BRONCOS

Drew Lock has had to develop on a team suffering from a leadership void

Mar 11, 2021, 6:25 AM
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)...
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever.

The problem for Drew Lock is that in his first two seasons as an NFL quarterback, no one taught him how to fish. They just kept throwing salmon at him and telling him to watch for the blitz.

For the real fishermen in the NFL, the hardened old vets who have seen every horizon twice, you never have to tell them to watch for the blitz. They watch for the blitz in their sleep. They watch for the blitz like they breathe.

But did they do that in their first year in the league? In their second? Certainly not.

To truly understand what it takes to win in the NFL, you have to go through it. When you fail, which every young player does, you’re forced to face all of the ways you were weak, all of the ways you fell short, all of the things that went wrong and all of the things you should have done.

The question becomes, how quickly do you learn? Because you don’t have much time to get it right.

This is why you need veteran leadership with a standard in place. It creates an environment where the system and the expectations are clear.

I walked in to the Denver Broncos locker room in 2003 and was put in a locker right next to Rod Smith, right next to the standard of professionalism and excellence. He took pride in showing us the way.

So when it came to my job, it wasn’t just my coaches I didn’t want to let down, it was Rod. It was Shannon Sharpe. Ed McCaffrey. Al Wilson. Tom Nalen. Trevor Pryce. Champ Bailey. Jake Plummer. John Lynch. Guys who knew how to practice, how to prepare, how to compete and accepted nothing less from anyone who came into that locker room.

On a team with this kind of leadership, the coaches didn’t have to coach very much. It was a self-policing standard of excellence that indoctrinated each young player to the Broncos Way.

I say all this to precede this question: On this Broncos team, who is the standard? Where is the culture? What is the expectation?

I see you’re having trouble defining it, as are the Broncos themselves, which is why they have struggled since winning Super Bowl 50.

What is the standard?

Who are the leaders?

And most importantly, where is the example for the young players to follow, like I followed Rod Smith?

Apply this thinking to Drew Lock and you’ll understand why he has struggled. Who has been his standard? His mentor? His guide?

Seems to me he hasn’t had one, not with any consistency, that is. So he’s had to figure it on his own with a rotating cast of coaches and teammates and an uncertain locker room culture that leaves young players grasping at straws, not knowing how to approach the intricacies of the job.

But he has shown enough to stick around and might get a chance to be the starter again. He knows his job is on the line and he’s trying to get better, applying what he has learned and putting in the work — just like every coach hopes his young players will do.

George Paton and Vic Fangio and Tim Patrick have all praised Lock’s offseason work ethic, praise that some of my esteemed colleagues have somehow construed as criticism. You guys do realize that Tim Patrick just came off his best season as a pro — by far. Do you remember who the quarterback was that made that possible?

The fact that Drew Lock has streamlined his approach is not an insult. It indicates growth. A willingness to learn. And a fire in the belly that this Broncos locker room desperately needs.

No one knows what it takes until you live it and see what went wrong. Then question becomes, do you learn from your mistakes?

Good news for Broncos Country: Drew Lock seems intent on doing just that.

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Drew Lock has had to develop on a team suffering from a leadership void