It has certainly been a roller coaster ride with Eliah Drinkwitz at the helm of Missouri Football. From the surprise 5-5 campaign in the Covid-shortened 2020 season, to two straight rocky starts to seasons, to rallying both of those seasons, to losing both bowl games in the end of said seasons... a lot has happened.
The fan opinion of Drinkwitz at the moment? Antsy to the level of annoyance, I’d say. With two top-30 recruiting classes in a row and the already established talent at his disposal, many believe that the Tigers should have exceeded their 6-game win total in 2021 and ‘22. That is certainly not too much to ask for, especially with how close Mizzou was to winning so many of one-score contests over the past two seasons.
Still, as I have implored Mizzou fans for years, building a program the CORRECT way takes more than just three seasons, especially at a place like Missouri where the resources and pedigree is just not what it is at the other SEC programs they’re trying to compete with. It takes a bit more patience and a bit more effort from everyone involved to even the playing field.
With that being said, thanks to the start of this offseason, I firmly believe Drink is making a lot of the correct decisions necessary to keep this program on an upward trajectory, which in turn will help him keep his job.
The biggest support for that lies in the offensive coordinator situation. It has been no secret that Drinkwitz enjoys calling plays, having a heavy influence on the offense, and managing most of the personnel, especially quarterbacks. However, after two seasons of lackluster offensive play, he had to take a look in the mirror. Fan pressure continually built up for the Tigers to hire an offensive coordinator for the first time during his tenure, to the point where many people thought he’d either have to hire one or be fired.
It almost certainly required a major ego check, but Drinkwitz did heed the advice of many and hired Kirby Moore to take over play-calling duties recently. Moore is a promising and exciting hire, but I’m choosing to look at it more from Drinkwitz’s perspective.
While the head coach will almost certainly still have a major influence on the play-calling, this is now Moore’s show. Drinkwitz self-admittedly stated that balancing play-calling responsibilities with managing an entire team became overwhelming at times. Admitting that, and then being able to quickly change things to solve that issue shows that Drinkwitz isn’t as stubborn as most thought, and that, above all else, he cares about the success of this program first.
Similarly, Drinkwitz knew coming into this offseason that offensive line had been—and would likely continue to be—the biggest issue on this team if nothing changed. So, he went out and signed Eastern Michigan transfer lineman Marcellus Johnson to bolster the team’s depth, and he signed highly touted in-state prospect Logan Reichert in the 2023 recruiting class.
No, those two additions won’t solve all the problems for the front five. However, improvement is happening, and it is clear that this staff is committed to making changes this offseason to go all-in on 2023.
So, what am I getting at with all of this? To start, we can put aside most of the Drinkwitz slander. Nearly everything that Mizzou fans have complained about during his tenure; he’s made a necessary change to fix it. Drinkwitz is targeting problem areas every offseason (went after QBs, great hire in Baker at DC last spring/summer, etc.) and improving this program every step of the way. He’s playing both the short-term (portal, coaching hires) and long-term (facility development, recruiting) game very well right now.
To me, great coaches don’t let anything get in the way of improving their program for on-field results. Drinkwitz, after what appeared to be a stubborn period of time, has adapted to be well on his way to becoming a great one in Columbia. After all, he’s still only 39 years old. He’s got plenty of time to learn and improve in his coaching career.
The immediate issue he needs to fix now? On-field results. All this offseason work is fine and dandy, but none of it will matter without some Ws in the win column in the fall. So, let’s wait and see.