COLUMBIA, Mo. — New Missouri offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Derek Dooley is, in his own words, a glutton for punishment.
What other explanation could there be for a 49-year-old man to give up an assistant coaching job with the world's most valuable sports franchise in the ninth-largest U.S. city for an assistant coaching job at a middle-of-the-road SEC program in a town of just more than 100,000?
Head coach Barry Odom said part of the allure was the two shared a vision for the program and how to run things. Dooley grew to admire the way Odom handled the team's six-game losing streak from afar, and Odom saw in Dooley some of what he saw in himself.
"The one thing of the many things that stood out talking to Derek over the course of the time that we did: he's got something to prove. And so do I," Odom said. "And I'm excited about that part of his competitive spirit. It's going to be fun working together."
There was some added personal incentive for Dooley, a chance to scratch an itch in his soul that wasn't purely competitive. In an introductory press conference Friday with Odom, he said he was becoming too complacent with the Dallas Cowboys and wanted a more direct challenge.
"I had a good job, and I'm really grateful for Jason Garrett, who hired me, and the Jones family," Dooley said. "But coach (Odom) talked about kind of 'chip on your shoulder' and all that. I didn't really want to be in this comfortable — it was a comfortable place. It was a good job, I was in a routine, but getting back in the cross-hairs is a little more my personality. It's a huge job, it's a giant responsibility, there's a lot of people depending on me to do a good job, starting with coach Odom. I hadn't slept the same since I took the job, and most people probably wouldn't like that, but it stimulates me, it brings me back a little bit, and that part I enjoy."
That desire to be tested is why his 22-year coaching career has had so many stops and different responsibilities, including the dual role of head football coach and athletic director at Louisiana Tech. It's why he's taking on the responsibility of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the first time in his career.
Missouri's offense was like a finicky import last year, blazing along at breakneck speed and passing everyone at times and stuck doing five miles an hour in first gear in others. Handing over the figurative keys to an offense like that to someone he trusted could not have been an easy decision for Odom, especially with Drew Lock returning for his senior season and looking to improve his NFL draft prospects among other goals.
That's something Dooley understands well.
"First of all, let me say I appreciate the confidence coach Odom is showing me," he said. "I don't take that for granted, I know that's a big responsibility. I think I look at this, this is probably my 12th or 14th or so, 'Hey this is going to be new for you, a new thing you're coaching, a new position you're coaching, a new title you have.' And I've never been one — some guys, everybody's a little different in coaching — never been one to just want to coach one position and do it for 30 years. So from the day I got into coaching, the more I could take in, the better."
Dooley hasn't yet had a chance to get out on the road recruiting, and he said he didn't want to give one-liners about Missouri's offensive players he's only seen on film. He joked that pro-style, the offense he largely used throughout his college coaching career, has largely lost its meaning as a phrase. Dooley understands the balance between catering to Lock's strengths and changing things to fit new personnel.
He said the new system will put more on Lock mentally, which he said he hoped would sharpen Lock for the NFL while also helping the rest of the offense, too. That strategy doesn't sound like a bad idea on paper, because despite the new faces from the early signing period and enrollment, the Tigers return 10 starters on offense, everyone except J'Mon Moore, which will help Lock adapt to any changes made.
Odom has always been a coach that values the character of those he works with, and a point he emphasized leading up to the bowl game was that he was looking for candidates who wanted to be at Missouri, and who were loyal.
There were a few lines from the press conference that could be taken as shots at others outside the program — one about the defensive strain of going three and out in 17 seconds on offense, and another about the staff room not having "hidden agendas."