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Are Mizzou fans being unfair to Brady Cook?

The experienced starter played through a bad injury for much of 2022. Are fans too quick to dismiss him?

NCAA Football: Gasparilla Bowl-Wake Forest at Missouri Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2023 season approaches, we’re asking our football staff to answer a series of questions facing the Mizzou Tigers. Read along to get their takes on who should start, who will shine and who will leave their mark on the season.

It’s lonely at the top. Especially when “the top” is the top of a depth chart where a hoard of loud, opinionated fans would rather see you supplanted by the guy behind you.

Brady Cook has just over a full season’s worth of experience as Missouri’s starting quarterback, and the results have been hit-or-miss. Cook came into his own at the end of last season but struggled to make an impact for much of the first half of the season.

However, it was revealed after the season that Cook had been dealing with a serious shoulder injury that hampered his ability to air it out. And even after a spring camp where Cook had to sit on the sidelines and watch his backups fight it out for his job, Eli Drinkwitz still deemed Cook as the number one option, so it’s worth asking...

The incumbent starter has been the subject of scrutiny despite leading Mizzou to a bowl game while playing through a pretty significant injury. Are Mizzou fans being unfair to Brady Cook?

Josh Matejka, Deputy Site Manager: Evaluating the discourse is always tricky because there’s no quantitative way to say, “This is objectively what the Missouri fanbase thinks of Brady Cook.” And while I do believe the vitriol that was flung his way at times last season was overkill, I wonder if we’ve over-corrected.

Brady Cook is a decent SEC starter. He’s not a gunslinger, but his ability as a runner makes him dangerous enough to open things up in the intermediate passing game, which should be enough to let Mizzou’s talented receivers shine. But Cook has never shown the ability to execute in the close games that seem to be a hallmark of Eli Drinkwitz’s time at Mizzou. He makes exceedingly poor decisions; he can’t make something out of nothing; all the rote sayings about elite QBs.

It’s not Brady Cook’s fault he is not Bryce Young or Joe Burrow or even Stetson Bennett. But at some point you have to reckon with what you’ve got, and I think most Mizzou fans have been honest enough about Cook’s capabilities and his ceiling.

Parker Gillam, Beat Writer: Overall, yes. A one season sample size as a starter only tells you so much about a player, and the presumption with most college quarterbacks is that they will take steps forward as time progresses.

But, having fans unfairly criticize you is part of the job as a quarterback in the SEC. Unless you’re winning a Heisman or national title, the doubts will be there. I’ve always been a bit higher on Cook than most other people, and weighing the torn labrum and leaky offensive line into the equation when discussing his 2022 campaign, I’m inclined to remain high on him. Cook’s proven he is a playmaker who can win this team games at times, but he now has to build off of that. Remaining at the status quo is not an option for him this season, or else Drinkwitz will be forced to play his hand with either Jake Garcia or Sam Horn taking over. Let’s see what Cook can do with a true offensive coordinator behind him.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Nate Edwards, Football Analyst: If you think Brady Cook is the worst quarterback in the world and anyone else would be an upgrade, yes, you are being unfair. If you think Brady Cook can win the Heisman and lead Missouri to a National Championship, you’re also being unfair.

With a torn labrum, Cook was a replacement-level college quarterback. As a runner, he’s up there with some of the best mobile quarterbacks in recent SEC history. Let’s reserve full judgment until we see a second year of Brady Cook with both shoulders intact (and a play caller who’s willing to let him use his wheels, ahem).

Jaden Lewis, Beat writer: Unfairly criticized? Yes. Let’s not forget that in 2022 Brady Cook played with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He experienced poor offensive play calling — which is now in the hands of Kirby Moore — and his offensive line wasn’t stellar. That’s not a recipe for success for a starting quarterback in the SEC.

One thing about Cook though is that he is tough, as shown by his secretly playing through injury. He’s not afraid to carry the ball, and returns as one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the conference. I thought Cook was fine in the final four weeks of the regular season. He threw eight touchdowns to zero interceptions while rushing for over 300 yards. Now, there is room for him to grow as a passer, but that is something you expect to improve if he’s healthy and the infrastructure around him improves. If Moore is as good as advertised, he will be put in the best position to succeed.

Quentin Corpuel, Staff Writer: I get it. As an SEC football fan, you’d ideally want your starting quarterback to be the main reason your team is competing for a National Championship berth, which I’m not sure Brady Cook is.

But if you’re fully out on Brady Cook as an SEC-caliber starting QB, I’d kindly ask you to hold your metaphorical horses. Tearing your shoulder labrum in your throwing arm is serious — for example, Drew Brees said it’s the reason why he struggled throwing deep after tearing his in 2005. Combined with (inhales) a beat-up offensive line, no effective rushing attack to lean on, a receiving group that couldn’t get open very often, and a play caller that admitted he didn’t perform at a high enough level (exhales), Cook wasn’t put in a very optimal position to succeed in 2022. Besides, we’ve seen how high his ceiling is as a rusher, a ceiling that seems to be the highest out of him, Jake Garcia and Sam Horn. I’m also optimistic in regards to how new OC Kirby Moore can better utilize Cook’s legs. With a much-improved support system, I believe Brady can cook in 2023 *shoots finger guns victoriously*.