COLUMBIA, MO — The way Gary Pinkel tells it, a stern warning preceded any congratulations offered to the four newest captains of the Missouri football team.
And it’s best to let Pinkel tell it, because the coach clearly feels we have been getting things twisted when it comes to who will be the Tigers’ starting quarterback in 2013.
“Coach, your message to the captains to pass along to the team?” Pinkel was asked Thursday, after the Tigers completed their first session of fall camp, the same day the team announced its players had voted seniors L’Damian Washington (receiver), E.J. Gaines (corner), Andrew Wilson (linebacker) and James Franklin (quarterback) as captains.
Here’s how Pinkel, channeling his playing career under a Don James-coached Kent State team, answered:
“The first thing, first message I said is what Don James said to me,” Pinkel answered. “I’m sitting there with Jack Lambert, and I was sitting there with a guy named Eddie Woodard. You know who Jack Lambert is. He was in the Hall of Fame. Eddie Woodard is a minister now. The first thing he [James] said to me — to all three of us — was: ‘This has nothing to do with you keeping your job.’ That’s the first thing he said. That’s the first thing I said to my captains. In 23 years of having captains, that’s the first thing I say to them. This has nothing to do with you keeping your job. OK? There is no bonus because you’re captain to keep your job. I said it to them. I said it to every captain, no matter what.”
No, it’s not reaching to tie the above statement directly to Franklin’s job security, a hot topic that had started to cool after Franklin, a two-year starter whose 2012 campaign was riddled with injury, a) ended spring practices first on the depth chart; b) represented Mizzou at the Southeastern Conference media days; and c) became the first quarterback named team captain since former Tiger and current Kansas City Chief Chase Daniel.
Disregard the signs you thought you saw, because it was Pinkel himself who — a few questions later — steered a query about Franklin’s growth back to how little his being named captain correlates with being a starter.
“It’s an open competition, you know?” Pinkel said. “For anybody who would suggest in any way that because he [Franklin] was made captain had anything to do with … That has absolutely nothing to do with him or any other captain keeping their job. That has nothing to do with it. That has absolutely nothing to do with it. I can probably, in the 23 years I’ve been a head coach, I can think of four captains who lost their job.”
And then for good measure, Pinkel offered one more reminder when the subject of Franklin being a captain surfaced.
“The captain has nothing to do with any player keeping their job,” Pinkel said. “You can flip it, spin it, turn it all you want. You probably all will. But I’m telling you, I don’t operate like that. I don’t look to see, ‘Well, the team selected him as captain, so that’s a real edge for him.’ That isn’t what it’s about. You’re in a leadership role, and that’s important. But you’ve got to keep your job.”
No flipping here.
No spin or turning, either.
While Franklin earned his teammates’ votes for captain, his campaign to convince Pinkel to claim him as starter is far from finished.
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