Broncos Quarterback Questions

Drew Lock and the Broncos’ Quarterback Question

The Denver Broncos are licking their wounds after a fourth straight losing season,  and a fifth consecutive year missing the playoffs.

It’s placed a big question mark over the future of quarterback Drew Lock. His disappointing run means the Broncos will be “very aggressive” in their search for a new signal-caller, if speculation by the likes of NFL analyst Michael Lombardi is accurate, and it seems many fans and punters are already betting on the Broncos moving on from the 2019 second-rounder given that sportsbooks are now live in Colorado.

University of Missouri graduate Lock has had a rocky tenure since being drafted by the Broncos in 2019. Things didn’t get off to a smooth start, with Lock spending the first 11 games sidelined after injuring himself in a preseason game. But then came a debut win against the Los Angeles Chargers, which saw the rookie quarterback throw a pair of touchdowns and help secure a narrow victory. It made Drew Lock the first quarterback drafted by the Broncos to win his first start since Gary Kubiak in 1983.

“I thought beating Arkansas my junior year was really cool,” said Lock. “But winning your first start is definitely a little cooler.”

Next up was a clash with the Houston Texans. Far from being intimidated, Drew Lock put in a pivotal performance, throwing three touchdowns in the first half, completing 22 of 27 passes and finishing with 309 passing yards. Lock was piled with praise after the 38-24 win, with the signal-caller himself saying “we were ready to rock and roll from the get-go.”

There was a literal buzz around the signal-caller – he was compared to Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear because of his big wristband. All in all, Lock would win four games as a starter in 2019, which tied the team’srecord for the most wins by a rookie quarterback. The skyrocketing expectations were summed up by journalist Sayre Bedinger. “This guy brings something special to the table,” Bedinger wrote after the win against the Texans, “and it really feels like (and looks like) the Broncos have found their guy for the foreseeable future.”

The 2020 season proved quickly frustrating, however, when a shoulder injury forced Lock to leave a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Broncos eventually losing 26-21. Lock would prove his worth again weeks later, when he helped inspire the Broncos to claw their way back from a 24-3 deficit against the Los Angeles Chargers. Ordering the team to “man up in a half-time locker room speech, Lock went on to deliver a game-winning touchdown pass to snatch a 31-30 victory from the jaws of defeat. 

Growing concerns about his strategic abilities came to the fore following a catastrophic 37-12 loss against Las Vegas Raiders. Lock came in for serious flak from commentators and fans on social media alike, having completed fewer than half of his passes. The Raiders’ recent poor form only added to the disbelief around the Broncos’ performance, with the quarterback described as being “under constant siege” during the game.

While Broncos coach Vic Fangio said “We’re committed to Drew”, the wheels were off the wagon as far as many were concerned, with critics questioning Lock’s tactical skills. “This young man is a slow learner because he lets his arm do the thinking,” columnist Mark Kiszla wrote in the Denver Post, arguing that Lock should be benched as “an act of tough love”. 

Lock ended up tied with Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller Carson Wentz for the most interceptions in the 2020 season (15). He also had the worst completion percentage in the NFL (57.3%). 

Debate has understandably been raging over whether Lock should be regarded as a diamond in the rough or a lost cause as far as the Broncos are concerned. Tongues started wagging even more when it was reported the Broncos offered the Detroit Lions a package including Drew Lock in exchange for Matthew Stafford (who has since been nabbed by the Los Angeles Rams).

The word is the Broncos now have their sights set on Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans. Intriguingly, though, NFL Network’s James Palmer has suggested that if Watson isn’t on the menu, the Broncos will likely stick with Lock in the hope that he’s “on a trajectory into his third season that could be better than the one we saw.”

One man who has the beleaguered quarterback’s corner is none other than Broncos legend Peyton Manning, who recently declared “I’m a Drew Lock fan”. While his show of support would have undoubtedly raised spirits, it also highlights the thorny fact that the Broncos have struggled to emerge from the post-Manning era. Drew Lock was the seventh QB to start since the Sheriff left town, with much of the blame for this quarterback carousel being pinned on General Manager John Elway. Back in 2019, an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper pulled no punches, talking about “how bad Elway has been at evaluating quarterback talent in the post-Manning era”, and describing Lock – perhaps presciently – as “fitting the bill of an Elway bust”. 

Other commentators have echoed this sentiment. But Elway is GM no more, and it’s anybody’s guess what will become of Lock. Time will tell

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