There were a number of ways the Broncos could’ve handled their quarterback situation this past offseason. Almost all of them would’ve been better than the plan they ultimately settled upon, which has resulted in them having the 32nd-ranked QB room (dead last) in the NFL, according to ESPN.
In 2020, Drew Lock completed just 57.3 percent of his passes, amassing 2,933 yards and 16 touchdowns, while throwing an NFL-leading 15 interceptions. While not the only reason why the Broncos finished 5-11, the second-year quarterback’s play certainly was a major factor.
So it’s not hard to understand why Denver was looking to go a different direction this season. They just chose the wrong way to go about it.
Consider the options:
1. Upgrade with a veteran
Reportedly, the Broncos inquired about Matthew Stafford, but the former Lions quarterback wound up going to the Rams in a trade. Denver also was allegedly interested in Deshaun Watson before the Houston QB’s legal issues removed him from consideration.
They also kicked the tires on Mitchell Trubisky, were rumored to be interested in Andy Dalton and were linked to Ryan Fitzpatrick for a time. It’s debatable if either would’ve been a true upgrade, however. Carson Wentz might’ve been, but the Broncos were never linked to the former MVP candidate.
In the end, however, George Paton decided against this route. The general manager didn’t pull the trigger on a trade or shell out the cash in free agency needed to bring a new starter to Denver.
2. (Potentially) upgrade with a rookie
Heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, there were plenty of mocks that had the Broncos taking a quarterback in round one. Sitting at the No. 9 overall pick, there was a good chance that one of the top-five QBs would still be on the board when Denver was on the clock.
As it turned out, that was the case. In fact, two of the top prospects were available – Justin Fields and Mac Jones.
Ultimately, Paton decided to pass, selecting cornerback Pat Surtain II instead. While not a bad player, by any means, he will ultimately be compared to Fields and Jones, who went to Chicago (No. 11) and New England (No. 15), respectively.
3. Bring in a veteran backup
While the Broncos didn’t lose any games last season because of their inexperienced backups, an argument can be made that they were flirting with disaster all season by not having a seasoned player behind Lock. Jeff Driskel started and lost to the Buccaneers, Brett Rypien started and beat the Jets, and Kendall Hinton started and lost to the Saints. The results would’ve been the same no matter who was No. 2 on the depth chart.
That said, Denver would’ve been in a world of hurt if Lock had missed significant time. Driskel and Rypien aren’t viable options for multiple games.
Given Lock’s injury history, it’s not inconceivable that the Broncos backup could have to play a lot this season. So if they’re really a playoff contender, as their roster would suggest, having a reliable option makes sense.
Bringing in a veteran with the clear understanding that he’s the No. 2 guy wouldn’t have undermined Lock. It simply would’ve sent a message to the rest of the team that the Broncos consider themselves a postseason-caliber team.
A perfect option for that role… Teddy Bridgewater.
Which brings us to the option that the Broncos went with instead.
4. Bring in veteran competition
On the surface, the idea of competition is great. It’s what sports are all about. It’s the essence of what makes them great.
But when it comes to the most-important position in sports, it’s a terrible idea. It’s a question mark that is a giant red flag heading into the season. It creates all sorts of issues.
Teammates don’t know who to look for in terms of leadership. The competitors don’t know who should take the lead on things like offseason passing camps. First-team reps are divided, preventing continuity between the quarterback and his receivers.
Bringing in Bridgewater as “competition” does undermine Lock. In pins the struggles of last season squarely on his shoulders. It makes him the scapegoat for the 5-11 season and Pat Shurmur’s ineffective offense, especially since every other starter is returning.
It also shows that the Broncos have no idea how to evaluate a quarterback. It’s been more than two calendar years since they drafted Lock. He’s started 18 games for them and been through two training camps. Yet, they still don’t know if he can play at the NFL level?
If that’s the case, how on earth would this same group ever be able to evaluate a QB in the draft. College tape, the combine and pro days aren’t going to give them more data than they have on Lock. That’s a scary thought.
Bringing in Bridgewater wasn’t the problem. How the Broncos framed it was an issue, however.
Lock should’ve been declared the starter. If he gets hurt, or he struggles, Denver could’ve always turned to the veteran.
Now, they’ve simply stunted their young quarterback’s growth. They’ve killed his confidence. They’ve placed doubt in the minds of his teammates. And they’ve taken away valuable reps during training camp and preseason games.
It’s just the latest example of the Broncos ineptitude when it comes to finding a quarterback. The list of miscues since Peyton Manning goes on and on.
They tried to defend a Super Bowl title with a QB who had taken one snap and never thrown an NFL pass. They traded up for Paxton Lynch. They gave journeyman Case Keenum a big contract after one big season. They through Joe Flacco still had fuel in the tank.
There were a number of ways the Broncos could’ve played the quarterback position this offseason, including having the same players who are currently on the roster in the room. But the way they positioned things was an abject disaster.
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