It took nine days of Missouri's preseason camp for Eli Drinkwitz to decide on his starting quarterback.
Eight days of practices, one off day and two days into "toughness week," Drinkwitz saw all that he needed to.
Brady Cook is the guy. He's the one who will lead Missouri into the 2022 season, where wins need to come and skill players are in line to make it happen.
And he's the right choice.
Drinkwitz said it on the first day of practice Aug. 1: There is more depth and talent on the Tigers this season. He's not wrong in saying this is the most talented team he's had in his time in Columbia.
Drinkwitz must have known this the moment that prized East St. Louis receiver Luther Burden committed to Missouri last October. He then added transfer players at every position on the defensive side of the ball and offensive players like Nate Peat.
It's time to take a step forward. Cook is the right guy to do exactly that because he fits what Drinkwitz was looking for.
The first thing Drinkwitz said he looked for was preparation.
Cook said on report day for preseason camp that his way of gearing up for the quarterback battle was by watching more film.
He wanted to be mentally prepared for the games ahead, especially those on the road. MU has only won two away games under Drinkwitz. That trend has to change.
The second thing Drinkwitz sought out of his starting quarterfinal was leadership — someone who could command the Tiger offense. As he said, there aren't bad teams, but rather bad leaders.
Cook needed to show that he owned everything about the quarterback position.
To show that nine days into camp is impressive.
Cook brings the mobility needed to extend plays, and that also translates into how Drinkwitz can scheme for more designed quarterback runs and keep a defense honest.
Drinkwitz has said he needs to be more aggressive as a play caller. Having Cook lets him do that. In a season where Missouri needs to keep the foot on the gas, Cook brings plenty of options to the table.
“I felt like as a play caller, I kind of got into a bunker mentality in trying to outlast the other team,” Drinkwitz said of last season. “It worked some games, and in other games it didn’t. ... That’s not who I’m going to be, and that’s not what we’re going to be about.”
The prime example is the Armed Forces Bowl against Army, when Cook earned his first start. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 238 yards and a score. He also ran for 53 yards and a touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over.
Most importantly, Cook led the Tigers downfield in the final two minutes for a go-ahead touchdown pass to Keke Chism.
The Tigers' defense didn't hold in the loss, but Cook gave Missouri a chance to win.
Let's not forget that Drinkwitz also trusted Cook to close out the South Carolina win last season, after Connor Bazelak's fourth-quarter interception allowed the Gamecocks to cut the Tigers' 31-14 lead to just 31-28 in the waning minutes.
Cook and Tyler Badie ended the game with an eight-play drive that netted two first downs.
Those are two instances of what could have been more had Drinkwitz decided to change quarterbacks for good late in the 2021 season. But hindsight is useless in this situation.
Drinkwitz never looked back. Instead, he self-evaluated himself and gave up quarterback coaching duties in the offseason. He looked at the defense and added the pieces necessary to improve the Tigers' ability to stop the run. He evaluated who would be the steadiest presence to get Burden the football.
It really is as simple as this: Cook gave Missouri a chance to win last year.
He will do it again this fall.
Chris Kwiecinski is the sports editor for the Columbia Daily Tribune, overseeing University of Missouri and Boone County sports coverage. Follow him on Twitter @OchoK_ and contact him at CKwiecinsk@gannett.com or 573-815-1857.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Quarterback Brady Cook gives Missouri football its best chance to win