NFL

Why the Denver Broncos Aren’t Ready to Give the Keys to Drew Lock

In the reactionary world of sports, people should try to allow a narrative to play out before jumping to brash conclusions based on a small sample size. Although the rise of social media means that reactionary takes are the norm, it could be very dangerous for front offices and coaches to have the same tendencies as media and fans. Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is taking this to heart as he tries to get ready for the Drew Lock era in the Mile High City.

Drew Lock in college

Lock got his start at Missouri, where he played for four seasons. Like so many quarterbacks in the college game, he struggled out of the gate, throwing four touchdowns and eight interceptions as a freshman. His sophomore year, however, was a breakout success, with Lock improving his 49% completion rate by nearly five points and throwing 23 touchdowns to go with only 10interceptions. 

Lock’s junior year was when he began his ascension, however. That was the year that Lock nearly doubled his production, throwing 44 touchdowns against 13 interceptions while also passing for just under 4,000 yards. His senior year was successful, too, as he threw a career-best 63% completion rate in a more economical offense. 

That continued improvement made him a surefire pick for the NFL draft, although he was not getting the same hype that fellow incoming quarterbacks such as Rookie of the Year candidate Kyler Murray were. When he fell to the Denver Broncos in the second round of the draft, however, he was going to a place that was clamoring for another quarterback in the same vein as Peyton Manning or John Elway. 

Denver has been thirsting for a quarterback

The Broncos have been trying everything to get another big-name quarterback since Manning retired at the end of his four-season stint with the team that ended with a Super Bowl victory. They hope Drew Lock is the long-term answer they’ve been looking for.

The team had a phenom of a different type in Tim Tebow right before Manning, but he was the biggest quarterback the team had had since general manager Elway was still throwing the football for the team in the 1990s. 

Trevor Siemian was their first option. After spending the Super Bowl year behind Manning and Brock Osweiler, Siemian had almost two years as the Broncos’ starter. He had a decent 2016 season, but his 2017 season was mediocre at best. Osweiler was back starting at the end of the 2017 season, with Paxton Lynch making sporadic starts during those same two seasons. 

Case Keenum came in the following year fresh off the Minnesota Miracle. He, too, struggled to lead the Broncos during his single season with the team, although it might not have been entirely his fault thanks to the personnel. Keenum completed 62% of his passes for 3,890 yards, but threw 18 touchdowns against 15 interceptions, and was gone by the start of the 2019 season. 

Even the 2019 season has seen a revolving door of quarterbacks, with Joe Flacco starting the season and going 2-6. Brandon Allen showed some initial promise but fluttered immediately in the absence of Lock as he finished his injury rehab. With just a few weeks left in the season, however, Drew Lock finally made his debut. 

Is Drew Lock for real? 

Lock looked great in his first two starts, and even though the Broncos’ season is lost in terms of playoff hopes, a strong ending could bode well for him entering his first full season as a starter. Lock threw for 134 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in his first start, then turned around and threw for 309 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception the following week. The Broncos won both games, and with a nearly 73% completion rate, Lock appears to be worth the promise. The Broncos aren’t going to bank on it. 

It would be safe to assume that barring health concerns or a disastrous drop-off, the Broncos are considering putting Lock in as the starter going forward. Head coach Vic Fangio, however, isn’t ready to verbally commit to it. 

Drew Lock won his first two games as an NFL starter, but that didn't impress one key person.
Drew Lock. | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

When asked about the long-term implications, Fangio said (per Mike Klis):

“I don’t know. It’s two games. Who’s long-term right now? He’s done well for two games, that’s about all it is.”

While that could seem to be unfair for a promising quarterback, it is the smart way for Fangio to go about it. The team wants Lock to be the quarterback of the future, but they also don’t want him to be content with what he’s doing. If he doesn’t know that his job is safe, Lock could use it as motivation to use the last few weeks of the season as a tryout. Until then, he will simply have to prove his place and hope for the best going forward.