clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Should Eli Drinkwitz be on the hot seat? The Pessimist’s Take

Eli Drinkwitz is not going to be fired after the 2023 season, but it’s almost time to turn up the heat on his seat.

Missouri v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Introduction: This is the first in a two-part point/counterpoint series. Today Brandon Kiley will argue that Eli Drinkwitz is facing must-win pressure coming up in 2023; tomorrow, Dan Keegan will argue that the head man has done enough to get some wiggle room to build his program.

We should go ahead and get this out of the way — Eli Drinkwitz is not going to be fired. Not this year, anyway. His recent contract extension would seem to make him a very, very safe man. If he were fired at the end of next season, Drinkwitz would be owed 75 percent of whatever salary is remaining on his deal... otherwise known as approximately $20 million.

Do you think Mizzou is going to pay Drinkwitz $20 million to not coach Mizzou’s football team? I certainly don’t. So, this might be a silly argument. But I think it’s a relevant one.

Eli Drinkwitz is not on the hot seat. But I think it’s past time the heat be turned up on his performance as Missouri’s head football coach.

Before we get there, though, let’s go back to the day Drinkwitz was hired. Let’s revisit why he was hired. It wasn’t for his recruiting prowess. That was actually one of the big questions surrounding his hire. It certainly wasn’t for his “program building,” considering he had never built a program of his own.

The thesis of the hire was simple: Drinkwitz was coming to Missouri to fix the Tigers' offense.

Mizzou’s offense was quite productive with Drew Lock at the helm, but the production cratered in 2019 after Lock left for the NFL. Derek Dooley ran out of answers. The quarterback position was barren. The wide receiver options were non-existent. The cupboard was bare. It was on Drinkwitz to turn that situation around.

Has he done that? Before I get to the numbers, do you feel like Drinkwitz has improved the offense?

It’s hard for me to make that case. Missouri has as many quarterback questions today as it did the day Drinkwitz was hired. The supporting cast is certainly better, and that’s a credit to Drinkwitz, but there were so many questions (issues?) with the scheme that Drinkwitz hired Kirby Moore this offseason in order to modernize the Tigers’ offense. I don’t fault him for that, necessarily. A good coach should surround himself with quality people. But one of Drink’s calling cards was supposed to be his ability to design and call an offense. Now, three years later, he’s giving that up? It’s noteworthy.

The following numbers are also noteworthy:

  • 2019 Mizzou Offense: 25.3 points/gm, 222 passing yards/gm, 151.7 rushing yards/gm, 5.3 yards/play, 90th SP+
  • 2023 Mizzou Offense: 24.8 points/gm, 213 passing yards/gm, 154.7 rushing yards/gm, 5.4 yards/play

Do you see a noticeable difference in those numbers? Enough to suggest one of those offenses is clearly better than the other? I certainly don’t. Drinkwitz was brought here to fix the offense, and the offense doesn’t look a whole lot different — by the numbers — than it did when Derek Dooley was in charge of calling the plays. That’s not ideal!

This brings us to the player acquisition and development point of the process. Drinkwitz has been lauded for his recruiting, and for good reason. Rivals ranked Missouri’s recruiting classes in 2021 and 2022 recruiting as the 19th and 12th best classes in the country, respectively. That’s great work, the likes of which I’ve never seen by a coach at Missouri.

But what has it amounted to? The crown jewels of the 2021 class were Tyler Macon, Travion Ford, Daylan Carnell, Ky Montgomery and Dominic Lovett. Three of the five have transferred, Montgomery has yet to play meaningful snaps, and for as much as I love Carnell, this will be his first season as a full-time starter. It’s unfair to fully judge the 2022 class this early, but the only player from that group to see meaningful snaps as a freshman was Luther Burden III.

So the offensive production has stagnated, the recruiting has not amounted to the on-field results one would expect, and his overall record through three regular seasons is exactly .500. Why would that coach not be feeling the heat, exactly?

I think it’s a question worth asking. I went through similar programs to Missouri in order to find comparable situations in recent years.

Here’s what I uncovered:

Comparable recent head coaching resumes to Eli Drinkwitz

Head Coach: School: Years: Year 1 Record: Year 2 Record: Year 3 Record: Year 4 Record: Year 5 Record:
Head Coach: School: Years: Year 1 Record: Year 2 Record: Year 3 Record: Year 4 Record: Year 5 Record:
Eli Drinkwitz Mizzou 2020-2022 5-5 6-6 6-6
Will Muschamp South Carolina 2016-2020 6-6 8-4 7-5 4-8 2-5, Fired
Butch Jones Tennessee 2013-2017 5-7 6-6 8-4 8-4 4-6, Fired
Bret Bielema Arkansas 2013-2017 3-9 6-6 7-5 7-5 4-8, Fired
Matt Luke Ole Miss 2017-2019 6-6 5-7 4-8, Fired
Scott Satterfield Louisville 2019-2022 7-5 4-7 6-6 7-5, Fired

Drinkwitz has experienced more excitement and recruiting success in his time at Missouri than Matt Luke had at Ole Miss, so we can throw that one out. I think the closest comparisons are Will Muschamp, Butch Jones and Bret Bielema. All three of those coaches were given a fifth year to find out if their programs could work for their respective schools. I think the same will be true for Drinkwitz at Missouri.

I don’t foresee Missouri nosediving in 2023, and I certainly don’t see Missouri’s administration forking over $20 million dollars to Drinkwitz if he finishes at or near .500. Firing Drink after this season is almost certainly out of the question. But the heat should be turning up on his seat.

It’s time for Drinkwitz to translate his recruiting success into tangible on-field progress.