Column: Please Gary: Do the right thing

Enough platitudes and cliches; let’s see changes.

Dear Gary,

Make us care.

We want to like Missouri football, we really do. We want to watch it, enjoy it, cheer for it, believe in it.

But right now, you’ve lost us.

We can only take so much mediocrity, Gary. Sure, you’ve won three out of four games this season. But even your wins only showcased a mediocre team waiting for any respectable opponent to architect an expose. On Saturday night, Kentucky — Kentucky! — was that team.

We understand struggles, Gary. We didn’t desert you when you stumbled during your first Southeastern Conference season. We didn’t desert you after you faltered against Auburn in the SEC Championship game two years ago. We didn’t desert you when Georgia and Alabama embarrassed you last year. We have never deserted you, Gary.

Now, it feels like you’ve deserted us.

There were red flags from the second week, when beating Arkansas State required fourth quarter defensive stands. Then Connecticut, one of the worst teams in the country, took you to the wire. But we understood, starts are often bumpy.

What we don’t understand, Gary, is why you continue to substitute platitudes and cliches for meaningful changes.

“We do what we do.”

That’s one of your favorite one-liners. But what does it mean?

“We do what we do.”

You lose to Kentucky? Why yes, Gary, yes you do. Perhaps it’s time to do something differently.

But it seems you’re rarely a man to do something differently based on events or data when there is a “gut feeling” to be trusted instead. Talking about your “gut feelings,” even when they operate in direct opposition to your earlier statements, is becoming routine.

After stating pregame, to ESPN’s Maria Taylor, that freshman backup quarterback Drew Lock would play one series in both the first and second halves, you promptly chose not to enter him in the second half despite the scoreboard showing Missouri trailing.

When asked why we didn’t see Lock in the second half, you were your usual curt, condescending, dismissive, generally bamboozling self, saying, “It was the same plan we ever had and we made the same decision we’ve made.”

That sentence — if it’s fair to call that jumble of meaningless sounds a sentence — is simply false on two counts. First, you had previously said Lock would play a series in the second half, so it wasn’t “the same plan (you) ever had.” Second, you put Lock in for first and second half series during the previous week’s victory over Connecticut, so holding him out wasn’t “the same decision (you’ve) made.”

At least you refrained from discussing your gut again.

We want to see real change, Gary. That’s why we booed during the Connecticut game, and it’s why we’ll likely boo your lack of progress next Saturday against South Carolina. Right now, that change is Lock.

Luckily for you, Gary, some of the heat will be taken off this Saturday when Lock will likely start in place of suspended starting quarterback Maty Mauk. But that doesn’t count. Forced progress isn’t progress.

Through four games, against a weak schedule, Mauk’s total QBR (quarterback rating) is 51.1, which ranks No. 76 in the nation. That puts Mauk at No. 11 in the SEC among 13 qualified passers, ahead of only Vanderbilt’s Johnny McCrary and Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson, neither of whom seem destined to lead their teams to the SEC championship game.

Lock has already showcased his potential, Gary. On his lone drive against Kentucky, he connected on multiple impressive throws that conjured visions of the lanky righty in a couple years’ time. Sure, Lock is a freshman. He’ll make freshman mistakes. But consider the alternative: Mauk making freshman mistakes in his junior year. There is very little for you to lose in starting Lock longterm and potentially much to gain.

Worst-case scenario: Your mediocre season provides necessary preparation for Lock’s future as a Tiger.

Best-case scenario: Lock engineers an offensive turnaround, and his right arm leads you to a third straight SEC East title.

Look, Gary. We want to love you. You are our coach; our esteemed coach, our heroic coach, our SEC Coach of the Year coach. But you’re not making this easy.

Play Lock, Gary.

Give us something.

Make us care.

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