One game into his career as an NFL quarterback, Drew Lock experienced something he only saw twice in three years at the University of Missouri: a game-winning drive.
The Golden Boy looked solid in his debut for the Broncos, displaying the athletic prowess and arm strength that Missouri fans got used to from 2016 to 2018. A questionably conservative playbook held back his overall numbers, but something tells me Lock will take the win — the Broncos kicked a last-second field goal after a deep shot to Courtland Sutton drew a DPI call.
Lock’s triumph in Denver was slightly poetic considering the events of the previous day. With the news of Barry Odom’s sacking still freshly in the air, the most notable player from his tenure as Missouri’s head coach went out and secured a hard-fought win.
No one but Odom can know how the game made him feel, if he watched at all. Something tells me, though, that it brought a smile to his face.
As time passes and the Barry Odom era at Mizzou becomes a distant memory, Tiger fans will take stock of the last four years and likely remember bigger storylines rather than individual performances. They’ll remember the winning streaks of 2017 and 2018 and the losing streak that doomed Odom in 2019. They’ll remember the in-game mistakes that marked a handful of almost-wins. They’ll remember the slow starts, the bye week woes and maybe, if they’re feeling generous, 2018’s upset win over Florida that put an end (for a short time at least) to the “Fire Odom” brigade.
They’ll also undoubtedly remember Drew Lock, the quarterback who will continually define the Barry Odom era in news as his NFL career progresses.
While at Missouri, it felt that Lock was almost synonymous with Odom. Both were Missouri legacies meant to usher in the next great era of Tiger football. Both had their successes and their failures. For every moment of progress, there was a quick regression. Even in their best times (think 2018), there was a feeling of emptiness, the bittersweet pang of “yeah, but...” infecting everything that came directly before.
The 2019 season, though, offered an interesting retrospective on the Lock-Odom partnership. Brandon Kiley nailed it back in November: “Lock was always going to be compared to Chase Daniel, no matter how unfair the comparison was... So of course Lock fell short of those expectations. But, what’s that saying, if you shoot for the moon, you just might hit the stars? Lock’s legacy should certainly be that of stardom in Columbia.”
While Lock certainly didn’t touch the sky in Columbia, it’s still up for debate as to why. Did three offensive coordinators in three years stunt his growth? That was sort of an unavoidable happenstance. Pinkel’s resignation led to Heupel’s hiring, and Heupel’s success led to the need for Dooley.
Maybe there’s truth to the criticism, then, that Odom didn’t coordinate his style of play all that well. Heupel’s high-flying offense was one of the nation’s best in 2016 and 2017, but the unit’s inability to manage the clock often hung the defense out to dry and left Lock as little more than a one-dimensional threat. What point is there in developing the QB when you can always just throw the ball 70 yards to Emanuel Hall?
Or maybe, and this is the most simple way of looking at it, Lock fell victim to the general lack of player development that has plagued the Tigers under Barry Odom. It’s not a perfect argument — Lock certainly got better as his college career progressed. But Lock was a gunslinging NFL prospect out of high school. Sure he got bigger and stronger in the ensuing four years, but can we really say Odom and his staff added another dimension to his game?
Lock’s NFL career will hopefully give us some answers. While no one is arguing that the Broncos are a haven for QB development, it will be fascinating to see how Lee’s Summit’s pride grows under professional tutelage. What if the high-powered arm and marksman’s vision could be combined with pinpoint accuracy and machine-like efficiency? The combination is enough to make you drool and, if you’re a Tiger fan, maybe even cry. Maybe.
At the moment no one feels like looking back, and that’s understandable. Why would you when there’s so much to look forward to? In the next few weeks we’ll be talking about Missouri’s next head coach and the promise of a fresh start. Drew Lock will be preparing for the home stretch of his rookie season. Hell, even Barry Odom will likely be lining up interviews for his next gig.
But if we want to have an evolving perspective on the Barry Odom years, we should look no further than the continued development of Drew Lock in the National Football League. Lock may always be a high-ceiling-low-floor type of QB, and maybe that’ll tell us that Odom did his best with a pro prospect behind center.
Or maybe Lock will turn into a multi-dimensional threat for the Denver Broncos. I suspect that would tell us all we need to know about Odom’s time in Columbia.