The good and bad of Mizzou football coach Gary Pinkel

Gary Pinkel

Monday morning quarterbacks don’t win games

Gary Robin Pinkel has won 159 games in 21 years as a head coach. Before becoming a head coach, he was a player and then assistant coach under Don James, one of the legends of the game. He took a program at the University of Missouri that, let’s face it, stunk. Larry Smith was a darn good coach, and when he had losing seasons in ’99 and 2000, I started wondering if Vince Lombardi could win at Mizzou.

Pinkel has.

My point? 

I could lay out the reasons why a successful fake punt in the fourth quarter could have been the spark the Tigers desperately needed. Or, I could have jumped on the bandwagon and called it a dumb decision, even though I disagree. 

I view either a waste of time. Here’s what I think of the fake punt call— Pinkel knows what he’s doing. There’ll be times I criticize his decisions, but in this case I think it would be incredibly hypocritical and assumptive. Part of what makes fake punts and gadget plays work is that they’re unexpected. In other words, you pull them out at times where the situation doesn’t scream “HEY! IT’S TIME FOR A FAKE PUNT!!” Meaning, when they don’t work, people will go “hey, that was a weird time to run a fake punt.” Yeah, they work when you do them at weird times.

darren hellwege logo

Darren Hellwege, Sports Commentator

The fake punt decision wasn’t a bad one, and it certainly did not cost Mizzou the football game. I know it’s in the nature of football fans to criticize coaching decisions, and for whatever reason Missouri fans got a double-dose of that particular trait. But in this case, the fans need to either shut up, or go out and show me that they can win more than 159 games and know more about coaching than Pinkel does.

There is one decision from Pinkel I will knock. Since the infamous “old man football” comments from Sheldon Richardson, Pinkel and Missouri sports information director Chad Moller have blocked the media from talking to Richardson. I was disappointed, but not terribly shocked, when he wasn’t available for the media last Monday after he’d made the comments. I thought it was over the top that he was kept out of the press room after the Georgia game. 
But that he was again prevented from talking to the press at Monday’s weekly gathering has crossed the line into preposterous.

The comment won’t go away. It’ll still be what people ask Richardson about when we get the chance, even if we have to wait until he’s graduated and call him in some NFL training camp. It was a slightly — slightly — foolish thing to say, but Pinkel’s over-reacted to a factor of about 50 in keeping Richardson hidden away. It’s not fair to the professionals whose job it is to talk to these players, it’s unfair to the fans who want to know what’s happening with their beloved team, it’s unfair to Richardson, a senior and deserving of a little more trust from his coach, and it’s downright silly.

There’s an overload of this type of ham-handed media “relations” in the SEC, for some reason. Coaches refuse to comment on injuries, keep reporters from talking to freshmen, and treat questions more probing than “do you expect to play football this Saturday?” as if the reporters were enemies of the state trying to get nuclear secrets. In general, Pinkel’s stayed away from this bunkum, and one suspects a lot of credit for that goes to Moller, who’s done an outstanding job in his years as the Tigers’s media relations guru.

So it’s a bit bewildering to see their reaction to this tempest in a teapot. Open the doghouse door, coach. Free Sheldon.

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