Missouri Football: Firing head coach Barry Odom won’t heal defense’s wounds

COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 2: Missouri Tigers head coach Barry Odom watches a replay during a game Missouri State Bears in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - SEPTEMBER 2: Missouri Tigers head coach Barry Odom watches a replay during a game Missouri State Bears in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on September 2, 2017 in Columbia, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Despite the Missouri Tigers’ 72-43 season-opening win against Missouri State, should head coach Barry Odom be on the hot seat, already?

In the world of sports, being a fan is about the best “job” anyone can hold. Strictly as team support, there is no risk to being a fan. Coaches, players and administrations come and go, but the fans stay.

As fans, we come across as a mercurial bunch. When the team is doing well, nobody can do any wrong. As soon as things start heading south, we start calling for jobs.

I’m not here to knock on the fans; as a fan, count me among the many who have called for jobs, been majorly disappointed, and have also felt slighted by the teams that I love, when things don’t go as expected.

Missouri Tigers Football
Missouri Tigers Football /

Missouri Tigers Football

On the flip-side, having been a fan for several years, I feel like I have gained a little more perspective of this gig. Things rarely stay the same. Sometimes, when things are going well – I mean, literally, going well – the rug gets pulled out from under you, and you wonder, “what just happened?”

I’ve seen a general manager who built a Super Bowl-caliber franchise lose his job a couple of years later, because the players believed he was ‘too abrasive.’

Closer to home, we’ve seen an administration resign, because a team stood up against it, right or wrong, and the negative publicity that surrounded it also may have negatively affected the level of talented recruits opting to commit to what was painted as an unstable situation.

After winning its first game of the 2017 season, I’ve seen fans call for the jobs of a head coach and a defensive coordinator. I’m not saying the collective voice of the fans is wrong, but I’m also not agreeing with that voice, yet.

If the game against Missouri State was a litmus test of the Tigers’ defense this year, which I agree was a scary result, then it could mean another long season for Mizzou.

As Missouri’s head coach, Odom is only in his second year, which by some standard of sports, isn’t long enough to weigh the potential future success of a coach’s or player’s career, or so I’ve heard.

I also don’t think the fact the defense mostly fell flat against a FCS squad fell on blind eyes. There’s very little doubt in my mind that Odom and defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross are fully aware that if this defense doesn’t start performing, that they’re in for another long season.

While Missouri’s offense showed that it can live up to the hype on Saturday, it won’t be able to bail out the defense’s shortcomings every week. Sooner or later, a good defense is going to pull the rug out from under Missouri’s offense, and the opposing offense will go to work on the Tigers’ defense.

Maybe this will be Odom’s last year – last game – maybe he’ll be fired mid-season. Maybe Cross and Odom are gone, now. Where will that leave the Tigers? A coaching change at this point, likely, won’t do anything to change the direction in which the Tigers might be headed – that direction can still change.

At this point, we think we have a clear idea of what the defense is. By all accounts, it’s terrible. From what I saw on Saturday, I agree. The defensive play stunk. I could count the high points on one hand.

However, Odom, who is still calling the defensive side of the ball, owned it, and that speaks to his integrity. He didn’t sell out. “All those fingers point directly at me; that starts with me.”

Odom and Cross have their work cut out for them, and it’s not for a lack of recruiting. The talent leaving the state goes farther than the program. Recent unrest also plays a role in athletes’ decisions to go where they believe there is stability.

Firing a coach at the beginning of a season, off a win, does not give the likes of in-state recruits Trevor Trout or Michael Thompson a sense of stability, either.

Fortunately, the Tigers’ first game was against a non-conference opponent. Had Mizzou started against an FBS opponent, or an SEC team, this “W” may very well have been a “L.” While that comes of as a slight against a FCS team and Missouri State, it isn’t meant to be – the Bears played three solid quarters against the Tigers. They prepared and came to win.

While I can definitely relate to the raw feelings of emotion and frustration, at the same time, we were not lied to. Odom didn’t say this defense was going to be top-10 out of the gate, or at any point. Those are feelings and anticipation that we’ve built-up, partly due to hype for the season’s start, as well as a desire to put last year’s failures behind us.

I’m still standing with my eight-win season prediction, because I believe this team is talented and possesses the work ethic on both sides of the ball to pull off an upset or two, and to win-out against its non-conference schedule.

Next: 'Tiger Takeaways' vs. Missouri State

Missouri hosts South Carolina in five days. I’ve seen some bold predictions that have the defense amped up to redeem its poor opening performance. I’m going along with the bold prediction, as well as a surprise win over the Gamecocks.