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You Never Know When Your Last Win Comes

Drew Lock celebrates by waving to fans
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

If you're a talented enough quarterback to make the NFL, you've gotten used to people telling you how awesome you are. Whatever high school or college you went to, you stood out, collected praise, were an object of affection. However, once these QBs actually make it to the highest rung on the ladder, only a small minority get to continue living that lifestyle. The precious few get regular starter gigs, while the rest live in uncertainty, bouncing from camp to camp, sideline to sideline, putting in the work for an opportunity that might never come. And if it does, as so often happens when a team is forced to go to a backup, it may end in embarrassing failure.

The Seattle QB room knows this struggle better than most. Geno Smith, the No. 1, spent most of his life lauded for his arm talents, peaking with a six-touchdown performance in a rout of Clemson at the 2012 Orange Bowl. But as a man tasked with salvaging the spiraling Jets, he never got comfortable. He was benched in his second season, sidetracked by injuries, and eventually abandoned by the team that drafted him. He found little to do with the Giants or Chargers, but signed with Seattle, eventually slotted in for Russell Wilson, and rediscovered, in his 30s, some well-aged version of his abilities that have made him a winner once more.

But a groin injury has kept Smith out of the last two games, forcing Drew Lock to step in. Lock, too, had a full résumé by the time he signed his first pro contract. He got the adoring write-ups for his high-school play and received all-SEC honors a couple of times at Missouri. Like Smith, he was drafted in the second round. Also like Smith, the magic disappeared in the pros, as a promising start with Denver turned memorably ugly. He was sent to Seattle in the Wilson trade, ditched the jersey number he'd worn since he was a kid, and waited. Lock didn't play at all in 2022. He filled in a couple of times for a briefly injured Smith in 2023, first with a flash of something useful in a drive against the Giants and then with something much worse in a pressure situation against the Rams. Then he got to start, and seek his first win since 2020, in San Francisco last Sunday. He couldn't do enough. But he was given one more shot on Monday night.

This time, against the playoff-bound Eagles, Lock again got to be The Man. Taking advantage of a good day for Kenneth Walker at running back, and great hands among both his receiving corps and the Seattle secondary, Lock protected the ball all night and did his job when it mattered. Leading a 92-yard two-minute drill with a 17-13 deficit, Lock kept finding a way to get the ball to D.K. Metcalf, who displayed all of his skill by continually securing possession even in less-than-ideal circumstances. When Lock overthrew him a bit, Metcalf dove to grab it. When Lock fired an inaccurate near-pick, Metcalf figured out how to steal it for himself. When Lock lobbed one between two defenders, Metcalf rose above them. This all set up a one-on-one for Jaxon Smith-Njigba from the 29, and the Seattle QB earned the win with a soaring pass that his wideout chased into the end zone for an ecstatic touchdown. The camera caught Lock looking over to Smith on the sideline, almost as if he needed assurance that he wasn't dreaming.

If you'd like to be impressed by the passage of time, watch this postgame interview from Lock's first college start—a win as a freshman over South Carolina. He's the same earnest guy, with longer hair, but there's a young man's confidence as he explains how every single thing went right for him on that day. He carries himself like a guy whose chosen sport has never shown him a problem he couldn't solve.

Now check him out on ESPN after beating the Eagles. You can hear echoes of the same patterns of speech, but there's a sheer thankfulness in this interview that'd be alien to almost any talented teen. After years of genuine doubt about whether football had anything left to offer him, he can appreciate the value of what he just accomplished.

This could very well be the last time Drew Lock starts and wins a game as an NFL quarterback. When he threw four touchdowns to beat the Carolina Panthers over three years ago, I'd be willing to bet that possibility never entered his head. But I think it's there now, and the glory is all the sweeter for it.

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