Win-loss record is as imperfect a measure of quarterback play as it is for pitchers in baseball, but there’s no escaping it.
“That’s the only thing quarterbacks are judged by,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said this week at SEC Media Days. “When you look at what we do as coaches, we’re just about wins and losses. When you look at quarterbacks, they’re no different — extension of the head coach.”
But a quarterback’s win-loss record often doesn’t accurately distill performance.
Take, for instance, former Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk, who had 10 career games with a completion percentage of 50 percent or worse.
The Tigers went 6-4 in those games, including a blowout win at Florida in 2014 when he threw for only 20 yards.
Mizzou junior Drew Lock has had 11 games in which he’s completed half of his passes or fewer since ascending to the starting job one-third of the way through his true freshman season.
The Tigers have lost every one of those games, but Lock, whose career stats are remarkably similar to Mauk’s MU career numbers, doesn’t make any excuses.
“It’s a business, and you’ve got to win games,” Lock said.
That, he said, makes his win-loss record a fair measure.
Try telling that to the Chiefs’ Alex Smith, who boasts one of the NFL’s best win-loss records during the last four seasons but remains a divisive figure among the team’s fan base.
Two years ago — when Lock was thrown into the fire long before he was ready after Mauk was suspended for the final eight games — Lock and the offense struggled.
The offense didn’t carry its weight in several games — a 9-6 loss at Georgia and a 10-3 loss at Vanderbilt quickly come to mind — but last season Lock and company put up 37 points and 744 yards at Tennessee only to lose by 26 as the defense took a massive step backwards.
But there’s no finger-pointing from Lock.
“We both have to come together and perform as a unit,” Lock said. “There are times where we need to be plus-one (on the scoreboard) and other times we maybe need a stop or two, but we’re going to come together as a team. Anyone on our team would tell you the same thing.”
Regardless, the final results will continue to be reflected on Lock’s career record (currently 6-14), but Missouri coach Barry Odom wants every player to feel the same responsibility for the team’s success or failure.
“Sure, (quarterbacks) get too much praise and too much criticism,” Odom said, “but that comes with the position. Great quarterbacks are tremendous competitors, like Drew is, and that record means something to him. I want the 10 other guys around him to have the same ownership, too.”
Quarterbacks understand the spotlight, and the pressure-cooker accompanying it, shines brighter on them.
“You know when you sign on to be a quarterback that if things don’t go well you’re to blame,” Arkansas senior quarterback Austin Allen said. “It might not always be on you, but you can’t deflect blame on anyone else. That’s what you get for being a quarterback, so you’ve just got to be mature about it, keep your head down and keep working.”
That is Lock’s plan as Mizzou seeks to rebound from back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 2002.
After taking his lumps as a freshman, he frequently flashed star potential last season, but Lock also lacked consistency, especially on the road against elite defenses like Florida’s and LSU’s.
Playing in a new system after Josh Heupel took the reins as offensive coordinator, Lock threw 13 touchdowns with zero interceptions in nonconference games, but he finished with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in SEC play — numbers he’d like to improve in the quest for more wins.
“I’m super confident about this upcoming season,” Lock said. “I learned a lot from the past couple seasons. I’m going in really confident being one of the veterans now, so to say. It was really weird thinking about it, but, if you look around, it’s true. And I’m going to play like it this year.”
When the season’s over, he hopes that’s reflected in an improved career win-loss record, because Lock will continue to be judged by that standard — fair or not.
“Let’s be honest, (wins and losses) are always going to define you,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They put that record next to your name. No matter how long you end up coaching, it will follow you. Quarterbacks have that same battle.”