Drew Lock was doomed from the start. For a team that desperately needed to find the answer at QB post Peyton Manning, the Denver Broncos did everything the opposite way when it came to developing one. Coming out of Missouri, Lock was known as a gunslinger; a guy that, for better of worse, is going to try and push the ball down the field and throw it up to play-makers. But John Elway, General Manager of the Broncos at the time, already hired a defensive minded, old school, death by inches head coach in Vic Fangio. Square peg, round hole. And to boot, let’s add Joe Flacco into the mix, after all he was in his prime when Denver snatched him up.
Year 1 was obviously a failure. It didn’t take long for the Broncos to learn that Flacco’s best days were far, far, so very far behind him and they essentially punted on the season, tossing their rookie QB into the fire for the last 5 games. We all know how that went. Lock led Denver to 4 of 5 wins, throwing for 1,000 yards, 7 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. Whoa! Did Elway just find his franchise quarterback? Talk about ending the season on a high note. Surely they would carry that momentum into the next season right? Nope. Denver’s offense struggled most of the year under Fangio and Offensive Coordinator Rich Scangarello and despite a positive finish, Vic moved on from his first time NFL offensive coordinator and brought in recently fired head coach Pat Shurmur, absolutely destroying any momentum that Denver gained with their young QB in those past few games.
So a new Offensive coordinator for a QB that showed great signs under the former man in that position. Got it. Again, developing a young QB was never a priority in the Mile High City. To make things worse, 2020 would be Lock’s second year and first real shot at being a starter in the NFL. No real off-season and no preseason games due to Covid. Life was far from normal and we all had to make due. But the truth is, a tattered off-season hurt some players more than others. Did Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers need a preseason? Of course not. But young, inexperienced players who just got a new OC certainly did. I’m not saying that with a full off-season, Lock would have been All-Pro that year, but to deny that the OC change paired with the Covid year severely impacted his development would be irresponsible. And that’s just what Fangio and company essentially said following the 2020 campaign.
George Paton was hired as the General Manager shortly after the season and rather than draft a QB in the first round, trade for a big name or sign one as a free agent, he brought in his ole pal from Minnesota, and now career backup type QB, Teddy Bridgewater. I didn’t hate it at the time. The deal was very Bronco friendly. Paton gave up a 6th round pick in the 2021 draft while managing to have the Carolina Panthers pay $7 million of his $10 million salary. Not bad for a backup QB who had several seasons under his belt. Oh wait….you want him to start? I guess we should have known that while Fangio is running things as HC, a game manager type player would be the best fit. I will hand it to Paton on that; unlike Elway trying the whole square peg, round hole thing, Paton found a QB that would fit Fangio’s style: death by inches. If Vic wrote the book on that slogan then Bridgewater wrote the forward.
Next up would be the sideshow that became known as the 50/50 battle in training camp. Fangio said he might just flip a coin. At the time we all laughed but as the season progressed and we learned even more about how his struggles as a head coach, I think some of us believed that’s what he actually did…….
If it’s a 50/50 battle and you can’t decide who to go with, it’s pretty simple. You go with the upside factor. A QB in his 3rd year with a higher ceiling or an 8 year vet who we already know everything about. You know which way Vic went.
I get it, Lock has turnover issues. When he came in at various times this season he was pressing. Probably because he viewed any shot to run the offense as his last shot and would need to be special. Not excusing it, he was not good. However, these past two games as a starter haven’t been the dumpster fire many Lock haters made it out be. He wasn’t perfect and Denver lost both games, but it’s clear there is a little something there. Even Fangio and Shurmur see it.
“You’re seeing a young player that’s improved. A young player with talent,” Shurmur said in a recent press conference. “It shows you he might have the arrow pointed up on him. Which we think he does”
“I do see improvement being made. The talent is there,” Fangio stated. “I still think he can be an NFL quarterback.”
More reps, more practice, more chances. Too little too late, I fear. Even the coaches admit there’s growth and development in these past few games. Imagine if he would have started day 1. Maybe you go 3-0 just like you did with Teddy. Maybe not. Maybe Drew is terrible in those 3 games. Ok, then you are done and Teddy takes over. But maybe, just maybe, a young QB works out a few kinks while the Broncos find a way to win games on the weaker side of the schedule and by the time mid-season rolls around, you have a QB not afraid to go down field and make a play. Perhaps you have someone that, in just FULL year 2, is capable of growing with a young offense. Unfortunately the plan was to try to stop teams from scoring, like seriously, never scoring, and hope that Teddy Two Gloves could get in field goal range. As we all saw, that didn’t really work out.
Will Denver be done with Drew Lock after the Kansas City game on Saturday? Or will the QB market and the surrounding circumstances keep Lock and maybe even Fangio in Denver one more year?
The rookie draft class coming in at the position is one of the weakest we’ve seen in a long time, the idea of trading for Rodgers or Russell Wilson is still pretty far fetched and the free agent pool is dry when it comes to guys that would really move the needle. A new owner will eventually take over and what if that guys is like a Jerry Jones, hands-on, type of operator? He might want a a coach and QB of his choosing as after all, the head coach and the quarterback are the two biggest parts of an NFL teams identity. No better way to put your stamp on a team than filling those two spots first.
So will next year be the purgatory year for Denver? Does Paton give Vic one more year, a bonus year if you will, to turn things around? If so, the safest bet might be to stay the course with your current QB situation. However, this time, it should be Drew Lock that wins the coin toss.