Over the past few seasons, many Missouri fans have shared a common mindset.
When in doubt, blame the man upstairs.
You know the guy – the one in the booth, the one with the frizzy bleach-blond locks. The one with the headset. The one with the “guru” tag. The one who mentored Brad Smith, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert before suddenly forgetting how to coach quarterbacks.
David Yost. The one who’s easiest to turn on.
A day after Yost, Missouri’s offensive coordinator since 2009 and assistant head coach since 2011, stepped down from his position for “personal reasons,” Missouri’s fans are largely rejoicing.
After all, this is an offense that only scored 25.8 points per game in 2012 – its lowest mark since 2004. This is an attack featuring starting quarterback James Franklin, who failed to run for a touchdown this season a year after reaching the end zone 15 times.
This is a team that averaged only 15.2 points in its six conference losses.
The stats are glaring. They reveal an offense that simply wasn’t very good. And Yost was captain of that ship.
But when one looks a little deeper, was the 42-year-old coach really to blame?
Missouri’s offensive line – which was already undersized going into the unforgiving climate of the SEC – was decimated by injury.
Travis Ruth – out. Jack Meiners – out. Justin Britt – eventually out. Elvis Fisher – in, then out, then very, very gimpy.
Without protection, Franklin suffered. He missed three games entirely and barely played in two others, forcing backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser to be thrown to the wolves and his receivers to constantly adjust and never consistently find a groove.
The same goes for Yost. How can you find what works when you never know who will be taking the field as your starter?
Berkstresser and offensive linemen Evan Boehm, Brad McNulty and Anthony Gatti all received their first doses of substantial playing time against the nation’s top defenses. Yost, in essence, was told to take what he was given and make it work.
And honestly, he wasn’t given much.
Let’s not forget that just last year, Missouri produced one of the most lethal offenses in the country, an attack that finished 12th nationwide in total offense and 9th in rushing.
From 2011 to 2012, what changed?
Obviously, the defenses were better. There’s no denying that. But losses to major contributors on offense – running back Henry Josey included – made Yost’s job nearly impossible.
Take any offense in the SEC, and then remove their three top offensive linemen. Next, shuffle the two top quarterbacks in and out of the lineup, creating a weekly guessing game for coaches and teammates.
Under those circumstances, would any team have consistent success? Not in this league. And maybe not in the Big 12, either.
Regardless of who you blame, though, the fact remains that after 12 seasons at Missouri, Yost is gone. Pinkel vowed in a statement Monday to perform a nationwide search to find his replacement, while also considering an inside hire.
Andy Hill’s name immediately comes to mind as a frontrunner. Missouri’s receivers coach, who has been at the school since 1996, knows the offense inside and out and is respected by everyone inside the organization.
Jim Chaney’s name has also been rumored, and rightly so. Tennessee’s offensive coordinator, a native of Holden, Mo., who played at Central Missouri State, led a Vols offense that averaged 475.9 yards in total offense this season, second in the SEC behind only Texas A&M.
Tennessee's junior quarterback Tyler Bray threw for more yards (3,612) and touchdowns (34) than any quarterback in the SEC, Heisman finalist Johnny Manziel included.
Perhaps most impressively, Bray’s offensive line allowed an SEC-low eight sacks this season. Franklin and Berkstresser, by comparison, were sacked a combined 29 times.
Whether Pinkel and company choose Hill, Chaney or somebody else, that person will be expected to elevate Missouri’s offense to the levels it achieved with Daniel under center in 2007 and 2008, even against the country’s premier defenses.
One thing is certain: If the new guy faces the same challenges Yost did in his final season with Missouri, that goal will not be achieved.
Yost, the man upstairs with the shaggy blond hair, wasn’t always the problem. And if Missouri’s offense continues to struggle in 2013, an exasperated fan base will be left searching for someone new to blame.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.