A recent mailbag column from Dave Matter (always essential reading) at the Columbia Daily Tribune displays everything that’s wrong with the recent decision of Tyler Gabbert to transfer from Missouri. It’s not wrong for head coach Gary Pinkel and his squad, since they will move on offensively with the best man for the job — Gabbert or not. Instead, it’s about a highly-regarded recruit with a popular last name wanting a starting job at a FBS program — the very thing he left at Missouri.
Matter argues that it makes no sense for Pinkel to have committed to Franklin so early in the spring when there’s several months before the college season commences. In that time, there’s plenty of moments for Gabbert in practices, scrimmages, workouts and film studies to make the case to start over Franklin. Instead, he gave Franklin a free pass and lost his best chance to make something happen:
It would be absolutely against everything Gary Pinkel and his program stand for if he told the Gabberts that Tyler had no chance to win the starting job this fall. First of all, I don’t believe he’d say that because Franklin hasn’t won the competition — he merely finished the spring as No. 1. Anyone who knows Pinkel or has covered his time at Missouri knows how he operates. Pinkel and his staff want competition. They want someone to push Franklin for the job. They don’t want him to become the starter by default. They cannot be thrilled to enter the season with only three scholarship quarterbacks.
Franklin was at his best during the spring after Gabbert had pulled even for the top job and started taking most of the first-team reps. If the same thing would happen in August, if Gabbert would be the more productive QB, make better decisions, make fewer reckless throws and show a better command of the offense — and do it for the length of preseason camp, not just a week or two — then what choice could Pinkel have but to go with the better option? No way Pinkel paints himself in a corner by deciding in April or May that Franklin is definitively his QB. And even if he has a hunch that Franklin is his guy, he’s not telling the players.
It’s that last line that rings true — that Pinkel knows enough to hold his cards close to the vest. Even if Gabbert had a feeling he wouldn’t start, where else does he expect to compete? If Gabbert is good enough to start at a high-profile program, then he would have a home at Mizzou. Instead, a rough spring led him to quit and believe a fresh start is in order — yet when he finds programs already stocked with starters, back-ups and recruits, how will he feel then?
If anything, the Gabbert situation feels like an emotional decision that spun out of control in a hurry. Perhaps there’s a program that will give Gabbert the starting spot he craves, but I can’t imagine any head coach worth their weight giving a transfer coming in such a guarantee. Such a move would ruin morale and look silly given Gabbert’s poor spring showing. It will be interesting to see where he lands and, in the end, if he got what he hoped for.