ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — At this time last year, Drew Lock was able to approach the offseason with little fear and a clear mind.
There would be no offseason reps. But there was also no threat of losing his status as the Broncos’ franchise quarterback heading into 2020. John Elway, the Broncos’ then-general manager, spent his offseason building his offense around Lock. There wasn’t even a backup QB to worry about as newly signed Jeff Driskel had spent more time as a No. 3 QB in his career than he did as No. 2.
That may or may not be the case this offseason. For starters, Elway is no longer in charge of the team’s roster. The GM he helps hires to be his successor will have final say. Lock may still the favorite to become the Broncos’ opening day quarterback in 2021. But there is a chance the new GM, and head coach Vic Fangio, may look through free agency or trade for a veteran quarterback with significant starting experience. The Broncos also figure to do their due diligence with quarterbacks in the upper part of the draft, beginning, perhaps, with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round.
Whether the Broncos go there or not, there will be speculation the team will look to upgrade its quarterback position this offseason. Lock, for all his talent, finished ranked No. 32 in the league in passing. The Broncos need better in 2021, whether its through Lock improvement or adding another arm or two to the room.,
How will Lock handle the rumors and speculations when they come in the next two or three months?
"First I have to hear them," Lock said Monday in his end-of-season Zoom media session. “I can just not listen, stay off of social media and do what I need to do, and that's work hard this offseason—figure out what I need to do better. Get my body right, get my mental side right.
"But kind of like everything that went on this year, everyone has an opinion and everyone thinks they know what's going on—in one ear and out the other, and that'll be the same thing that happens this year. Control what I can control and just get to work and become the best quarterback I can be."
He spoke before a couple hours before learning that Elway was stepping down as GM and stepping up as an overseer of the team’s football operations.
Overall, Lock ranked No. 32 among 35 qualifying quarterbacks in passing this season. His uninspired overall statistics came out to 16 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions, a league-worst 57.3 completion percentage, 225.6 passing yards per game and a 75.4 rating.
But in his last four games, as Lock became more comfortable reading NFL defenses and first-year offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s system, Lock posted a 91.2 rating on 7 TD passes against just 2 interceptions. A 91.2 rating would have computed to No. 23 in the league. Still not where Lock needs to be but getting there. He also threw at an improved 61.2 percentage rate while averaging 253.6 yards per game.
"Sometimes it takes time, you’ve got to have some patience," Elway said in a sit-down interview Monday with 9NEWS. "They get compared to the guys that really take off like a (Patrick) Mahomes and (Justin) Herbert had a good year with the Chargers, and then Josh Allen really came on in his third year. I still have high hopes for Drew in that he can become a great player in this league. He’s young, he needs a lot of work but he wants to be great, too.
"Hopefully Drew’s that guy. We’re still exploring all options at every position for this team but that is a very tough position to find especially, too, with the way the rules are right now it’s even more important you have that quarterback because they have so much control of the game and the way the rules are everything is built around that quarterback. So you’ve got to have one."
Make no mistake, Monday and it’s seismic announcement of Elway stepping away from GM was not a good day for Lock. It doesn’t mean it was a bad day. It just reinforced that no one inside the Broncos organization has displayed more belief in Lock than Elway.
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