Why Gabbert Might Have Decided to Leave

Mizzou has announced that redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Gabbert is transferring, leaving the Tigers with just two quarterbacks on their roster. Gabbert’s father, Chuck, told Vahe Gregorian of the move is “for an opportunity to compete and vie for a starting position.”

Tyler Gabbert arrived at Mizzou as the 12th-rated quarterback in the country, and a natural successor to his brother Blaine. After originally committing to Nebraska, Tyler, like his brother, changed his mind, when Blaine Dalton of Kansas City picked up his second DUI arrest. When Dalton was booted from the squad, Tyler Gabbert sensed an opportunity that wouldn’t have been there before, and made the move.

Unfortunately for him, big-time quarterback recruit James Franklin also committed to the Tigers, and impressed the coaching staff to the point that he got action in 10 games as a freshman, while Gabbert redshirted. However, word out of Columbia in practices leading up to the Insight Bowl was that Gabbert made enough of an impression to vie for the starting job when Blaine entered the NFL draft.

Immediately after the bowl game, Blaine Gabbert did indeed go to the NFL, and during spring practice it was Franklin who earned the top spot on the depth chart. So when word came down that Tyler was transferring, my immediate thought was, “He doesn’t want to compete for the job with Franklin.”

That’s a little bit harsh. I don’t even know the kid. I shouldn’t suggest he doesn’t want to compete. Obviously, the Mizzou situation isn’t his cup of tea. But look how many quarterbacks over the years have left their schools. Troy Aikman left Oklahoma for UCLA. Ryan Mallett left Michigan for Arkansas. Cam Newton left Florida and wound up at Auburn. Brock Berlin left Florida for Miami. Colt Brennan transferred from Colorado to Hawaii. It happens. Whether it’s for playing time, a coaching change, or simply not liking the academics, players switch schools all the time.

We shouldn’t be too critical of Gabbert. He actually did Mizzou a favor when he came in to replace Dalton. Sometimes, another guy is just better, or a situation isn’t perfect, and this situation wasn’t perfect for him. In Tyler’s eyes, obviously, Franklin took a stranglehold on the starting job and he wasn’t going t be able to wrest it away. Any athlete with pride and hope and ego wants to be able to play, and if he wasn’t going to be able to compete for the Mizzou job, he should find a place where he can compete. That’s what we expect athletes to do.

There could be other reasons. Maybe Gabbert didn’t want to compete with Franklin because of friendship. Maybe he saw the deck stacked against him with the Tigers. Perhaps he simply didn’t want to play in Blaine’s shadow. If your brother is good enough to be the 10h pick in the NFL draft, what do you do for an encore with the same name on your jersey? The expectation of Tyler Gabbert at Mizzou was, like it or not, that he perform like Blaine. That was going to be hard to do.

Mizzou handled things like they always do with Gary Pinkel’s football program. They thanked Gabbert for his hard work, and word Monday afternoon was that they had delivered his release papers to five different schools that he has interest in or have interest in him. They operated in a first-class manner.

I can’t imagine what it’s like for a 17 year old to go through what this kid has. Not that it’s a bad thing, but after committing to Nebraska, like his brother did, he saw what his brother was enjoying as the starter at Mizzou. If you were a high-school senior and got an inside look at how great life was for your star-quarterback brother; you’d probably want to follow him too. It’s great to be the little brother. At that age, that’s a logical decision to make.

But when Big Bro leaves and becomes a rich superstar, things likely change. You’re still known as the little brother, but the expectation is that you’ll be the same guy. Coaches, teammates, classmates and fans all look at you as if you’re Blaine, rather than Tyler.

Tyler Gabbert can to go Louisville or Iowa or Oregon or Nebraska, and just be Tyler Gabbert. The expectation won’t be to play like his brother, but to play like Tyler. That’s how he’ll be treated. It’s impossible for me to believe he’d ever be treated that way at Missouri.

It was very easy for me to conclude early on that Tyler Gabbert didn’t want to compete with James Franklin. But after some thought, there has to be more to it. Maybe it has something to do with school. Maybe after a year in the system, it isn’t for him. Or maybe, Tyler Gabbert just doesn’t want to compete with Blaine Gabbert’s memory in Columbia. Would you want to?