Earlier this week it was made clear that James Franklin — now back from injury — will return to Missouri’s starting lineup when the Tigers travel to Ole Miss in two weeks. As we wrote Tuesday, backup Maty Mauk did a fine job in leading Mizzou to a 3-1 record as starter, but Franklin is the better passer and the offense is more effective with him in the game.
The right move, then, is to go back to Franklin as starter. End of story.
Only it isn’t the end of the story. Gary Pinkel says that Mauk will continue to play in some form or fashion:
“Maty will definitely play. There’s no question about that. He’s certainly earned the right to do that. It’s a very positive situation. We’ll determine how much (he plays) when we get in that phase of game week…
James was having as good a year as any quarterback in the country when he got hurt four games ago. Maty’s done a lot of good things. For us, bringing James back, we were very up front to everybody, including everybody on our team on how we’re going to handle that.”
What Pinkel sees as “a very positive situation” we see as T-R-O-U-B-L-E.
Already there are some in the Mizzou fanbase who want to see Mauk hold onto the starting job (despite all of the stats pointing in the other direction). You can be sure that the first time Franklin throws an incompletion, some Tiger fans will roar for Mauk. God help him when he tosses a pick or leads two so-so drives back-to-back.
But that’s just the fans in the stands. By continuing to give Mauk action — depending on what kind of action he’s talking about — Pinkel is inviting players on the team to start taking sides. That. Is. Not. Smart.
Rotating quarterbacks is fine and good in one case only: You have two quarterbacks with different styles and one of them is used as a change-of-pace guy. Typically, that means your passer leaves for a series in each half and your runner comes in. Other than that, flip-flopping QBs is not the path to success. And in case you haven’t noticed, Franklin and Mauk play very similar styles.
Of Franklin’s total plays (195 passes) and (65 keepers), exactly 75% of the time he’s thrown the football. Mauk’s percentage (120 passes, 36 passes) is 76.9% pass. If you think those numbers are nearly identical, check these out: Franklin averages 4.46 yards per carry when he does run it. Mauk averages 4.44.
Aside from the fact that Franklin is the more accurate passer — and who cares about a little thing like that? — the two are basically the same type player with the same type rushing skills. So why flip-flop them?
Perhaps no coach in recent history has spun the quarterback carousel more than Steve Spurrier. And for all his success, his only national championship came when Danny Wuerffel was his clear-cut starter. That is not a coincidence.
Missouri faces two huge games against Mississippi and Texas A&M en route to the SEC Championship Game. If the Tigers reach Atlanta, a BCS championship will be in view. Now is not the time to create divisions on the team, to prevent Franklin from finding a rhythm, or to give him reason to start looking over his shoulder.
Pinkel is wise to go back to Franklin. He would be more wise to stick with him through thick and thin. Playing Mauk could create a lot more troubles than it’s worth.