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The Revue: Eli Drinkwitz brings balance to the force, continues Missouri’s run of ousted coaches

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In helping push Dan Mullen out the door, the Tigers continue an impressive streak of being adjacent to or responsible for SEC firings.

There’s a running joke inside the Rock M Slack nowadays that Mizzou is currently the unofficial “Head Coach U” of the SEC. Some like to crack the joke because of the familiarity we’ve developed with head coaching changes and searches over the past decade, but I personally find the title endearing for this reason: since Mizzou joined the SEC, they’ve played in nine games where the opposing head coach was gone somewhere within a few weeks of playing Missouri. In five of those instances, the head coach was fired either directly after or one week following their team’s loss to Missouri.

Here’s a list of those coaches, with those fired after the Mizzou game noted by an asterisk.

  • Will Muschamp (2014): It took Missouri three years to lay partial claim to an SEC scalp, but their first was a memorable one. Near the beginning of his tour round the SEC, Will Muschamp’s Gators took an infamously brutal 42-13 beating in Gainesville in which Missouri’s offense barely got dressed for the game. Almost exactly a month later, Florida announced Muschamp would be hitting the road after the final two games of the season, which he was allowed to coach.
  • Steve Spurrier (2015): The only truly amicable split on this list, Spurrier’s long tenure in Columbia (L)East ended midway between weeks two and three, when he resigned toward the beginning of a rough 3-9 campaign. The Gamecocks lost to Missouri 24-10 two weeks later in Drew Lock’s first official start as a Tiger.
  • Jim McElwain (2017): Be kind to animals, children. Jim McElwain’s bizarre third year in Gainesville ended exactly one week before the Tigers and Gators faced off, allowing Florida a free pass to roll over against Barry Odom’s surging Tigers.
  • Butch Jones* (2017): Despite being a 7-6 season, the 2017 team was the most successful by CCoA (Coaches Canned on Average) in the SEC era. Butch Jones was the Tigers’ first true outright victim, as he was sent packing the day after the Volunteers took a 50-17 beating in Columbia.
  • Bret Bielema* (2017): Oh, Bert, you beautiful soul. You were too good for Fayetteville. The Hogs went feral on Bielema after a back-and-forth outing at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium ended on a Tucker McCann field goal. Some say Bert has been seen back in Big 10 land, where his spirit has always truly dwelt.
  • Chad Morris (2019): Morris would’ve been a nice feather in the cap here, but he didn’t even make it to Missouri, as he got the boot 13 days before the Battle Line Rivalry. That’s what losing to Western Kentucky will do to you.
  • Will Muschamp (2020): Wait, again? If you say so, history... Muschamp, much like Morris, didn’t make it to the Missouri game, as he was sacked just a few days before the Gamecocks welcomed the Tigers to town. The Tigers won their first Mayor’s Cup under Eli Drinkwitz, 17-10.
  • Derek Mason* (2020): The only true victim of the Tigers in 2020, Derek Mason saw his doomed reign at Vanderbilt come to a merciful end after the Tigers hung 41 on the Commodores to, uh, nothing. Props to Mason, though, who used his last game in the head chair to get Sarah Fuller some game time and allow her to become the first female to play in a Power Five conference game.
  • Dan Mullen* (2021): And we come to Dan Mullen. It may be recency bias, but this scalp sure feels like the most satisfying on Missouri’s SEC resume, yeah? Outside of Will Muschamp, I can’t think of any other name on this list having a bad reputation, though my oversight in that category wouldn’t be all that surprising. But I digress: Mullen was a clown when he instigated the brawl in Gainesville last season, and his refusal to accept any measure of responsibility sealed his villain status in Columbia. One year later, “dorky” Eli Drinkwitz got to pull out his toy lightsaber, sip a Diet Coke and relate to his fans (aka be online) while Mullen packed his things.

You may wonder why we took such extensive time to examine this list. After all, there’s got to be a point, right?

