The Denver Broncos are in a unique situation heading into the 2021 season.
This year will be Vic Fangio’s third as the team’s head coach, needing his Broncos to improve or risk being let go. For George Paton, it’s his first year as a General Manager of a team, looking to restore greatness in the Mile High City in a hurry. And for Drew Lock, this is a make-or-break season, one in which he may not get much of a chance to prove himself if he loses the job to Teddy Bridgewater before September.
Back to Paton for a minute.
The new GM has already put his imprint on the team. He smartly re-signed crucial defensive leaders like Von Miller, Shelby Harris and Kareem Jackson while extending Justin Simmons. He bolstered that defense by signing two starting cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller and Ronald Darby, giving the Broncos a likely top-5 unit.
And then Paton’s first draft was well done, finding the cornerback of the future in Patrick Surtain while drafting incredible athletes up and down the defense, along with Quinn Meinerz, who will compete for a starting center position this summer.
Simply stated, these Broncos are set to compete not only for a playoff spot — which would be their first berth in five years — but they’re even ready to compete for a Super Bowl. But, only if the quarterback can get his act together.
That brings us back to Lock.
According to Pro Football Focus, who ranked all 32 quarterbacks yesterday, Lock is the worst staring QB in the entire NFL.
“The reason the Broncos acquired veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to compete with Lock for the starting job is because Lock had the 32nd-ranked passing grade (63.4) out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks,” writes Bruce Gradkowski of PFF.com. “He must find a way to clean up his 23 turnover-worthy plays and make better decisions. Lock shows promise at times — he had the eighth-best passing grade (92.3) when throwing between 15-20 yards and executing play-action pass. The leash won’t be long. If given the opportunity, Lock has to play consistently and smart for Fangio to stick with his young quarterback.”
Without a doubt, Lock has been the most divisive Broncos player since another quarterback 10 years ago named Tim Tebow.
Some look at the 15 interceptions (NFL-worst), his 57.3 completion percentage (35th) and the other analytical numbers which point to him as one of of the worst QBs in the league and say, “This guy ain’t it.” On twitter, they call them “Lock truthers.”
On the other side of the aisle are the “Lock stans” who believe he can make the leap from bottom-5 quarterback to not only a serviceable QB, but to a superstar level like Josh Allen did.
Making things a bit difficult to know for sure what to expect is Lock’s highly erratic play. At times, he’s able to strike the defense with a tremendous deep ball. But, he’s also prone to follow up a huge play with a boneheaded throw, forcing a ball into a covered receiver and watching it get picked off.
That’s where Teddy Bridgewater comes into play.
Paton also worked with Teddy B. in Minnesota and knows he not only has a great work ethic — like the GM has praised Lock with having — but also a team-first character. Bridgewater is embracing the “let the best man win” mentality, even saying he will mentor Lock along the way.
But make no mistake, Bridgewater was brought into Denver to compete with Lock. And a betting fan may be wise to put their money on the newcomer to become the Broncos starter this offseason.
Bridgewater may not be a superstar, but he is a competent QB. And competent is better than over-confident — like Lock — any day.
With the stellar defense Denver’s constructed, they may only need a game manager quarterback and Bridgewater seems to fit the bill. He’s not an electric player, but he’s efficient and looks to protect the ball. His 69.1 completion percentage was 5th-best in the NFL last year, and the Broncos young stable of receivers needs a quarterback capable of getting them the ball and letting them create.
Certainly, this is no done deal. There will be actual competition in the Broncos’ locker room this summer. And for now, Lock has the upper hand because he’s been at Dove Valley almost every day this offseason while Bridgewater is away and taking care of personal business this week.
So, let’s see how it plays out. But, it seems unlikely the Broncos will roll the dice with the worst starting quarterback in the NFL.