the Southeast.
Sure, this is jumping the gun. We all could be proven wrong and Pinkel could take a leap with this hire. But that wouldn't be his style. It's been safety first for Missouri's program during Pinkel's tenure, with the riskiest manuever coming eight years ago. That was a radical shift in offensive style, moving to the spread and giving Missouri six years of unprecedented success.
Those days are over, though. Risk is needed. The offense had a flat tire, and instead of buying four new, high-end racing wheels, Pinkel replaced the flat with a spare. He still has a chance to at least get a matching set for those rear wheels, giving new life to that tread.
But if he doesn't? If he just uses Henson to fix that blow-out, there's more danger of another flat. There's a lot of pressure on Henson now, and by proxy, Pinkel.
This is no slight on Henson, either, who would likely be a coordinator at some school next year if it wasn't Missouri. But, Pinkel making in-house moves to fill vacated spots has put even more pressure on himself after a 5-7 year.
2013 could be the make-or-break year for Pinkel at Missouri. If the safe route is followed with the hire of a receivers coach, then all the heat remains on Pinkel. Missouri's program can't afford another season like 2012, and right now, Pinkel is putting all his eggs in one basket. It's a basket marked, "We Do What We Do." It's worked before, but the climate and geography has changed.
There's not much danger in taking a risk with a position coach. It seems like an easy decision -- take the leap. If not, Pinkel's tenure may just be biding time at the ledge.