Yeah, the point is don’t play Missouri if you’re a head coach on the rocks. They’ll get you, and they’ve got the pelts to prove it.

The (Actual) Revue

Return of the Jedi (dir. Eli Drinkwitz)

★★★★☆

It’s not an official classification in the world of cinema, but I think we can all agree that “revenge movies” are some of the best genre pictures you can get your hands on... especially when they’re surprise revenge movies.

In Eli Drinkwitz’s latest hit feature at Mizzou Studios, Return of the Jedi, he pilots a sneaky revenge narrative throughout the plot of a messy but highly entertaining space opera, landing a climactic blow in the film’s resolution. It’s a cathartic moment to see Drinkwitz, this time starring in his own movie, felling an enemy, especially considering the stakes that were riding on the moment.

Because despite the good feelings that come as a result of the film’s resolution, it’s a hit-and-miss project in total. A lot of older storylines need to be resolved before the action begins (we’re still looking for a new lead quarterback after at least two films’ worth of searching) and Drinkwitz chooses to introduce a bunch of new lore (a good defense? what’s that all about?) which can be distracting from the thing that made his tenure so fun in the first place... high-flying action, dastardly villains and a sort of fantastical whimsy that has never really existed at Mizzou Studios in the past.

While Return of the Jedi could have followed the mold of its successful predecessors, however, it chooses its own path and manages to find a surprising amount of success in the process. For instance, all that new lore I was talking about? Where the heroes face the swamp and meet a new cast of characters (Chad Bailey! DJ Jackson! A revitalized Blaze Alldredge!) who help them defeat the evil empire? That may be a little off-putting based on what we’ve come to know and love about Mizzou Studios under Drinkwitz... but it still kind of works! There’s a fierceness and strangely captivating identity to Return that even some of Drinkwitz’s biggest hits hasn’t had. It’s so good, in fact, that you find yourself hoping they can carry that same spirit into future projects, provided they also rediscover the well-executed set pieces and action for which Drinkwitz has become known.

Of course, this is all belaboring the obvious moment that makes this feature so satisfying: the fall of Darth Mullen (doesn’t sound intimidating, does it?) After years of flaunting his own powers and being kind of a knob about it, Mullen meets his maker in the climactic moments of Return. And what’s so fascinating is that while most villains go out swinging, it’s a welcome turn to have the world’s goofiest sith lord go down in a moment of cooperation as he acts against his own self-interest and helps Drinkwitz defeat him! Thwarting himself in the end is a plot twist that few could have seen coming, but it gives the whole story a redemptive arc that gives you the warm and fuzzies, especially when you consider that he still succumbs to his own injuries in the end. No more being a jackass for you, Darth Mullen!

Ultimately, the messiness and unexpected nature of Return’s better moments make it one of the more celebratory entries into the Drinkwitz filmography. Has he made better pictures in his time at Mizzou Studios? Without a doubt. But few have felt so triumphant despite their failings and so confident in their new directions. It feels like a small stepping stone in the Drinkwitz tenure, one which signals better and more consistent efforts from his production efforts to come.

And the M-y Goes To...

Best Original Play Design

Our very own staff analyst Aaron Dryden did some in-depth work on this play, and you should definitely give it a look. But I will say that this is the type of play-calling Eli Drinkwitz was expected to produce when he was hired back in late 2019. Lots of eye candy, misdirection and moving parts lead to something that is simple but effective. It’s a perfect design and is perfectly climactic in its anti-climactic nature.

Best Original Play Execution

We’re unboxing a brand new category for Mr. Alldredge here because he was that good in this instance. When you draw up the perfect way that a linebacker could respond against an option like this, this is a step-by-step look at what you’ll come up with. He takes a great line against the running back after not-quite-selling-out on the QB, a Herculean moment for a previously maligned player.

Best Line of Dialogue

Was it the best delivery in the world? Probably not. Is it a bit hokey? Probably.

Does the guy who delivered it still have a job? Most definitely.